Saturday, July 6, 2013

N’WIDE: Morgan Shepherd and Dodge Score Their First Nationwide Last-Place Finishes Since 2011

Morgan Shepherd picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #89 Racing With Jesus Dodge fell out with a broken rear gear after he completed 21 of the race’s 101 laps.

The finish was Shepherd’s first of 2013 and his first in a Nationwide Series race since the Ford 300 at Homestead, fifty races ago.  It is also Shepherd’s 35th last-place finish across NASCAR’s top three divisions, ranking him fourth in the all-time standings behind Jeff Green, Joe Nemechek, and Derrike Cope.  Of that group, Shepherd is the only driver with LASTCAR championships in both Cup (1983) and Nationwide (2007).

Though he has not won in NASCAR since 1993, the 71-year-old Shepherd has been a fixture in the garage area, having made no fewer than twenty-one Nationwide starts per season since he returned to being an owner-driver in 2007.  However, this year, citing sponsorship woes, the veteran has made just four starts out of the sixteen races run so far, including four DNQs.  He has not finished a race this year, and his best finish of the season remains a pair of 35th-place runs at Talladega and Kentucky.

However, last week’s race at Daytona saw Shepherd score his best qualifying run of the season, a 31st-place run at an average speed of 175.172 mph.  For the race, Shepherd ran a Dodge Challenger with his distinctive purple-and-black paint scheme.  Dodge had pulled out prior to the 2013 season, but NASCAR allows recent models to compete, so both Shepherd and Mike Harmon raced Dodges on Friday.  Harmon’s #74 Paxco Dodge started 29th.

Darlington last-placer Blake Koch was the only driver to miss the race after another post-qualifying shuffle.  Dexter Stacey had originally missed the field along with Koch, but an agreement was struck whereby LASTCAR leader Jeff Green withdrew his qualified #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota.  Stacey secured the 40th starting spot while Green replaced Tony Raines as driver of the #70 ML Motorsports Toyota.  Green finished 30th, two laps down, ending a streak of four-straight last-place finishes in Nationwide races at Daytona.  Stacey broke an axle and came home 38th.

Shepherd pulled behind the wall during the opening green-flag run, resulting in his last-place finish.  He beat 39th-place Reed Sorenson by nearly fifty laps.  Sorenson brought out the second caution of the night on Lap 72 when he lost the engine on his #40 Swisher e-Cigarettes Chevrolet fielded by The Motorsports Group.  Following 38th-place Stacey was Mike Wallace, who brought out the next caution when his #01 lost power on the backstretch.  Fontana last-placer Joey Gase rounded out the Bottom Five in the Jimmy Means-owned #52 Donate Life FL / Tanslife Chevrolet.

*This was Shepherd’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide race at Daytona since 1988, when his #97 AC Spark Plugs Buick started 7th, led eight laps, then lost the engine after 21 laps of the Goody’s 300.  The next day, Shepherd also finished last in the Daytona 500, again driving the #97.  Bobby Allison, who in 1982 was the last driver until Jimmie Johnson on Saturday to sweep both Cup races at Daytona, also swept the 1988 weekend with wins in the Cup and Nationwide races.
*This was the first Nationwide Series last-place finish for Dodge since 2011, when Blake Koch’s #82 Dodge was involved in a crash with his teammate after the opening lap of the crash-filled 5-Hour Energy 200 at Dover.
*It is the first last-place finish for the #89 in a Nationwide Series race at Daytona.

40) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 21 laps / rear gear
39) #40-Reed Sorenson / 70 laps / engine
38) #92-Dexter Stacey / 76 laps / axle
37) #01-Mike Wallace / 87 laps / engine
36) #52-Joey Gase / 90 laps / running

1st) Jeff Green (7)
2nd) Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Morgan Shepherd, Dexter Stacey (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (7)
2nd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #52-Jimmy Means Racing, #70-ML Motorsports, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports (1)

1st) Toyota (12)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)
3rd) Dodge, Ford (1)


NSracing said...

Hey Brock I have a question. Do you have any idea why Jeff drove 70 instead of Tony?

Brock Beard said...

I don't, actually. To be honest, it took me by surprise when I tuned in for the ESPN broadcast. Raines' name was still on the roof of the car, too. I don't think it had anything to do with points, especially since Green has the Past Champions Provisional. I think it might have been an illness, but that's just speculation.