|PHOTO: Brock Beard|
“He called me up – this started last year at Homestead – he was kind of at a risk of missing the race at Homestead. It was pretty important for him to make that race to get through the winter. So I kind of came in at the last minute and drove the car, got him in the show. Similar scenario at Charlotte this year, but at Charlotte it was kind of a great success – we qualified 13th. And so since then, he kind of likened that to a transition of having a hired driver, and trying to run that way.”
IS SHEPHERD GOING TO RETURN TO THE DRIVER’S SEAT?
“I mean, I would love to run the car more, and I know that he would love for me to run the car more - we’ve talked about it. He needs some sponsorship to scale his program up so that we have a pit crew, we have more cars – we only have one car. We need to be able to run his engines for an entire race – we have one engine and we’re using that, mileaging that over the course of several races with no rebuilds. So, there’s a lot of scaling involved to get his program to where we can run full races and run a full season, or a partial season, or something like that. I don’t know. I think that’s his number one goal is to find a way to do it that way right now before he thinks about whether or not he’s driving.”
IS A LACK OF A TIRE SPONSOR THE REASON FOR THESE “START-AND-PARK” RUNS?
“Yeah, I mean, call it what you want – tires, engines, pit crew, car inventory – it’s kind of the whole thing, ultimately. The prize money is significant in NASCAR in the top three series and it’s good enough for him to stay in business and to make a living. But you need to take the prize money and probably double or triple it to have a meaningful racing program that’s running the full races and competing for Top 10 or Top 15 finishes.”
YOU’VE QUALIFIED WELL IN SHEPHERD’S CAR. DOES THAT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOUR iRACING “QUALIFYING CHALLENGE” BACK IN 2010?
“My first experience in the Cup Series was in a “go-or-go-home” position, and single-car qualifying is something I tend to be really good at. So, the Qualifying Challenge was a way for me to kind of let other people experience the same kind of pressure and using iRacing as a platform to do it. I’ve thought a lot about it lately, and I think it’s probably time for a reboot of the Qualifying Challenge. So, if there’s enough demand for it, I’d love to redo it.”
ARE YOU LOOKING TO STAY WITH STARCOM RACING IN 2020?
“I plan to be a part of the team. I’m committed to StarCom Racing. I don’t plan on going anywhere. These guys have been good to me. I believe in their vision and what they’ve been trying to build as a team and their commitment to building a team with me as the driver. So that’s something that I've had a pretty narrow focus on.”