Busch nears NASCAR milestone top-10 streak to start a season
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Morgan Shepherd pushed his No. 89 Chevrolet for a few feet through the garage with all the might a 77-year-old NASCAR driver could muster before yielding to his crew.
Pushing 80, Shepherd just might race long enough for his age to match his car number.
“Oh, yeah. That won’t be nothing,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd made his mark with a smaller, yet significant, number in 1990: 11. Shepherd posted a record 11 straight top-10 finishes to open the season in the Cup series, driving for Hall of Fame car owner Bud Moore.
Kyle Busch is nipping at Shepherd’s milestone, going 10 for 10 headed into Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway. Busch, the 2015 NASCAR champion, already has three wins and barely extended the streak last weekend when he finished 10th at Talladega.
“It is kind of on our mind right now,” Busch said. “Going into every week, we want to win. That is what we strive to do every time we hit the track. We thought it would come to an end last week at Talladega and it was close. We were right on the verge, but we made it through another one.”
Busch is one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers and just hit 200 career wins across all three national series. That he would run off this kind of consistency is hardly a surprise for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver that is a threat for a checkered flag each time he races.
Shepherd’s streak might be a bit of a surprise to a generation of fans who mostly know him as a senior citizen usually running at the back of the pack . Shepherd won four times in his prime and was a top contender in 1990 to win the championship. But his top-10 run ended when a blown engine led to a 20th-place finish at Sonoma. It took him six more races before he scored another top 10 and, though he won the season finale at Atlanta, finished fifth in the season standings. Shepherd was a spry 48 years old behind the wheel of the No. 15 Ford.
“We started blowing motors,” Shepherd said. “I was running with Bud Moore then and we had a lot of good runs back then.”
He still races in the second-tier Xfinity Series and was rooting for Busch to at least match the mark.
“He’s plenty capable,” Shepherd said. “He’s still got to have a little luck here. I knew he was knocking on the door. At Raceway Park in Indianapolis, I was the only one that won three races. Kyle came along and he matched it. He just tied me. Hopefully, he just ties me here.”
Busch started the streak when he finished second behind teammate Denny Hamlin in the Daytona 500. He has two thirds, a sixth, an eighth and two 10th-place finishes to go with his wins during the streak.
Busch has three career wins in 28 starts at Dover and finished 35th in the track’s first race last season. He starts 22nd on Sunday.
Here’s what else is going on at Dover.