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Pemberton, Shepherd defend the right to race

July 13, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

NASCAR VP: "... It could have happened to anybody with any competitor"

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LOUDON, N.H. -- Morgan Shepherd, making just his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of the season, finished 39th in Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Shepherd has competed in NASCAR's premier series in five different decades. He is 72 years old. He has four victories in the Cup series.

Contact between his No. 33 Circle Sport Chevrolet and the No. 22 of Joey Logano on Sunday garnered Shepherd a bit of unwanted attention. Logano was running second at the time. Shepherd was multiple laps down in a race that was two-thirds complete. 

The accident ended Logano's day, and the Team Penske driver finished 40th.

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Shepherd's car was damaged, but not enough to send him to the garage. He finished 39th and was 27 laps down at the finish. 

"It's one of those deals where my car wasn't driving real good," Shepherd said afterward. "Whenever he drove down in the corner, he was close to me and it just pulled my car around. Nobody's fault.

"Maybe he didn't realize how wicked loose I was; I was having to tiptoe through the corner."

Asked about those who say he has no business in a race car because of his age, Shepherd didn't hesitate.

"Was I the only wreck out there?" he asked. "OK, that answers that."

There were seven cautions during the race with at least two others brought on by accidents.

Logano was understandably upset, sidelined for the second time during the weekend due to a crash. On Friday, he wrecked his primary car during practice, forcing the team to roll out the backup. 

Sunday's incident was "dumb," he said.

"I feel like that should be stuff that shouldn't happen at this level of racing," he said 

Logano's team owner, and NASCAR officials, were a bit more understanding of the situation.

"Morgan is a good friend of everybody in the garage; he's a good friend of mine and we try to support him," team owner Roger Penske said. "Obviously he was not doing anything out there that he expected to have someone in an accident with him.

"I told Joey, 'Look, you can't go back and fix it.' Obviously (Shepherd) saw when Brad (Keselowski) came up to him later in the race he slowed down to get everybody by him.

"That's the great thing about this sport -- if you want to tee it up here, have your car and a team, we let 'em run. So I don't feel bad about it other than the fact that Joey got knocked out. I think we had a real good car … he was running second at that time. Obviously at that point you say, 'Damn,' but at the end of the day we've got to move on."

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development, said there was no concern about Shepherd competing in the event as he was running above the required minimum speed throughout the race.

He met the same guidelines set forth for all drivers in the series prior to the start of the season, Pemberton said.

"Morgan Shepherd has always been approved; he's been approved for decades," Pemberton said. "Under our situation here, you take a physical at the beginning of the year, you pass your physical, you pass inspection with your car, you qualify for the race and you run the event. He met everything he needed to meet."

Logano's comments were not surprising, Pemberton said. "Nobody wants to be out of the race because of an accident.

"(Shepherd) was above minimum speed; he pulled over to let Joey go by and it's a responsibility for all competitors to … lay off each other," he said. "It's an accident, those things happen. It could have happened to anybody with any competitor."

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