Sunday, July 13, 2014

Shepherd’s Performance Proves Age Guidelines Needed

Logano's day ruined.
Despite being forced to roll out a backup car after a Friday practice crash, Joey Logano had a good day going at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday. 

The Team Penske driver was running a solid second behind teammate and eventual winner Brad Keselowski with just 88 laps remaining, before an on-track incident with the lapped car of 72-year old Morgan Shepherd ended his hopes for Victory Lane. 


Shepherd was a whopping 16 laps down at the time, after qualifying slowest in the 43-car field, 2.2 seconds off Kyle Busch’s pole speed. His time was a quarter of a second slower than that of the 42nd-place qualifier, Timmy Hill, and he ran 20-30 mph off the pace from the outset before losing the handle, drifting up the track and wrecking Logano.

“I just gotten taken out by the slowest car out there,” said an incredulous Logano afterward. “You'd think there would be some courtesy to the leaders, (but) I guess not. I feel there should be a driver's test, but I guess there isn't.''

For his part, Shepherd complained about the handling of his Circle Sport Racing Chevrolet after the wreck, saying via in-car radio, “Guys, I can't hang on to this thing. (It’s) spinning out going into the corner. It doesn't take much for somebody to get up against me and pull this thing around."

Shepherd's run will inspire debate.
Sunday’s incident will almost certainly re-ignite the debate over the need for further age restrictions in NASCAR. At present, the sanctioning body mandates only a minimum age for national series competition, while requiring drivers to prove their mettle on smaller tracks before being cleared to race on superspeedways. There is no maximum age limit, however, and drivers like Shepherd who have competed for decades routinely receive the green light to continue racing for as long as they like, provided they pass a simple, pre-season physical examination. Aging drivers are not required by the sanctioning body to prove they can skill perform at a high level behind the wheel, and in light of Sunday’s incident, the time for such requirements may finally have come.

This is not the first time in recent seasons that Shepherd has served as a rolling road block. Last fall, he struggled mightily at the Loudon speed plant in equipment that was admittedly not up to snuff. Unfortunately, the results were the same this time around, despite driving for a Circle Sport Racing team that performed well the previous week at Daytona International Speedway with driver Bobby Labonte. Shepherd was embarrassingly slow again Sunday and consistently impeded the progress of the leaders before ending Logano’s bid for Victory Lane in an incident that quite simply should never have happened.

I have great respect for Morgan Shepherd, as both a racer and a man. He is a four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner, with an additional 15 career victories in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In his day, he was a force to be reckoned with, wherever and whenever he raced. But those days are long gone.

Despite his resume, Shepherd exhibited neither reasonable speed nor control over his race car last weekend, as Logano can surely attest. Even worse, he displayed extremely poor judgment by remaining on the race track with nothing to gain in a car that was 16 laps down and – by his own admission -- woefully ill-handling.

Professional athletes are infamous for staying too long at the dance. Muhammad Ali, 38-years old and with slowed reflexes and slurred speech caused by the onset of Parkinson’s Disease, was pummeled into retirement by Larry Holmes in a 1980 fight described by actor Sylvester Stallone as “like watching an autopsy on a man who was still alive.” Closer to home, NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip both struggled simply to qualify for races late in their careers.

Shepherd’s most recent NASCAR win came 21 years ago, in March of 1993 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Of the drivers who finished in the Top-10 that day, only Shepherd and then-rookie Jeff Gordon remain active today. The others -- Ernie Irvan, Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd, Geoff Bodine, Kyle Petty, Brett Bodine, Bill Elliott and Jimmy Spencer -- have long ago retired.

Based on Sunday’s race at NHMS, it’s time for Shepherd to consider doing the same. It’s also time for NASCAR to ensure that every driver – regardless of age – possesses the skills needed to compete safely at the sport’s highest level.



41 comments:

  1. Can not disagree with you.

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  2. Anonymous7:12 PM

    When will deference cause someone to get hurt? Would he survive a serious impact? His ego may say no chance, but NASCAR needs to step in. Retire Morgan. It's a young man's sport more than ever.

