Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
NASCAR Driver Q & A / Feature · Bryan Davis Keith · Tuesday September 29, 2009
It’s been a tale of two seasons for Morgan Shepherd in 2009.
The year began with a bang. Armed with a Kevin Harvick, Inc. Chevrolet and motors and tires furnished by Tony Stewart, Shepherd had the resources to tackle the full Nationwide Series schedule… and tackle it he did. In the first three races of the season, Shepherd qualified in the top 20 at Daytona and followed that run up with back-to-back top 20 finishes at Fontana and Las Vegas, outrunning a number of Cup team cars on the very same intermediate tracks they’ve come to dominate. Locked into the top 30 five races into the year, things looked all systems go for the No. 89 team.
Fast forward to Dover this past weekend, and the picture was nowhere near as pretty. Shepherd and Faith Motorsports pulled into Dover Downs less than a month after laying off nearly the entire crew, riding a streak of five consecutive DNQs and unsure whether or not they’d be able to run the distance that Saturday (the No. 89 had run every race in 2009 to completion headed into the weekend).
How did this happen? How did one of the feel good stories of the Spring disintegrate into a situation where even survival was in question?
“I blame myself,” says Shepherd matter-of-factly. “I mismanaged it at the start of the year. Tore up some race cars.”
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that Shepherd has taken on the task of improving Faith Motorsports largely on his own back. The longtime veteran released his crew not just because of the financial necessity of cutting back when the No. 89 was missing races, but because he felt he “had to try something different.” It’s worth noting that even prior to the race at Dover this past weekend that finally saw the team qualify and take home some purse money, Shepherd told Frontstretch that he was looking to hire an engineer formerly with Gillett Evernham Motorsports to help bring his cars up to speed.
Shepherd’s individual actions go further. When discussing his plans to get his two primary race cars back up to speed, the plan circulated almost entirely around his being able to implement suspension changes offered to Faith Motorsports by KHI team manager Rick Carelli. Crew or no crew, Shepherd is convinced that his working on the cars will turn the team’s performance around — even if he does it all himself.
“[We’ve] got to get where I can get these cars handling back where they should,” says Shepherd. That effort to improve the No. 89 was unquestioned leading up to Dover: Shepherd told Frontstretch that he was up until 3:30 AM the morning prior to heading out for Dover all but rebuilding the front end of his primary car, fixing parts that didn’t fit right when the team failed to qualify at Richmond.
This consuming focus on his car and keeping Faith Motorsports on the track even seems to have changed Shepherd’s view on the larger picture regarding the sport. Case in point, his views on the deluge of start-and-park teams that have hit the Nationwide circuit (12 of them made the field for Saturday’s Dover 200).
“They’re showing up with 25 extra horsepower in a qualifying motor [and] making it really hard for us guys showing up to race,” says Shepherd, who also mentioned that in the case of other teams in his predicament, such as RAB Racing’s No. 09 Zaxby’s car, the start-and-park practice is going to run sponsors out of the sport. “We’re [Faith Motorsports] staying put [in the NNS], but eventually, people stay agitated long enough and they’ll leave.”
It’s hard to argue with Shepherd’s case against start-and-parking, seeing as how he is an owner whose ability to compete in the Nationwide Series is being compromised by the practice. But, it’s also hard to overlook the fact that from 2003 to 2007, Shepherd himself was at the forefront of start-and-parking in all three of NASCAR’s top three divisions: in the 89 races he started across the three series, he only ran three to completion. During that stretch of races, Shepherd and his No. 89 cars would show up to the track knowing full well they would not be able to complete the race, and also was caught by NASCAR during a Cup race at Loudon in 2003 scuffing tires for other teams under green flag conditions.
But with the practice now turned on him, it’s fairly obvious that Shepherd’s focus right now is keeping himself and his ministry on the race track. But with the nearly 70-year-old driver playing the roles of driver, owner and mechanic, there’s no doubt that he’s taking the hard route, contesting the Nationwide Series on a shoestring budget with only two primary cars. What’s more, as contradictory as it sounds, Shepherd can’t afford to scale back and focus on qualifying for a limited number of races, a practice that single-car teams Furniture Row Racing and Wood Brothers Racing have employed successfully in remaining on the Cup circuit.
“In Cup, that’s the smart way to do it,” says Shepherd of the limited schedule practice. But with the No. 89 team having such a low budget and a need to keep overhead down, the team is far more heavily reliant on purse money than most operations — and because NASCAR’s purse payouts offer a bonus to teams that contest every race on the Nationwide schedule, Shepherd has no choice but to attempt every race, as that translates to an increased payout of roughly $6,000 per event.
“We need that [bonus] money to pay the few people we do have,” observed Shepherd.
But for all the problems, all the struggles, Shepherd keeps finding a way to stay on the track, and that was no different at Dover on Saturday. And that’s thanks in large part not just to Shepherd’s tireless perseverance, but because there are so many out there in the racing community that continue to rally around one of the few remaining links to the sport’s past.
