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Monday, January 25, 2010

Morgan Shepherd begins 2010 racing ‘on faith and will’


Among the more than 50 cars who will be trying out for the Nationwide race at Daytona, a very familiar face will once again be among the crowd.
In an age of “young guns”, there will be a guy on the track who was winning Cup and Nationwide races when these young guys were being born.

Morgan Shepherd, who has nearly four decades of NASCAR experience and turned 68 this past October, is still going strong in the racing business, operating his tiny team on a shoestring budget and hoping to play David to the Goliaths of NASCAR in 2010.

Shepherd, who won 4 races and 7 poles during his time in the Cup series and has 15 wins and 5 poles in the Nationwide series, recognizes he will face the usual difficulty of trying to qualify for the races against teams that are much more well-funded. Last year, he managed to pull out five top-20 finishes, with a high of 13th at Las Vegas in the spring, despite having very few resources.

In the past, he had received financial help from drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick. This year, that won’t be there for Shepherd’s Faith Motorsports team, for which he does most of the work on the cars himself.

“Last year was the first time we got any help in a good while. With the economy the way it is, Tony had to cut back this year. He told that if things turn around, he’ll try to help me again,” Shepherd said.

Also involved in this effort are Shepherd’s loyal fans, who are being given the opportunity through the “Fans for Faith” program to put their name on his car at Daytona, for a $100 donation. So far, Shepherd has raised a few thousand dollars through this fan outreach program, and there are no concrete plans about how long this plan will be pursued.

Before thinking that far ahead, one item is first on the agenda: Going to Daytona and qualifying, because the prize money is substantial there and can propel the team to future races.

“Our main goal is to go down to Daytona and get in the race. This is a good race car we qualified 10th in July,” Shepherd said confidently, adding that he purchased a car from the now shut-down #11 Nationwide team that ran well in 2009. “We know we have a good shot at it, but there are probably 55 cars going down there. If we can get in this race, it will help carry us on to other races.”

Shepherd’s team is focused on ministry, and he expressed thanks to fans who have donated and are helping him spread his message. He hopes that their contributions can propel the team to solid finishes and perhaps some sponsorship down the road.
“The fans are helping us go to Daytona and we’ll see where it goes from there,” he said. “We plan to go to California, Vegas, and hopefully we’ll have some sponsorship before long.”

If things go well, which is entirely possible if he stays out of trouble and catches some breaks, Shepherd is looking forward to being around for the Car of Tomorrow races planned for the second half of the season in the Nationwide series. He says the new car is an equalizer and a boost for smaller teams, as it is much more versatile than the current Nationwide car.

“This new car puts us more like back in the 80s. I tested the car in Richmond. It puts us more on an even keel. In 1988, I went to Daytona with a Buick we had, qualified 11th, and went to the old Richmond track in the same car and sat on the pole. You can’t do that with the current Nationwide car,” he said. “This is what the new car will help us do.”

While he doesn’t have a COT built yet, he is in talks with Chip Ganassi and other team owners about purchasing some of their older Cup equipment.
“We’re planning on being at the COT races, but we haven’t been able to build one yet. We have the sheet metal from Chevrolet,” he said. “We’re trying to come up with something with some of the other teams who are selling off some of their Cup cars.”

Whatever happens this season, there won’t be a lack of effort from Shepherd and the few people he has helping him out in 2010.

“We’re more or less doing it on faith and will,” he said. “You’ve got to have the will to do it.”

For more information on the "Fans for Faith" program, go to www.morganshepherd.com.

Charitable offseason
During the offseason, Shepherd was busy too, working with his charity the Morgan Shepherd Charitable Fund to help out disabled children.

On December 14th, country singer and former “American Idol” contestant Kellie Pickler led the entertainment lineup as Shepherd and his charity held an event in Virginia at the PARC Workshop, a training center that teaches basic life and job skills to mentally and physically disabled youths. 2009 was the 23rd year Shepherd has gone on this charity mission trip, and he said it was a big success.

“It went great. We made 1,500 gift bags for the kids, and gave about $20,000 to the PARC Workshop,” he said. “Kellie Picker performed, and we brought in a gospel group to entertain them for a couple hours.”

Among the other NASCAR names in attendance were drivers Dennis Setzer, Johnny Chapman and Brett Rowe.

To learn more about Shepherd’s charitable efforts, visit www.morganshepherdcharitablefund.org.



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2 Comments:

Anonymous Richard in N.C. said...

Thank you. Good to see Morgan get some coverage. He would have a better shot making Nationwide races if it weren't for start-and-park parasites like the MSRP team partly owned by Phil Parsons who have no intent at all of competing and just are in it for the money.

January 25, 2010 at 10:56 AM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

No problem Richard. I consider myself lucky that i get to write about Morgan and some of the other NASCAR legends. Not everyone has forgotten about the people who helped made this sport great.

And you do have a solid point on the start-and-parks, but I don't see that going away anytime soon, unless the economy picks way up.

January 25, 2010 at 11:48 AM 

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