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  3. It's time, Morgan, do the right thing. Today has shown you should not any longer be behind the wheel of a race car.

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  4. I agree Dave.... That was just embarrassing and the TV announcers and PRN were saying somewhat the same thing multiple times today.

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  5. Anonymous8:46 PM

    Would have argued with you pre-race but now I agree. It's just hard to let go I guess. Morgan needs to hang up the helmet. Probably gonna be the hardest thing he's done.

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  6. Are you saying Joey didn't have anything to do with causing that wreck?

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  7. Robert G.9:39 PM

    So I'm going to pull a Moody...
    Dave,
    What objective criteria would you propose to determine that a driver is no longer fit to drive? I would assume that Morgan was meeting minimum speed. Is that not enough? Would we be having this conversation if the driver was 42 not 72? Would that make it any different?

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  8. Anonymous7:06 AM

    You would think someone as young, talented and in such good equipment as Sliced Bread Logano could get around such a rolling roadblock as you describe. With a spotter in his ear, Logano couldnt manuber around Morgan? That reminds me when Emerson Fittipaldi was complaining to Penske on the radio at Indy saing that F---King Hiro was blocking him to which Penske replied "your a world champion...pass him"
    Fine Dave, you have torn Morgan down, made it clear he was the slowest one out there. We all know he is old. I have raced locally and there is always an older fella out there way past retirement, but after watching him and seeing the line, i pass safely. Something Logano and his team and equipment didnt manage to do. Nope, I wont bash on Morgan. Sliced Bread could have done much better avoiding the wreck.

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    1. Anonymous12:53 PM

      I have to agree with your reasoning. Had a "rookie" 15 laps down done the same thing, it would have just been another "rookie" mistake. BUT Joey is a savvy enough driver to be able to pass. He cannot get around a little bit of culpability there.

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  9. Anonymous7:15 AM

    It kind of makes the sport look like a joke, doesn't it?

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  10. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Time for the NASCAR and France and Helton to step up and run this organization as intended. Morgan has no business on the track. The only reason he is, is to keep extending a ridiculous record.

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  11. Anonymous9:49 AM

    I agree, much as I did years ago, when the media pushed and promoted JAMES HARVEY HYLTON, who, while it was a nice story that EVERYONE ran with,he had no business being in a car either

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  12. Alvin9:56 AM

    I agree... But what is the solution. Anytime someone on your radio show suggests a new rule you always ask them to some up with the wording that wont have any grey spots. So how would you word the rule that would not let him race at his age?

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  13. Tim S.10:07 AM

    There's a different set of standards when somebody sells a lot of t-shirts or drives for NASCAR's house team. Had this been years in the future and one of the Hendrick Heroes or an alternate-history Dale Earnhardt wanted to do the same thing, but was denied, the people calling for Shepherd to go away would be sending death threats to everyone on the NASCAR payroll.

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  14. Anonymous10:12 AM

    You can be sure if he had taken out the #48( had he still been in the race ) instead of the #22 NASCAR would have a new rule next week about who can race after a certain age !

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  15. Anonymous10:34 AM

    It's been stated that NASCAR has a minimum speed requirement. You've got to ask if they have set the bar too low. I don't fault Morgan so much as I fault NASCAR for allowing him to remain on the track. It's not an age issue. If Joey was out there in a crippled car going that slow then he should be asked to park it.

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  16. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Who cares if the Circle Sport car performed well at Daytona? It's a plate race, and anyone can run up front there. The Shepherd wreck was unfortunate, but it could have happened to anyone.

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  17. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Sounds more like a car handling issue than an age issue. Funny, Logano was blasted earlier this year for some bonehead moves he pulled off...maybe he's to YOUNG to be out there. The age issue is a symptom of the real problem; he was too slow to be out there. I am not saying start and park teams are wrecking the sport (although they were not that in this case) I just think there needs to be a higher minimum speed necessary to compete in the race. Age didn't look to be the issue here...that's the easy thing to blame

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  18. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Nascar is an equal opportunity employer, thank goodness........many a young driver and or rookie has been involved in mishaps but no outbursts about that .... Remember AGE is just a number............if you qualify and pass all that is required of you to field an entry...so be it.....why should the money mongeurs have all the opportunities and look down on the less fortunate sponsored cars.?.......

