Prior to the Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon this past Sunday, Morgan Shepherd was celebrated for breaking his own record as being the oldest driver to compete in the series, as the New Hampshire race was to be his second-start of the season.
But attitudes changed, or at least the attitude of fellow-competitor Joey Logano did, once the race was in progress. Logano and Shepherd made contact during the race, resulting in Logano wrecking and, therefore, retiring from the race. Shepherd, meanwhile, was able to continue.
In post-accident inverviews, Logano questioned whether Shepherd should’ve been allowed to race, pointing to Shepherd’s advanced age and the fact that he was the slowest driver on the race track. Logano also suggested that Shepherd be required to undergo a driving test before being allowed to compete.
Was Shepherd’s age the issue? Should he and/or other drivers undergo some kind of NASCAR-mandated driving test?
Something worth noting — according to Shepherd, Logano caused the wreck, not him.
Maybe NASCAR should have some kind of maximum age limit. But would that be some kind of discrimination? The sanctioning body does impose minimum age requirements, so would maximum age limits be any different? It seems Logano really opened a huge can of worms with his statement.
Also, how exactly would said driving tests be administered? Who would be required to take them. Wrecks happen every week. Who’s to say which drivers involved in on-track incidents would be required to undergo testing and which ones wouldn’t?
I think Jeff Gordon offered a much better solution — that NASCAR reconsider its minimum speed limits.
Shepherd was running above NASCAR’s specified mimumum speed limit, and NASCAR, itself, did confirm after the race that Shepherd was not warned about any speed issues by the sanctioning body. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was significantly slower than the average race pace.
The minimum speed required in Sunday’s race at NHMS was 115.88 mph. For comparison, the fastest cars on the track were running laps around 131 mph. That’s a pretty big window. And it’s a window that Gordon said after the race that he wasn’t comfortable with. In case you’re wondering, Shepherd was running around 121 mph just prior to his contact with Logano. To illustrate how far off the pace that is — Shepherd was 10 laps down by the time of his run-in with Logano on lap 212 of the 301-lap race.
Something I’m wondering, was the slow pace a result of car or driver? The No. 33 car usually isn’t that far off the pace.
I guess that’s beside the point, here, though. I’m not sure about the whole driver testing thing once a driver reaches or surpasses a certain thing, but I’m thinking maybe raising minimum speed limits at some tracks is probably a good idea.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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