On the day Morgan Shepherd was born in the tiny hamlet of Ferguson, N.C., to a Wilkes County moonshine runner and his wife, NASCAR was still more than six years away from being created.
Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the 71-year-old Shepherd will officially become the oldest driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup history when he pilots a Brian Keselowski-owned Toyota in the Camping World RV Sales 301 at the 1.058-mile track.
It will be Shepherd’s 515th career Sprint Cup start dating back to June 20, 1970 at Hickory, N.C.
And he won’t just be setting the age record, he’ll be shattering it: The current record for the oldest Cup driver was set by Jim Fitzgerald when he was 65 years, 6 months and 20 days and raced at Riverside International Raceway on June 21, 1987.
“This is truly a milestone, great opportunity and I thank all who are involved to help make this happen,” said Shepherd. “My first Sprint Cup race since 2006. Will be good to be back for such a historical day. Plus, I love racing at New Hampshire.”
For his career, Shepherd has posted four race victories at the Sprint Cup level, along with 63 top-five and 168 top-10 finishes. His best seasons came in 1990, when he finished fifth in points driving for Bud Moore, and 1994 with Wood Brothers Racing, where he ended the year sixth in points.
Shepherd’s last full season in NASCAR’s top division came in 1996, when he drove for Butch Mock. For his career, Shepherd has earned $10,463,007 in the Cup Series.
In recent years, Shepherd has competed in NASCAR’s AAA division, the Nationwide Series, with his own low-budget, largely unsponsored team known as Faith Motorsports. A devout Christian, Shepherd’s bright green No. 89 Nationwide car carried a “Victory In Jesus” logo on the hood.
Two years ago, Shepherd made headlines when he helped capture two teenagers suspected of robbing a Walmart near Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Despite being 69 years old at the time, he wrestled one of them to the ground and handcuffed him while the police got the other one in custody.
Shepherd’s tireless efforts have drawn the attention of his fellow racers, most notably three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, who on several occasions has bought tires and parts for Shepherd.
“There are a lot of people who care about him as a person and they respect him as a race car driver,” Stewart said of Shepherd after a Nationwide race at Talladega Superspeedway in 2008. “When you can do something like that to help someone out, it’s worthwhile.”