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  19. Anonymous1:13 PM

    Setting an age limit is very arbitrary and has nothing to do with skills and ability. You were far to sweeping in your statement about drivers from 1993 that don't drive any more. Ernie Irvan had to call it due to injuries. A number of the other drivers you mention got out of driving because they couldn't land good sponsorship and rides not because they couldn't do it. Given the choice between lackluster cars with no sponsorship they called it quits. Morgan still goes out there because he like to race. A lot of the reason he doesn't run very well is lack of $ which equates to weak engines and used tires and in turn no speed. Was he slow Sunday, yes. However , a good chunk of that 10 laps was due to a problem with the car. You need to get your facts strait before you pontificate about how old is too old to race.

    Also, why is there such an uproar about Morgan when Herchel McGriff was still running Winston West at nearly 84 years old in 2012? Why no uproar over James Hylton in ARCA? Then there is John Force in NHRA funny cars. He is 65 years old driving a 320 mph guided missile and no one complains. Again, it isn't all age.

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  20. Anonymous1:49 PM

    What if that was Homestead and played into the title picture.Face the facts,Morgan,GIVE IT UP !!

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  21. NASCAR borrowed its new qualifying format from F1, they should consider implementing the F1 107% rule - regardless of how many cars are entered in the event, you must qualify within a certain range relative to the pole speed. This becomes a purely objective measure of whether a driver, or team for that matter, is capable of running lap times that will not result in becoming a "rolling chicane".

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    1. Finally! Someone with some sense!!!

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  22. Anonymous2:42 PM

    The only reason th33 team did well at Daytona last week was because they were slow enough to not be damaged in the crashes that eliminated almost all of the contenders. Morgan Shepherd isn't a driver that causes problems, even with his more advanced years. Logano has been more of a hazard than Morgan; I can't remember Morgan sending anyone to the hospital with a broken back in the last few seasons, can you? If you want to cut down on crashes, park Stenhouse; seems like he's constantly involved in something this season.

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  23. Anonymous3:36 PM

    Last week at Daytona, the 33 had an ECR engine and an RCR car (in fact, the one that Brian Scott won the pole with at Talladega). This week, a Pro Motor engine and whatever car they run with usually. Comparing this week to last week is a COMPLETELY stupid argument. On that note, Morgan WAS NOT the slowest car on the track. I watched the live leaderboard, and Morgan ran laps times every lap equal if not BETTER than everyone 28th on back. Should we say that all those folks are not fit to be on the track as well? Hell, he ran laps on pace with Danica many of the laps, should we pull her for being a hazard? As for the wreck with Logano, using that as grounds to have him pulled for his age is, frankly, bullshit. Every damn driver out there makes mistakes whether they are an 18 y.o. rookie or a 72 veteran of the sport. I frankly find it appalling that you and many others think that age guidelines should be set for the sport. He has just as much right to be out there as anyone else. Basically, what you folks are saying is "To hell with sport veterans who want to get out there an have some fun" which is completely despicable. You can say you have respect for them all you want, actions speak louder than words.

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    1. NASCAR isn't the sport for "... veterans who want to go out there and have some fun." Did you see the race for the "legends" of NASCAR held at Bristol?

      In case you didn't, NASCAR got a bunch of veterans who wanted to go out there and have some fun. It ended with a couple of them going to the hospital, and Larry Pearson with serious injuries.

      I think the word despicable should be reserved for the haters the next time NASCAR allows some old guys to have some fun, that ends up getting them killed.

      This is a dangerous sport. This isn't a bunch of old timers lobbing a softball around reminiscing about the good ol days in the MLB. Even baseball old timers play softball! They don't play games with fast pitch hardballs. Ever see an old timers football game? They would never put those cats in that position.

