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If you say Morgan Shepherd is too old to race, there’s plenty of others even older than him that would disagree

Jul 16, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

(AP Photo/Jim Cole) (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

It’s easy to understand Joey Logano‘s frustration at being clipped by 72-year-old Morgan Shepherd in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire.

But the criticism of Shepherd that has resulted, including numerous media outlets saying he’s too old to drive a race car competitively, has been most unfair.

Just because Shepherd and Logano get into a wreck, it becomes big news because one is 72 years old, while the other is 24. And the 24-year-old said some not so nice things about the 72-year-old after their on-track incident.

Didn’t Logano’s parents ever tell him to respect his elders and not badmouth them?

I find it rather humorous at all those who criticized Shepherd for running into Logano. I don’t know what race they were watching, but it surely could not have been the same one I was.

It was v-e-r-y clear that Logano cut down on Shepherd going into the turn. Now, in 99.9 percent of similar instances, Shepherd could also have moved down or gotten out of the throttle.

But instead, he stayed in the gas, Logano dropped in front of him and contact was made.

If it had been, say, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Logano, someone would have been apologizing afterward.

To his credit, Shepherd did not apologize, and he’s to be commended for standing his ground.

Just because someone is 72 years old or 15 laps down at the time of a wreck doesn’t mean he’s automatically at fault for any incident that occurs – or can’t drive competitively any more. Granted, his car may not have had all the bells and whistles that Logano’s Team Penske Ford had. And critics seem to forget that it’s, again, v-e-r-y easy for a slow-moving car to get down several laps fairly quickly on New Hampshire’s flat one-mile track.

But unless Shepherd can be medically proven to be incapable of being able to drive competitively, there’s absolutely no reason for him not to be behind the wheel. Heck, it takes guts to be 72 and go up against the sport’s best. No one else has had those kind of guts like Shepherd has, being the oldest active driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup history — a mark he resets every time he takes the next green flag.

One other thing people seem to forget is that Shepherd was essentially out of his normal domain at New Hampshire. He typically races in the Nationwide Series. Sunday’s race was only his third Sprint Cup race since 2006.

As an aside, Shepherd hasn’t won a Cup race since 1993, and a NNS race since 1988. But he goes out year after year, race after race (well, on a part-time schedule, that is) because he loves the sport, makes a decent living and is able to utilize racing as part of an overall religious ministry that he preaches from.

And when was the last time anyone complained about Shepherd in a Nationwide race? I can’t recall any in years. He simply goes out and runs his race, quietly and tries to draw as little attention to himself as possible.

I especially found it interesting that Tony Stewart reportedly said over his team radio, “(Shepherd) needs to just call it a day with that thing.”

What happens if, by some twist of fate, Stewart is still racing when he’s 72? That’d be 29 years from now. Would Stewart like it if some young driver would publicly say he needs to quit racing?

I’m giving Stewart the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t mean Shepherd should stop racing permanently, but that the septuagenarian’s car was just not up to competitive racing that particular day.

Would Stewart tell one of his best fishing buddies, the legendary Red Farmer – who will be 82 years young this fall, and was one of the charter members of racing’s fabled “Alabama Gang” – to stop racing in short track events across the South?

Surprisingly, Farmer isn’t the only octogenarian still racing these days.

Over in the straight-line world, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits is still drag racing at the age of 80, even though his vehicle of choice these days appears to be experimental electric dragsters, which he already has gotten close to nearly 200 mph in.

And then there’s the legendary “Golden Greek” from Chicago, Chris Karamesines, who is still racing Top Fuel dragsters.

At 82 years old. And at 300-plus mph.

(Which by comparison to the speed Shepherd was doing at NHMS – about one-third of what Karamesines typically does – made Morgan look like he was in a go-kart race.)

And yet no one has told Karamesines – who turns 83 in November and looks like he’s in his early 60s, at best – that he’s too old to still be competing.

In fact, the National Hot Rod Association revels in Karamesines’ popularity and the attention he attracts to the sport.

And he’s still as competitive as he’s ever been, always a risk to pull an upset of some of the better-funded drivers on the Top Fuel circuit.

Like Shepherd, Karamesines and Garlits still have their wits, their faculties, their encyclopedic knowledge of racing, their reactions, decent health and the fever to still race even if they’ve been doing it for nearly 70 years.

Going back to Farmer for a second, I came across a story that was written about him less than two years ago by Doug Demmons of the Birmingham (Ala.) News.

According to Demmons, Farmer still races despite an artificial left knee, a replaced left shoulder, screws and rods in his back and enough arthritic joints that would otherwise stop an army.

Yet Farmer continues racing for the pure love and joy of it, much like Shepherd, who is 10 years younger.