This weekend, it was thanks to a volunteer crew that didn’t come together until three days before the race that Shepherd was not only able to qualify for his first race since Watkins Glen back in early August, but also to run the distance and finish a very respectable 21st. With Faith Motorsports’ secretary Shannon Feldmann atop the pit box, and a pit crew that included Herd Racing driver Brett Rowe, former driver Chad Beahr, and Shepherd’s daughter and wife all handling duties during race weekend, Shepherd said pre-race that he felt “in good hands.” He was, as those who went over the wall for the No. 89 performed admirably in doing a two-tire change under green flag conditions.
This hodgepodge pit crew that allowed the Racing With Jesus car to finally make a competitive return to Nationwide racing is no exception to the rule, it is just another example of racers coming to the aid of Morgan Shepherd. As previously mentioned, Shepherd was consistently in communication with KHI’s Rick Carelli in the days leading up to Dover, obtaining valuable information regarding suspension setups that seemed to really improve the handling of the No. 89 car; Shepherd qualified in the top 20 for the first time since Daytona in July.
And of course, there’s Cup stars Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. Prior to the start of 2009, Harvick provided Faith Motorsports with one of his own KHI race cars, while Stewart footed the bill for a season’s worth of tires and three motors for Shepherd to contest a full Nationwide schedule.
When asked about this constant outpouring of generosity, Shepherd doesn’t pull any punches: “[To think] that you’ve got Tony from the North and Kevin from the West, and they want to help Morgan Shepherd.”
“I’ll be on the road…and it’ll nearly bring tears to my eyes.”
Despite all the struggles, all the trials, all the mistakes, Shepherd remains on the road and looking towards the future with confidence, convinced he’ll be there and part of it. When asked about the upcoming NNS COT, Shepherd was remarkably upbeat, noting “it’s 100 times better than the Cup car. I tested it at Richmond [in] one of Johnny Davis’ cars and we were second quickest.”
“It [bridged] the gap between the high-dollar teams.”
Shepherd’s also been active in communicating with NASCAR regarding the future of the Nationwide Series, as he was one of the NNS owners that convinced NASCAR to move back the debut of the NNS COT from the first Daytona race in February to the second in the early summer, knowing that his team had no chance of completing a car by the first race of 2010. What’s more, Shepherd has also been speaking with NASCAR officials regarding the challenges that the combination of start-and-parkers and the top 30 rule are posing to teams like his own that are trying to race.
“NASCAR won’t do anything this year,” said Shepherd. But he’s cautiously optimistic that changes will be coming for the NNS along that front come 2010.
The long and short of this story is that Morgan Shepherd is not going anywhere. He will be in the Nationwide Series as a driver and an owner for the foreseeable future, age and resources notwithstanding. And while a large part of that is owed to Shepherd’s devotion to the sport, his ministry and yes, even his individualism and seeming stubbornness, it’s also because of how so many racers, race fans, etc. continually step up to back up the wily 67-year-old.
How is this possible? Why are so many, be it star drivers Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, fellow Nationwide regular Brett Rowe, and enclaves of race fans from Virginia to Wisconsin ready to volunteer, to commit time and resources to keeping an aging underdog in the Nationwide Series, driving for an independent organization that can only hope to, as fellow writer Matt McLaughlin coined it on Monday “piss into the wind” when it comes to competing?
For Shepherd, he continues to push forward because he’s doing bigger things. There’s no questioning the man’s faith, and he has no doubt that his carrying the Lord’s name on his car means more than showing up to race.
“They’ve [supporters] said they’re helping me because its helping [someone] who built the sport, but it’s more than that,” said Shepherd. “Tony Stewart said on his radio show that one of the best parts of his weekend is seeing our [the Racing with Jesus] hauler pull into the garage.”
And while there are those around him who follow his racing and his car because they share the Christian faith, there is also a racing answer to this question. For perhaps the only thing that rivals Shepherd’s faith is his confidence. In speaking to him, for all the problems coming forward, there’s not a hint of doubt in this driver’s mind that he can and will get his cars back to competitiveness, with or without a crew at the shop. There’s not a hint of doubt in his mind that he can’t still get the job done, even against drivers less than a third his age. There is a larger than life confidence still burning in Morgan Shepherd that has allowed him to remain relevant in NASCAR racing even after having been in it for more than 30 years.
And it is also for this reason that fans and racers are still stepping up to keep him on the track. Because what’s racing without the larger than life men that made it happen then — and still are to this day?
©2000 - 2008 Bryan Davis Keith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
God Bless you, Morgan.
Good article, well written.
Im an agnostic but I’ll root for an underdog like Morgan anytime. I dont know how he will be able to make the conversion to the new Nationwide POS, I mean COT, next year.
heck of a story written here..
Wonderful article. Super to see Morgan get some recognition, just wish he’d get more on TV. I suspect when Morgan was S&P’ing in 2003-2007, as you state, that was before he got any significant help from others and that he was doing the best he could with the available funds. It does seem to me that you might have mentioned MSRP which appears to be S&P’ing in N-wide solely to make money with no intent to compete at all.
MORGAN SHEPHERD HAS BEEN MY HERO SINCE I WATCHED HIM WIN IN 1986 IN A CAR THAT SHOULD HAVE NOT WON, HE BEAT THE BIG BOYS, AND I HAVE FOLLOWED EVERY RACE SINCE. HE IS QUITE THE MAN!!!, LOVE YOU MORGAN