72-year-old driver causes crash, raises questions

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72-year-old driver causes crash, raises questions
Racing veteran Morgan Shepherd, 72, was out of contention in Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he wrecked with Joey Logano, who was in second place.
Racing veteran Morgan Shepherd, 72, was out of contention in Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he wrecked with Joey Logano, who was in second place.
Joey Logan was in second place when he wrecked trying to pass 72-year-old driver Morgan Shepherd.
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, and Morgan Shepherd, driver of the #33 Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet, crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, and Morgan Shepherd, driver of the #33 Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet, crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, and Morgan Shepherd, driver of the #33 Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet, crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, and Morgan Shepherd, driver of the #33 Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet, crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: NASCAR driver Joey Logano (#22) has his car worked on in pit row after a crash with NASCAR driver Morgan Shepherd (#33). (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Track personnel check on the condition of NASCAR driver Morgan Shepherd (#33) after a crash involving NASCAR driver Joey Logano (#22). (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Joey Logano's crew works on his car after he crashed into the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. The crash took Logano out of the race. Brad Keselowski won. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, makes a pit stop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Morgan Shepherd, driver of the #33 Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, leads Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips/Shark Week Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, right, gestures while celebrating with members of his team, holding a lobster, in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Brad Keselowski celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Brad Keselowski celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Brad Keselowski celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Brad Keselowski celebrates with his girlfriend, Paige White, holding a lobster, in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates in victory lane with girlfriend Paige White after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates in victory lane with crew chief Paul Wolfe after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates in victory lane with crew members after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 13: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - JULY 11: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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BY JENNA FRYER
AP AUTO RACING WRITER

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- It's been almost two decades since Morgan Shepherd last ran a full Sprint Cup season, and his last national series victory was in 1993.

He can still probably wheel a race car better than you and most of your friends. That doesn't mean the 72-year-old should be racing against the very best drivers in NASCAR.

Shepherd drew scrutiny Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he caused Joey Logano to crash.

Shepherd was 40th, 16 laps off the pace, when second-place Logano tried to pass the slower car. Replays show little, just that Logano ended up with a wrecked car. He then publicly questioned if there should be driving tests for some competitors.

NASCAR dismissed Logano's notion, pointing out Shepherd has been approved to drive since 1970.

Shepherd has 925 starts in NASCAR's top three levels. He's got four career Sprint Cup victories, won 15 Nationwide races and even ran a full Nationwide schedule four years ago at age 69.

"He's been approved for decades," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. "You take a physical at the beginning of the year. You pass your physical. You pass inspections with your car, you qualify for the race and you run the event. He met everything he needed to meet."

That's the problem. There is no rule in place - except for drivers under 18 years old - stopping someone from competing in a national level NASCAR race.

Mark Martin, his back aching and his eyesight no longer what it once was, called it quits last year at 54. If he wanted to race next week at Indianapolis, nobody would stop him if he showed up in a car that made the field.

Michael Waltrip, at 51, still runs four races a year. His Hall of Fame brother, Darrell, was 53 when he got out of the car following eight winless seasons.

Point is, rarely does a driver recognize when to call it a career. The love of racing, the addiction to speed, the thrill of competition, can all cloud a driver's judgment and make it impossible to see they aren't what they once were.

That's the case with Shepherd, who seems to have embarked on a journey to become the oldest at everything. He's the second-oldest race winner (he was 51 in 1993). He became the oldest driver to lead laps in a Nationwide race at 70, and last year he became the oldest driver to start a Cup race at 72.

That's all allowed in a sport that often fails to set standards to ensure only the best compete at the top level. In racing, those who find the dollars needed to race get the seats - often at the expense of the most talented.

So Shepherd got the funding - probably about $75,000 - to run for Circle Sport Racing at New Hampshire. For the second time this season, he was in the field with the big boys.

But the big boys passed him again and again as Shepherd struggled with handling and perhaps meeting the minimum speed of 115 mph. NASCAR said Shepherd was not warned about failing to keep pace during the race.

Shepherd did try to stay out of the way. But spotters alleged Shepherd couldn't hold his line at the bottom of the track and hit the corners at such a poor angle, his car would push into the center of the track. Logano spotter Tab Boyd tweeted he was "riding around like a rolling road block."

Shepherd, though, put the blame on Logano and said his age was not a factor.

"When he laid close to me, it caused me to slip into him," Shepherd said. "It's got nothing to do with my age or anything else. I've always said if I go out and I start hitting the wall and stuff, making mistakes, I'll get out of the car."

Fans seemed to flock to Shepherd's defense, calling the No. 33 Chevrolet subpar equipment. Well, that's on Shepherd, who could have taken his cash to any team in an attempt to get a better ride.

The ride isn't great, but Bobby Labonte drove the same car to a 24th-place finish at Daytona. Three other drivers have driven the car this year without crashing the leaders.

Had Shepherd had an uneventful run at the back of the field all day, nobody would have said a word about his presence in the race. Nobody would have noticed him. But he was involved in one glaring incident that NASCAR must consider going forward.

Sure, blame the car. But there's a reason Shepherd doesn't get to drive Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon's car - because he's 72.

NASCAR must take a longer look at this because what Shepherd did 30 years ago or three years ago no longer applies. Father Time eventually catches up with everyone, and your eyes aren't what they used to be, and your reflexes aren't so catlike and your hand-eye coordination isn't as sharp as you remember.

Maybe there's no way for NASCAR to monitor those crucial elements of driving. But NASCAR can monitor minimum speed and the ability to hold a proper racing line.

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