Sunday, March 2, 2014

CUP: Morgan Shepherd Becomes Cup Series' Oldest Last-Place Finisher

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Morgan Shepherd picked up the 18th last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway when his #87 SmartBen / Morris Hardwick Schneider Toyota fell out with brake problems after he completed 28 of the race’s 312 laps.

The finish was Shepherd’s first since September 9, 2006, 265 races ago, when his #89 Victory In Jesus Dodge had brake problems after 18 laps of the Chevy Rock ‘n Roll 400 at Richmond.  The finish gives Shepherd sole possession of the sixth spot in the all-time LASTCAR Cup Series rankings and ties him with Derrike Cope for third-most in LASTCAR history - 36 apiece.  Only Joe Nemechek and Jeff Green have more.

At the age of 72 years, 4 months, 18 days, Shepherd is now the oldest last-place finisher in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series.  He beats the previous record of 65 years, 5 months, and 2 days set by Hershel McGriff at Sonoma on May 16, 1993.  However, Shepherd is not the oldest last-place finisher in NASCAR history - that record is still held by James Harvey Hylton, who on May 6, 2011 finished last in a Nationwide race at Darlington at the age of 76 years, 8 months, and 10 days.  These statistics may also be incomplete as the birth dates of all NASCAR last-place finishers have not been recorded.

Shepherd is the 1983 LASTCAR Cup Series Champion and the 2007 LASTCAR Nationwide Series Champion, the only active Cup driver with titles in those two divisions.

Shepherd’s ride at Phoenix was Nemechek’s familiar #87.  In the offseason, Nemechek agreed to assist Michael Waltrip Racing at keeping the #66 higher up in Owner Points.  Waltrip and Jeff Burton would drive the #66 in only a handful of races, so Nemechek would enter his own ride for most of the season, similar to the arrangement between Tommy Baldwin Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012 that kept Danica Patrick’s #10 in the points.

Shepherd and Nemechek were among the five drivers who failed to make last week’s Daytona 500 as both finished a lap down in each Budweiser Duel.  Shepherd was attempting to make his first Daytona 500 since 1997 and, in so doing, beat Dave Marcis’ 2002 record as the race’s oldest starter by eleven years.  Shepherd already claimed the record for the oldest driver to start a Cup race last July at New Hampshire, where he finished 41st in Bob Keselowski’s #52.

In practice at Phoenix, Shepherd was slowest in the first session.  Nemechek took the wheel of the #87 in the second session, but trailed that session as well.

Despite their struggles in practice, both Shepherd and Nemechek made the field for the race based on Owner Points.  Shepherd qualified 42nd for his 516th start at an average speed of 128.995 mph, slowest overall other than Justin Allgaier, whose qualifying wreck prevented him from putting up a timed lap.  Nemechek timed in 38th, putting both NEMCO-JRR cars into the field for the first time this season.

In Sunday’s race, Shepherd’s was the first car to lose a lap.  Around Lap 20, he pulled behind the wall for four laps, then ran a few more before he exited the race for good just before the competition caution on Lap 30.

Joe Nemechek lost several laps in the early stages as well, but climbed from 42nd to 40th after a series of late mechanical troubles.  Parker Kligerman’s #30 Swan Energy Toyota fell off the pace early, then lost the engine after 226 laps.  Fellow rookie Alex Bowman struggled with brake problems on the #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota for BK Racing, and Kurt Busch brought out the final caution of the day when his #41 Haas Automationa Chevrolet, already on seven cylinders, lost the engine in a plume of smoke.

*This was Shepherd’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Phoenix.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #87 in a Cup race at Phoenix since the spring race of 2011, when Joe Nemechek’s unsponsored NEMCO Motorsports Toyota had electrical problems after 22 laps.

43) #87-Morgan Shepherd / 28 laps / brakes
42) #30-Parker Kligerman / 226 laps / engine
41) #23-Alex Bowman / 230 laps / brakes
40) #66-Joe Nemechek / 292 laps / running
39) #41-Kurt Busch / 292 laps / engine

1st) Morgan Shepherd, Martin Truex, Jr. (1)

1st) #78-Furniture Row Racing, #87-NEMCO-JRR Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Toyota (1)

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