      I have never seen a death on a football field. I have never seen a death on a baseball diamond. I have seen death in NASCAR, and I don't miss it. I think everything they have done for safety has made the racing fans forget that this sport plays for keeps.

      I am a fan of Morgan Shepard. I respect what he has done in this sport. I respect how much he busted his ass the past few years to get that "Racing for Jesus" car in the Nationwide races. But I also respect the sport, and the consequences it brings. It doesn't need to put anyone in manufactured danger. The danger exists already.

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    2. Anonymous5:13 PM

      I saw it. The crash (t-bone in the drivers side) that put those drivers in the hospital would've put ANYONE in the hospital, not just the older folks. You think one accident in cars that are many steps back in safety should prove the physical ability (or lack-thereof) to pilot a Sprint Cup car?
      (Do note, I am not trying to be a smartass with that question, sorry if it might come off that way. I am legitimately trying to see if I interpreted your post right. I do respect your [and everyone else's] opinion on the matter.)

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    3. The accident very well could have put anyone in the hospital. I don't fault the cars for the injuries. I fault the drivers for their handling of their machines, and the current physical state of their bodies.

      If you drive a race car, or have ever driven a race car, there are split second choices leading in to a wreck. Lock it down or save it. A great example of a driver who didn't lock it down was Michael McDowell at California Speedway. I know we don't like to play the what if game around here, but I don't know how well a 72 year old body holds up to the force of that wreck, even in a car that was safer than the Bristol cars.

      My Dad was a Marine Corps Veteran of Vietnam. He was the baddest man I've ever met. He could do things most average people couldn't dream of. I still see the Man he was, but know he is a much more fragile version of himself. He is five years younger than Morgan Shepard.

      When a young guy falls on the sidewalk, he gets up and brushes himself off,- and checks to makes sure nobody saw him fall - while an older man might find himself on his way to the hospital for a broken hip.

      We must respect what our heroes have done in their prime, but also know when that time has passed.

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  24. Anonymous3:54 PM

    Him being slow and maybe using up some ones line was no worse than all the Tissue Paper yellows that Nascar threw. Keep looking guys we need to find something so we can get these cars closed back up.

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  25. Dave,

    You are in your fifties, considerably older than most of the journalists covering NASCAR. Because of this, maybe you should consider retiring as well.

    Not so good on the other foot right?

    What if you got a minor detail wrong on a breaking news stories and spun a quote out of context? Critics would be coming down on you hard.

    One could argue against you that "oh, you're too old, you can't break news as fast or recall facts as good or transcribe and type as fast as you used to."

    Morgan Shepherd has passion and did not go below minimum speed ONCE during the event. Let the man race. Get over yourself.

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  26. Anonymous8:52 PM

    I cant say I agree with age being the entire problem but rather the slow performance on the track. Nascar has rules about speeds on track but maybe its time it was reviewed. Yes Joey should be able to get around, but when you constantly impede everyone's progress that is a serious concern.

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  27. Anonymous9:04 PM

    Dave, please explain exactly how Morgan Shepherd's age caused Joey to crash. From what both drivers said happened, Morgan's racecar was very loose and when Joey passed him it just sucked the car around. Sounds like the same thing that happens every week to these stupidly aero dependent cars.

    I hope Morgan races until he's a hundred. NASCAR isn't very much fun to watch anymore between the aero crap, no difference between manufacturer's cars, a few owner's controlling all the cars, and now, you and others wanting to ban drivers who qualify for races just because they exceed your arbitrary age limit. If you get your way, it may just be the straw that breaks the camel's back and I'll finally quit watching.

    By the way, the Indy Car race at Iowa was better than any NASCAR race I've seen this year.

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  28. Anonymous11:59 PM

    So if Morgan was not driving the 33 someone else would have been driving the same ill handling car and might have done the same thing at some point.It sucks but it happens every week just not to the second place car.It seems more like a bad car with a low budget team.

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  29. Anonymous12:43 AM

    Shepherd could have gone faster on his roller skates. Whatever Nascar determined to be minimum speed obviously was woefully inadequate. The car was not competitive.

