In case you missed it a pretty neat thing happened in the world of stock-car racing over the weekend. Morgan Shepherd, 72 years old, once again climbed behind the wheel of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race car.
Fans seemed to enjoy the racing and the buzz of a seasoned driver such as Shepherd entering a car in the field at his age. Talk radio shows centered on NASCAR featured callers both praising Shepherd and those that mentioned that he may be too old.
As the race unfolded Shepherd’s car dropped down a lap, then another, then another, and then a few more. He was well off the pace and seemingly trying to stay out of everyone’s way that a real shot at winning or finishing high. That’s when things went south for the driver that has raced decades in all three of NASCAR’s National series.
Shepherd slid up the track as Joey Logano passed on the outside. In an instant, and a puff of smoke, the slower veteran had taken out a Sprint Cup Chase contender. Jeff Gordon expressed his concern about the minimum speed of cars on any given racetrack.
"I know week in and week out, there are certain cars you're passing 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," Gordon said. "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 lapped cars to go by, so how do we truly measure minimum speed?”
Minimum speed aside; the other question from fans seems to be now if Morgan Shepherd is too old to race? That’s in addition to the question raised by Gordon about minimum speeds. It should be noted that people in the garage are concentrating on the speed issue. Shepherd is a beloved driver by his fellow competitors and no one seems too anxious to take on the age issue.
Here’s my simple take on both issues. Yes, I think Shepherd is too old to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This level of the sport demands the best drivers in the best equipment. As a ticket buyer I expect to see an All-Star race of the best drivers in the sport every time the green drag drops. Here’s the flipside of my answer. On the other hand; no, I do not think that Shepherd is too old to race. As long as he follows the same requirements that NASCAR sets for Sprint Cup Series drivers and their equipment.
According to NASCAR Shepherd passed his physicals and maintained the minimal speed during the race. As long as the rules are the way they are there is nothing wrong with Morgan Shepherd racing in any series that he meets the standards of in order to get the OK to race. If he is OK’d by any sanctioning body to race under that organizations current rule book then it’s OK for him to race.
The question is this; should NASCAR change the rules for age, fitness, speed, and more? What age would be the cut off age? How fast is fast and how slow is slow? Consider this fact before you answer; Shepherd ran the same race at the age of 71 last season.