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NASCAR: Shepherd/Logano contact creates more questions than answers

Jul 15, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT

LoganoShepherd Getty Images

Two days after one of NASCAR’s youngest full-time competitors got collected by its oldest competitor – part-time or otherwise – there’s more questions than answers that must come out of the contact.

On Lap 212 on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Ford driven by Team Penske’s Joey Logano got looped around by Morgan Shepherd, in the underfunded Circle Sport Chevrolet, entering Turn 3. Logano’s 24; Shepherd is three times his senior, age 72.

The resulting Logano interview and the TV camera angle didn’t give a great deal away, other than it showed Shepherd moving up the road slightly and enough to contact Logano. There’s not enough shown to potentially alleviate Shepherd of blame; say the angle at which he entered lower into Turn 3 was enough to send the car up the road.

An unlikely war of words has followed.

Logano, in his immediate post-race interview: “To get taken out by the slowest car – I feel like there should be a driver’s test when you get out in a Cup car and make sure you know how to drive it before you [race] one. But I don’t know, I guess there isn’t.”

And Shepherd, defending himself, via “Maybe he didn’t realize how wicked loose I was; I was having to tiptoe through the corner.”

NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton defended Shepherd and told reporters post-race, to the letter of the law, Shepherd was all clear to race.

“He’s been approved for decades,” he said. “You take a physical at the beginning of the year. You pass your physical. You pass inspections with your car, you qualify for the race and you run the event. He met everything he needed to meet.”

That may be true, but it doesn’t guard against questions raised in the approval process to race.

So, a few questions I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering as a result of this contretemps:

  • What is involved in the physical beyond standard procedure? How are reaction times determined? Is there an eyesight check?
  • Why do smaller teams, such as Joe Falk’s Circle Sport Racing operation, look for a driver like Shepherd to fill in at this type event instead of a younger driver, even one who could bring money?
  • Why does Shepherd, who’s been accomplished in the past, but in the 1980s and 1990s, want to subject himself and his reputation to this kind of criticism? What does he have to gain other than setting the record for being a septuagenarian on-track in the highest division of NASCAR?
  • If Shepherd’s car was as loose as he claims, why was a call not placed to the No. 33 team to pit?
  • How does NASCAR guard against this level of accident – where regardless of age, someone running so far off the pace could potentially be hazardous – could affect the Chase for the Sprint Cup? Especially in the new elimination format where there are fewer races to advance.

Answers from the sanctioning body need to be forthcoming fairly soon, and it would probably behoove NASCAR in the offseason, if not sooner, to examine its criteria for both minimum speed requirements and performing more stringent tests on older drivers seeking to compete.

  1. jjl80126 - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I am not looking for NASCAR to be forthcoming. They are taking lessons from the WWE. Putting enough butts in the seats comes first. There is no comparable competition, no compelling reason to be open and a nepotistic monopoly in every sense of the word. I still watch, for free. I won’t spend anything but time, unless it comes directly from a driver.

    • caskunk - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:32 PM

      NASCAR used to be so competitive in the 1960s and 70s that qualifying for the Daytona 500, Southern 500, etc. was like qualifying for the Indy 500 – good drivers didn’t get into the race. Today we have guys like Parker Kligerman getting into the Daytona 500 on a “provisional,” and eight weeks later finding himself without a ride because a genuinely competitive driver (J.J. Yeley) became available.

      Shepherd drives the #33 Chevy for Circle Jerk Racing once a year and he leased (yep, leased) the #93 Toyota from BK Racing in a failed attempt to qualify for this year’s Daytona 500. Last year he raced that same Chevy in the 301 at Loudon. It was his first Cup race since 2006 and was an obvious stunt to keep him as the oldest driver to “compete” in a Cup race.

      They used to have drivers fighting tooth and nail to get into a Cup race. Now they practically have to beg them to enter just to have 43 cars.

  2. scorpiox1960 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Joey should have known to stay away. Shepherd was in the left lane with his turn signal on for miles.

