When veteran NASCAR driver Morgan Shepherd crossed the finish line in 21st place in the Nationwide Series race at Dover, few noticed. Finishing a race four laps down to the leaders is not normally considered a great accomplishment. To Shepherd himself, this was a victory.
Over a nearly 40 year career in NASCAR, Shepherd has seen the sport change dramatically. He has acheived success and has seen the agony of defeat. His story is one of great inspiration.
Since making his debut in the then Winston Cup series in 1970, Shepherd has driven for a multitude of different owners. He has managed to win four times in his career and is the second oldest driver to grace Victory Lane, doing so in Atlanta in 1993 at 51 years of age. He has also accumulated 15 career wins in the Nationwide Series, the most recent coming back in 1988.
Far removed from his trips to Victory Lane, Morgan Shepherd continues to plug away. His Faith Motorsports team has very little in the way of sponsorship. Often times, he performs many different duties, including tranporting his race cars to and from the track. He has relied on the generosity of others to help him in his crusade. Tony Stewart and Dale Jarrett have helped pay his tire bills, and Kevin Harvick provided him with some hand me down equipment.
After a recent string of five failures to qualify for Nationwide Series events, Shepherd was forced to lay off all but one of his crew members. It appeared as though his storied career was finished, and not on his terms. But Morgan Shepherd is a fighter.
He brought his No.89 "Racing With Jesus" Chevrolet to Dover, just hoping for a miracle. He was able to qualify for the show, and not as a field filler or start and park team. He solidly placed the car in the 20th starting spot. This was a major accomplishment, to say the least.
Since most of his crew was gone, Shepherd had to literally piece together a team in order to compete. His wife and daughter were heavily involved, but the key component came from a very unique place. Shepherd's secretary, Shannon Feldman, served as his crew chief. Together, they were able to secure enough volunteer crew members to pit the car.
In most cases, a team like this would be given no chance to even be competitive, but this is Morgan Shepherd. He has continually defied the odds, and this race would be no different. He ran the entire race and stayed out of trouble. Any type of incident may have been the final blow. At the end of the day, 67 year old Morgan Shepherd had managed to outrun such notable drivers as Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, both of whom are competing in the Sprint Cup Series "Chase for the Cup."
In all of his 800 plus starts over nearly 40 years, this may have been the most notable. Morgan Shepherd, with help from his friends, and possibly a little devine intervention, has proven that he is here to stay.