Gordon questions Shepherd’s speed in No. 22 wreck
July 14, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
Gordon: 'I think that minimum speed probably needs to be adjusted'
There has a been a lot of debate following a collision between 72-year-old Morgan Shepherd and Joey Logano Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway -- a wreck that occurred when a then race-runner-up Logano was maneuvering around a much slower, then-15-laps-down Shepherd.
The damage on Logano's No. 22 Ford was enough to end the day for Logano and have the 24-year old question whether a car (Shepherd) running that slowly should have even been allowed to stay out on track.
Even before the race, some questioned whether a 72-year old -- even one that had four Cup victories in his four-decades career -- still belonged in NASCAR's elite division.
But four-time NASCAR Cup champion Jeff Gordon said Monday it wasn't a question of Shepherd's age but his car's speed, as well as the criteria and enforcement for a safe "minimum speed" during a race.
"I don't think they have any place out there if they're running that slow, whether you're a car that's had damage and you can't maintain the minimum speed. Or, is the minimum speed the proper speed?'' Gordon said. "I think it probably needs to be raised up at certain tracks where there's not a lot of falloff in the tire, then I think that minimum speed probably needs to be adjusted.
"The tricky thing about minimum speed at a place like New Hampshire, you've got cars all around the track. You've got a car that maybe can meet minimum speed in clean air, but they're really never in clean air because they're constantly getting passed or trying to make some room for the lap cars to go by."
Gordon acknowledged that each track created a different set of reasonable expectations.
"How do we truly measure minimum speed? Because if you do it every lap that they're getting passed by a faster car, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't make minimum speed. So I think NASCAR maybe looks at sometimes once they get into clean air are they making minimum speed, and at a place like New Hampshire or Martinsville, they're never in clean air, and I don't think they're ever going to make minimum speed,'' Gordon said.
"Those numbers are ‑‑ NASCAR has those, I don't. I know that week in and week out there are certain cars that you're passing very, very often that you're questioning whether or not they're making minimum speed or if the minimum speed is really at the right pace."
After the race Shepherd defended his participation as did NASCAR.
"Was I the only wreck out there?" Shepherd asked, knowing there were two other non-debris incidents. "OK, that answers that."
"It's one of those deals where my car wasn't driving real good," Shepherd said. "Whenever he drove down in the corner, he was close to me and it just pulled my car around. Nobody's fault."
Logano was visibly frustrated during his television interview in the garage after the accident but shook his head about whether it was something he'd take up with NASCAR.
"What am I going to say? It's not NASCAR's fault he can't control his stuff and he's the slowest car out there,'' Loagno said.
Asked about the situation afterward, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton reiterated that Shepherd had met all criteria to compete in the Cup Series -- from passing a standard physical to his ability on track. The same requirements everyone else has to meet.
"Nobody wants to be out of the race because of an accident,'' Pemberton said, explaining that he understood Logano's frustration.
But, "(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."