  3. techmeister1 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    For the record…Shepherd has forgotten more about racing CRASHCAR than Logano will ever know. That being said it’s the over taking driver who is responsible for making a clean pass. If as Logano states Shepherd was the slowest car on the track then there had to be a reason why and that “why” was because the car was ill handling. That being the case you want to time your pass for a straight if possible or be 100% certain you can get by unscathed.

    As far as Shepherd driving for different teams, he has the experience to tell a team what is missing in their car/program to help move them forward. Many young drivers don’t have the experience to provide this information.

    Trying to make Shepherd the bad guy here is futile because it’s the passing driver’s responsibility to make a clean pass. It’s unfortunate for Logano but he’s the one responsible for being wrecked.

    • caskunk - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:56 PM

      Logano has won five races in five years and Shepherd has won four races in 50 years.

      Shepherd raced in the 301 last year, the only race he qualified for. He leased the #93 from BK Racing in a failed attempt to qualify for this year’s Daytona 500. Prior to last year’s 301, he had not raced in the Cup series since 2006.

      Shepherd drives the 33 for Circle Jerk Racing and leased the 93 from BK but has never qualified in it. He drove a Toyota for Joe Nemechek’s Venture Racing at Phoenix the week after Daytona.

      Shepherd hasn’t exactly been a big help in telling teams what is “missing,” as Landon Cassill is Circle Jerk’s only full-time driver and has never won a Cup race or finished in the top 10. Alex Bowman is the only real driver at BK Racing; Cassill drove for BK in 2012 and the only time you saw him on TV was when he was being lapped or was in a crash in that hideous flat black #83.

  4. dbbd22 - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Nobody was asking for Logano’s license when he was just a teenager out there wrecking half the field.

  5. brianczaw - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Remember this Joey?

    • extavernmouse - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      There’s not a driver out there who hasn’t made a boneheaded move on the track at some point. This doesn’t prove a damn thing.

  6. extavernmouse - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    I’m on Joey’s side in this. It’s true that everybody wrecks sometimes and Joey’s had his share. But I echo Tony’s concerns about the physical testing. Does it measure his reflexes? Is there any way to be sure that he’s still capable of the split-second decisions a driver in this sport needs to make? I also agree with Jeff Gordon that there needs to be a good look at the minimum speed requirements. What’s fast enough when you’re out on the track? When is a car moving so slowly it becomes a danger? NASCAR may be saying the right things right now, but I bet that under the surface these discussions are going on. This guy is the same age as Richard Petty, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough, who are all smart enough not to get on the race track any more. Let go of your ego, Morgan, before you hurt yourself or someone else.

  7. camino409robert1026 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    I just wish Joey had gotten hurt like he did to Hamlin last year!

  8. evilbuddyp - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    This young fella better watch his silly tongue. He used to wreck more stuff then Danica Patwreck. Morgan Shepard raced the very first race at NH and is an accomplished driver. He was a racer when NASCAR was racing, not wrestling. Whinny brat.

    • caskunk - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:05 PM

      Accomplished? Shepherd has won four races in 44 years; Logano has won five races in six years. Not bad for a “whiny (yes; that’s how it’s spelled) brat.”

      You losers hate it when northern drivers do well. Get used to it. Bill Clinton was president the last time NASCAR had a champion from south of the Mason/Dixon line.

    • gidney - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      Morgan’s so far past his prime, AARP wants their card back.

  9. gidney - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:52 PM

    PC or not, Morgan Shepherd has no place driving the Cup Series. He’s far too old, and his team is woefully underfunded, all of which leads him to being a danger to all those having to try to drive on the same track as him.

  10. chad4208 - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    Logono always whines and complains about how others drive but no one in the garage respects him…or very few. Few fans respect him. YOu know why? Because he drives like an ass….wrecks people then complains when anybody drives even half that aggressively. That’s a fact. So, I take very little validity in anything that comes out of his mouth

  11. charger383 - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    If old man Morgan Sheperd upsets little Joey he should be given a cup car every week for that reason alone.

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