Last weekend, in the most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Morgan Shepherd broke his own record as the oldest driver to start a Sprint Cup race. His age — north of 70 — became controversial after an in-race incident with then-second-place-running Joey Logano. After the incident, Logano hinted that, at Shepherd’s age, maybe he should undergo some kind of NASCAR-mandated driving test. Shepherd, though, contended that the wreck was actually Logano’s fault.
Anyway, in the days that followed, Shepherd’s age came into question, mainly in the form of the question of whether or not he should still be racing at his advanced age. Then the debate came relating to NASCAR’s minimum speed limits at certain tracks and whether or not those limits should be examined and possibly changed.
Meanwhile, answering to the criticism of her father continuing to race, Cindy Shepherd took to Facebook late Saturday night and answered her father’s critics. Here’s what her lengthy post said:
“As a child of a driver, normally I would have let slide the negativity my Dad has unfairly faced this week, but there were a few points that I could not stop thinking about and so I felt the need to share them….
“Our sport, NASCAR, is built on the passion of the fans and rivalry of drivers. Fans that passionately identify with ‘their’ driver! I say, let the fans debate…it is great for the sport. Drivers, I say, let the rivalry rage on! If you are a professional in our sport…it is my opinion however, it is unprofessional to bash anyone. If a professional within this business has a hard time understanding how to debate (without bashing), then I question your professionalism.
“Personally, I have never condoned, nor been a fan of public bashing. Sometimes we forget the power of words. Public bashing or social media bashing in turn, tends to trigger what I call ‘the pack’ instinct. One dog attacks, then the whole pack jumps in.
“However, in being fair, I am also reminded that men and women have died for the freedom of speech! In my opinion, that doesn’t make it right to be disrespectful with your speech, post, texts, or tweets…but I will and do, support your right to have your opinion.
“As I have witnessed this type of behavior this past week, I have never been more proud of my father. With dignity and class, he has weathered the storm of ‘disrespect’ that so many have hurled at him. He has quietly shown you do not have to degrade someone to defend yourself, or make a point.
“Athletics: I realize that some have debated that the ‘NASCAR’ driver is an athlete and I do totally agree. But that athlete doesn’t have to be able to complete a tri-athlon to be considered an athlete, does he/she? You have your drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Josh Wise and Carl Edwards that could run as many laps on foot as their cars!
“But the ‘athlete’ mentality should not stop there! What about the rest of the field; they might not have the six-pack abs, but they are every bit the athleete. I can’t even imagine the pain that Tony Stewart has went through to get back in his care and compete, the uphill battles that Landon Cassill and Joe Nemechek struggle with to maintain their spot in a 43-car field as they drive with as much heart as Jeff Gordon. Danica Patrick might be 110 lbs., soaking wet, but no one is more determined and dedicated to put their car in the winner circle!
“You have a moder day pioneer in the Nationwide Series in young Ryan Reed as he races with diabetes. And yes, there is my father, the ABNORMAL, 72-year-old that can run a Cup race, get out of the car and not even be winded. No oxygen needed, no assistance to be removed from the car, or GPS to find the garage, because he forgot where to park his car.
“Because Morgan Shepherd is an athlete at 72, he can keep a pace of working all week on his car, drive his motor coach to the track and be in the garage at 6 a.m. all weekend, working and turning wrenches. At 69 years old, my father was sat the Las Vegas Wal-Mart and witnessed a 15 and 18 year-old running by as they had just robbed the store. My father took off in pursuit and actually caught/tackled the 15 year old and sat on top of him until security came with handcuffs. Just good it! That is not your typical older person. That is an athlete…NOT an embarrassment waiting to happen #RUDE!
“Rightfully so, I question some of the accuracy of reporting that occurred in Sunday’s race. Especially when you have a reporter that is negative to a competitor even prior to the race.
“Every week there are ‘slow’ caars on the track…and not just one car. If you have a problem with it, I suggest you debate the NASCAR implemented ‘minimum speed rule’ #norulesbroken!
“I can assure you, the incident that occurred on the track was not age-related. My father has such respect for his competitors and NASCAR, that when his body becomes unfit for competition, he will be the first to lay the steering wheel on the dash and walk away.
“I have said to many of mmy friends within the NASCAR community, if you are going to be in this arena, you better have big shoulders. As far as I can see, my Dad’s reaction to the disrespect that he has endured shows his are as wide as any in the sport! #respect!
“Fans & drivers. ‘have at it boys!’…provessionals (media, spotters, crew chiefs)…stay professional!
“Just a daughter’s prospective.
I was one of the writers who brought up Shepherd’s age in a recent blog post on this very site. But, to my defense, I was doing so to give a backstory on the incident in question. I said it then, and I’ll say it again — I think the biggest issue that should come from this incident is NASCAR’s minimum speed limits, not Shepherd’s age. I’m just bringing this whole issue up again to present Cindy Shepherd’s defense of her father.
Shepherd wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, driver involved in an incident that also involved a driver in a faster race car. And since Shepherd’s the oldest driver in the sport, others involved in similar incidents were, obviously, younger.
That leads me to believe that, while Shepherd’s age may have brought the issue to the forefront, it’s not the issue, itself. As Jeff Gordon suggested in the midst of this controversy, NASCAR needs to take a look at the minimum speed limits it sets at tracks where tires don’t fall off all that much. Meanwhile, Shepherd just needs to keep doing what he’s doing as long as he wants and is able to do it.
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