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    1. Anonymous12:05 PM

      Are you kidding me? Of course the car was not competitive. Neither was half the field. Neither is half the field at any NASCAR race or any race at any other sanctioning body for that matter. Negotiating around slower cars and lapped traffic is one of the requisite skills of "the best drivers on earth".

      How many times has a race been decided by which driver was held up the longest before being able to pass a lapped car in the late stages of a race? It's part of the sport and should be a part of it. Just happened that Joey didn't do a good job Sunday and it cost him a good finish. End of story. Morgan's age is completely irrelevant.

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  30. A persons ability to react, see, think, etc. lessens with age. Some states require special testing for seniors to maintain their drivers license.

    Do any of you really believe Morgan has the reflexes , sight, or thought process to drive in Cup in a bottom tier team and not become a hazard to the other 42 cars and drivers?

    Why would any driver who is not impaired in some shape or form stay on the track in a car he admitted was not drivable?

    So the next time Morgan appears on track are you all saying the first agenda of the drivers in the race should be to wreck him out because NASCAR does not have the backbone to tell him he can not compete? Or should the entire field stay behind him when they are ready to lap him?

    NASCAR is the sanctioning body, they make the rules, if they choose to ignore this issue for too long we may end up with another driver or 2 or even worse fans becoming injured or killed.

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    1. Anonymous12:32 PM

      How do you know that a person's ability to react, see, think, etc. lessens with age? I haven't seen any studies that prove that at all. A lot depends on whether older people remain active or not. One who retires to his couch or his computer chair will no doubt lose strength and possibly reflexes but one who remains active will not.

      You also ask the question: Why would any driver who is not impaired in some shape or form stay on the track in a car he admitted was not drivable? The obvious answer is that every driver on the track will do that because that is what drivers do. To do otherwise would mean losing positions and, in some cases, falling out of races. Maybe I missed something but I didn't hear Morgan say that his car was undrivable. What I heard him say was that his car was wicked loose. If drivers got out of cars every time that occurred half the field would fall out of most every race.

      As far as getting someone killed, I'd say that Morgan Shepherd is much less likely to cause someone's death than Joey Logano. I don't think Joey is going to kill someone but Denny Hamlin may disagree and a lot of fans disagreed after the incident which sent Denny to the hospital with serious back injuries last year.

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    2. How do I know that people's physical and mental properties diminish with age? If you truly don't know the answer to that question, look around. You don't see many 120-year olds, because their bodies have all broken down and failed. You don't see professional athletes competing at the age of 75, because they lose their physical skills, eye-hand coordination and mental acuity. This isn't news, my friend. It's been an accepted physiological fact for quite some time now.

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    3. Anonymous6:43 PM

      Well, Dave, I guess you fall in the category of those who don't believe that race drivers are athletes, professional or otherwise, because we certainly do see drivers competing at 75. Herschel McGriff into his 80's and Red Farmer still competing in his 80's. John Force is 65. There's no telling how many local racers are in that age category. But Not5for48 didn't mention anything about how strong someone was or how fast they could run. His comment referred to people losing their ability to react, see and think with age. I stand by my statement. Show me one study that indicates 75 year olds can't think as well as anyone. For that matter, prove to me that they can't react as fast. And I know any number of people who are in their 60's and 70's and see as well as ever. The statement is false and so is your defense of it.

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  31. Anonymous3:37 AM

    Logano handled himself well considering. Considering a part time driver (at best) decided he wanted to make a vanity Sunday drive. Considering other drivers were complaining and the ever politically correct Nascar was in a situation with the idiot crowd that if they pulled him off for a ill handling car (which is the truth) some Twitter moron would fire up the torches gather the villagers and tell the sheep Nascar hates old people. Hey..just driving on my road daily going about my business and you all have too, how in God's name can you defend a 72 year old man in Nascar's top tier? Are you looking for him or others to get hurt? Let us know your feelings when you just rolled off the car lot with your new car and some senior on his way to the eye doctors smashes your car, with a instant loss of thousands. To blame Logano is absurd. I swear some think the skill and acuity of professional driving is akin to their daily run to Starbucks.

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