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Morgan Shepherd says higher calling drives him to race

Morgan Shepherd
Morgan Shepherd

By Lee Montgomery
Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

The numbers keep piling up for Nationwide Series driver Morgan Shepherd, but to him, that's all they are.

Shepherd ran his 300th race in the series last weekend, perhaps being overshadowed by Kenny Wallace's 500th Nationwide start. That's OK with Shepherd.

"I didn't look at it as trying to make 300 races," said Shepherd, who'll make his 301st start in Saturday's Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It was just another number that came up. I really don't look at how many numbers I'm gonna (have). A lot of people ask me when I'm going to quit, how long am I going to race. I always tell them they're asking the wrong person. I'm here as long as the Lord wants me to be here. So 300 is just another number.

"It's kind of like my age. It's ever how long the Lord wants me here. As long as I've got my health, I'll be here driving 200 mph."

Shepherd, who turns 70 in October, made his first start in the Nationwide Series in its inaugural year, 1982. He finished 16th at Hickory Speedway, then won in his second start, also at Hickory, a month later.

Shepherd has 15 victories in the Nationwide Series, all while running part time in his first seven years in the series. He also has started 514 Sprint Cup races, but he has been running full time in Nationwide the past five seasons.

He keeps going because he feels he has a higher purpose for racing at his age. A born-again Christian, Shepherd's race team is a ministry, preaching the Gospel each week.

"It is hard to try to get the cars as competitive as they're supposed to be," he said. "After all, our motors are 3-year-old Hendrick motors. We don't have the R07; we've got the SB2. We know we're behind on horsepower. But a man that just makes $300 a week, what can you expect?"

Shepherd says he has top-15 equipment but needs a fast pit crew to get up front, where the benefit of clean air can pick up "10 mph," he said.

"I feel like I'm still a good driver, even at my age," Shepherd said. "It's capable of being 15th forward, but we don't have the backing to put it there."

This weekend at Charlotte, Shepherd will work as hard as anyone in the garage, overseeing his No. 89 Chevrolet's setup and doing whatever needs to be done.

"I'm 69 and am drawing Social Security," Shepherd said. "I draw $300-some a week. I can't hire a bunch of people to work on the racecar. I'm here with the opportunity to serve the Lord with the Jesus logo on the hood. If I'm going to be here, that means I've got to do a lot of work."

Has he ever thought about putting a Social Security logo on his car?

"I don't know," Shepherd said. "I hear they're broke."

Fast facts

Top Gear 300
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway; Concord, N.C.
When: Saturday, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
TV: ABC, 2 p.m. Eastern
Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 90
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval
Distance: 200 laps/300 miles
Qualifying: Saturday, 10:10 a.m. Eastern
2010 winner: Kyle Busch
2010 polesitter: Carl Edwards
Points leaders: 1. Elliott Sadler, 418; 2. Reed Sorenson, 411; 3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 410; 4. Justin Allgaier, 398; 5. Jason Leffler, 375; 6. Aric Almirola 366; 7. Kenny Wallace, 355; 8. Steve Wallace, 315; 9. Brian Scott, 303; 10. Josh Wise, 28