Shepherd has earned right to race if he wants to
July 17, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
MORE: In-car of accident | NASCAR VP, Shepherd defend right to race
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It's nice to see some of NASCAR's best and brightest, as well as those simply along for the ride, get all lathered up about Morgan Shepherd.
Apparently, most just discovered that Shepherd is 72 years old and still making the occasional start in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. His competitor's license might be a little frayed around the edges, but it's still valid.
Perhaps they weren’t paying attention when Shepherd drove earlier this year in Phoenix -- but then again, his car lasted only 28 laps and he finished 43rd so it wasn't as if he stuck around all day to see who wound up in Victory Lane.
He also was on hand at Dover, although that was in the Nationwide Series.
This past weekend, Shepherd was back in the Sprint Cup Series, competing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He was several laps down when he got tangled up with the guy running second, and now everyone seems to think he has no business behind the wheel.
Some have suggested Shepherd wasn't maintaining minimum speed prior to the accident; after the race, however, NASCAR's Robin Pemberton said that wasn't the case.
Others described Shepherd as a rolling chicane, roadblock or some other such hindrance on the track. The same has been said at one time or another about roughly half the field in Sunday's race. You're either fast or you're in the way.
And a few have gone so far as to suggest that should something of a similar nature happen in this year's Chase, well, how would that look?
Here's how -- it would look like a wreck, pretty much like a lot of others that occur during the course of a season.
"Everybody's just trying to crucify him," Joe Falk, the team owner who fielded Shepherd's car Sunday, said a couple of days after the fact.
His days of contending for wins at the Sprint Cup level have passed -- Shepherd hasn't logged a top-five finish since 1997 -- but he's not the first driver that's ever been out on the track running multiple laps down to the leaders. And he won't be the last.
This isn't parks and rec softball; there is no 10-lap slaughter rule.
Joey Logano, twice a winner this year and the driver knocked out of the race due to contact with Shepherd, questioned whether anyone should be allowed on the track if they can't keep their car under control.
"If you can't control your stuff, don't even be out there," Logano said while his crew attempted to make repairs to his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. "If you're 10 laps down, what are you doing?"
Logano was frustrated, and anyone that has ever been caught up in a similar incident can probably understand his stance on the situation.
Even Falk, who noted the handling problems Shepherd was fighting with the Circle Sport Racing entry, said his driver shared some of the blame.
"I think Morgan did drift up into him probably, but I think Joey cut him too tight, too," Falk said. "That's easy to say, though. Everybody's been taken out by a lapped car."
Accidents in auto racing don't discriminate – young and old alike are just as likely to end up on the end of a wrecker at some point during the course of a season. Sometimes it's due to a lack of experience, sometimes it's due to an uncooperative car. Sometimes it's both.
Let's just call this particular incident what it was, an unfortunate set of circumstances, and be done with it.
Shepherd, a four-time winner in the series, is no longer contending for wins or racing with the leaders. But that doesn't mean he should be denied the chance to compete.
And until NASCAR, or Shepherd himself, decides otherwise, that should continue to be the case.