Column By: DOMINIC KONARESKI / NYSS – WEST HAVEN, CT – In 1970 at the Hickory Motor Speedway the racing world saw a young man make his racing debut. That man was Morgan Shepherd.
Shepherd drove the no.93 Chevy for Bill Flowers with a tenth place starting position, he would finish 19th. Shepherd would make two more starts for Flowers in 1970 and would not be seen in the Cup Series again until the 1977 season.
Between 1971 and 1977 Morgan Shepherd was at a crossroads in a way of his racing career and also in his personal life. In this span Morgan accepted Christ as his personal savior in a religious experience around 1975. Going back on the racing side he took every opportunity he could get which ended him up as the driver of a total of 17 different teams in the 1975 season.
Now it is 1977 and the Daytona Speedweeks are here, Shepherd would fail to qualify for the Daytona 500, but would end up notching his first career top ten finish at Dover. Shepherd drove a Mercury for Jim Makar during the 1977 season for what was a total of three race weekends, he had an average finish of 18th. 1978 featured Shepherd qualifying for his first Daytona 500, it would be just 1 of 33 Daytona 500s that Shepherd would be on the starting grid for.
Fast forward to 1981, Shepherd is now full time as he is now driving a Pontiac for Cliff Stewart with the no.5 on the side door. The team would miss the first two races at Riverside and Daytona and were set to make the season debut at Richmond and what a debut it was. Shepherd would take the pole to mark the first in his Cup career, it would lead up to a fourth-place finish. Shepherd and the Pontiac team took on the paper clip, Martinsville Speedway just several races later, he would get his first career win at the tight tricky track, and it would also mark the first win for the Pontiac manufacturer team in 18 years.
1982, ‘83 and ‘84 saw Shepherd purely dominate in the Xfinity series with a total of seven wins, all on a part time schedule. He went winless in Cup Series all three of those seasons, despite that Shepherd proved that he could go out and win (a lot) if put in the right equipment.
Shepherd would see his second career Cup win in 1986 as Shepherd rode his Buick from a third place start to victory lane that day. Shepherd held off Dale Earnhardt, his intimations were not enough for the 44-year-old. Morgan Shepherd would also notch four Xfinity wins in the 1986 season
Morgan Shepherd would score at the turn of the decade with his third career win in the 29th and final race of the season at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Shepherd held off the Budweiser Ford driven by Geoffrey Bodine; this would be his second win at Atlanta in his Cup Series career. Shepherd would also go on and win again at Atlanta in 1993 after battling with Ernie Irvan, Kodak cameras took a lot of photos of Shepherd celebrating in victory lane. 1993 marked the final winning season for Shepherd in Cup and his 19th and final NASCAR win of his career in the top three series.
Over the next several decades Shepherd would make starts and would end up forming his own team. In the 2007 season Morgan Shepherd would end up fielding his own car under the number 89. Over the years Shepherd would start and park in races, competing in the Xfinity Series as both an owner and driver. Near the end of his career Morgan Shepherd began working mainly as an owner with several drivers racing with Landon Cassill being the most successful.
Shepherd made his last Cup start at a young age of 72-years old in 2014, his last Xfinity start at 77-years old in 2019 and last Truck start at age 73 in 2015. Overall, between all the three series combined Shepherd has 1,027 starts, making him the 8th driver to ever hit 1,000 starts and something that only few would ever get close to replicating.
As of today, there are still talks of Shepherd getting behind the wheel and racing again, or at least fielding a car and having a different driver compete. No matter what though Morgan Shepherd will go down has one of the most fan favorites, driven to win and frankly once in a lifetime driver to what is/was a very impressive career.