Check out some of the quotes from Farmer at the time. If you didn’t know they were from him, they could easily have been spoken by Shepherd:

* “I’m gonna wear out, not rust out.”

* “My reflexes are as good as they were 30 years ago.”

* “I’ve never stopped. If I stopped, I’d lose it. If I became a couch potato, I’d be gone in six months.”

* “I do it because I enjoy it (at the time the story was written, Farmer had recorded 17 top 10 finishes in his previous 25 races – at the age of 79!). I don’t have to win races to be happy.”

* “I feel pretty good for 80 years old.”

So for all those who criticized Shepherd for an accident that was not of his fault, particularly Logano and other young drivers, remember one thing: God willing, you’re going to be Shepherd’s age one day. Let’s see how you’ll feel when somebody says you’re too old and shouldn’t be out there.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

  1. elcaminobilly - Jul 16, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    It’s not Shepherd’s age that is the problem, it was the way he was driving. Nobody complains about him in Nationwide because he doesn’t wreck the leaders/anybody on purpose, I was watching the race this past Sunday as I always do, and I saw the wreck. I believe it was on purpose. A better comparison than the drag racers would have been James Hylton, who raced until his 80s, only retiring last year, or Hershall McGriff, who finally retired in 2012 after 52 years in NASCAR. No one had any problems with them, or Red Farmer, because they didn’t go around wrecking people on purpose.

  2. techmeister1 - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    The problem is that most race fans and many in the media don’t have a damn clue about driving a race car. Shepherd did not intentionally wreck Logano. As Shepherd stated the car was very loose and when it is you have no choice but to chase it up the hill. Period.

    It’s Logano responsibility to make a clean, unscathed pass and he didn’t do it. Blaming Shepherd for doing the best he can with an ill handling car is not only ignorant it’s futile. Logano learned a valuable lesson that pretty much every driver has to learn the hard way. The clueless media and fans need to get a grip on reality.

    • goldensabre - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:51 AM

      Nonsense. It’s the responsibility of a driver who’s 14 laps down to stay out of the way of everybody else on the track. Period.

      It’s just one more example either of NASCAR finding special rules for its good ol’ boys, or being desparate to field-fill to get cars in the race. Shepherd’s a joke just tooling around like it’s a Sunday drive, and NASCAR looks ridiculous to allow it. The other senior drivers mentioned in the article can drive circles around Shepherd. And did.

  3. chad4208 - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    That makes sense. he just…for no reason..wrecked a top car, in a an underfunded, slow car, on purpose. But he only does it in the Cup series, not the nationwide series. For kicks I guess…. Great logic…if that statement had any logic.

    • elcaminobilly - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:53 AM

      No, it doesn’t make sense…but truth is stranger than fiction. He was able to stay out of everybody else’s way, yet mysteriously “got loose” when Logano went by. I don’t know how anybody who actually watched it can possibly think it was an accident. I’ve been a fan of Morgan’s for more than 20 years, and I have no idea why he would do that. I was and remain highly dissapointed in his actions this past weekend.

  4. chad4208 - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Logano isnt capable of learning lessons. If he was, he would have stopped being a hypocrite long ago

  5. manik56 - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    72 is more than a bit much. Is NASCAR Cup racing really an elite racing series if a 72 year old man can do it? It’s so obviously ridicules I don’t even know what else to say. Who in their right mind would even put him in a car? Is he the owner too?

    • indycarseries500 - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      I thought it was well proven during the race that he can’t do it.

    • cactuschet - Jul 17, 2014 at 6:48 PM

      Learn how to spell and then you can comment, with intelligence is another thing.

  6. charger383 - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    If he made Logano mad keep him out there ever week

  7. mbtampa - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    The 33 hasn’t run well no matter who was driving it this year. Stewarts comments were about the car, not Shepherd. Don’t forget, several years ago, Stewart backed Shepherd for a few races in the Nationwide series allowing him to post several top 25 finishes

  8. tedlucier - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    It is time for seniors to boycott NASRCRY and support each other. They have gone by the way anyhow, It is not really racing in the spirit of raving. All choreographed, cautions for debris to adjust who the winner could be. Just a show for the sponsors with announcers who are unlikely to tell you what is truly believed by the drivers and owners.

  9. camino409robert1026 - Jul 18, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    As long as Morgan passes the physical please keep him. He has done more for the sport than Logano will ever do. Back in the eighties I believe it was, Morgan was willing to compete in the Cup series with his V6 he ran the day before but NASCAR would not let him. Their excuse was the V6 might not hold up. What they were really afraid of was what would happen when he outran a lot of the V8’s. Logano needs a new spotter or better yet, that car needs a new driver. Hey, put Morgan in Logano’s car & watch him put a lot of the young guns to shame!!!

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