Asleep at the wheel?

Morgan Shepherd wrecks Chase/race contender Joey Logano at Loudon

Asleep at the wheel?
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Morgan Shepherd
Morgan Shepherd, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Start: Brad Keselowski leads
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford

Joey Logano suggested that NASCAR might want to give Morgan Shepherd a driver’s test after the septuagenarian plowed into the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford while he was running second.

“I got taken out by the slowest car out there,” said Logano, who was working Lap 212 at the time of the wreck. “You would think there would be some courtesy to the leaders. We were in second place. He gets out of the way on the straightaway and then goes into the corner and slides right up into the lane I was in."

Shepherd, who qualified 43rd in the field of 43, was 15 laps off the pace when he plowed into Logano's car. He finished 39th.

 

“We were doing a good job after having a left rear flat in practice and we were running second with our backup car," Logano said. "I can’t get too mad at ourselves over this. It is just dumb that it happened. I feel like that should be stuff that shouldn’t happen at this level of racing.”

Logano qualified sixth for the Camping World RV Sales 301. After blowing a left rear tire in practice on Friday, the No. 22 Team Penske crew was forced to pull out a backup. While Logano’s Ford wasn’t as stout as his Penske Teammate - and winner - Brad Keselowski, Logano was optimistically hoping “for a 1-2 Penske finish”.

Logano, however, finished 40th – tying his worst result of the season (Pocono). Logano dropped from sixth to ninth in the point standings but  with two wins to his credit, he's locked into the Chase.

"I think there should be a good driver's test before you get out in a Cup car to make sure you know how to drive  before you drive one," Logano concluded. "But I guess there isn't.

"If you can't control yourself, don't be out there if you're 10 laps down."

Kyle Busch, who finished second on Sunday, observed Shepherd having "a hard time holding the bottom of the racetrack a little bit," but added that's not unusual at the flat one-mile track.

"That's sometimes to be expected," Busch added. "It's so flat down there.  But there were other lap cars that were just rolling around on the top and not getting into anybody's way really.  I

"''m not sure what happened with the Joey thing.  I didn't see it at all.  There were not‑so‑prime times that I caught him and had to go around him, but fortunately everything was fine with me."

NASCAR vice president of competition defended Shepherd saying the veteran “met all of the requirements” established by the sanctioning body. He qualified the situation by calling it “an accident, that could have happened to anybody” and maintained that the No. 33 Chevy had no issue dropping “to the minimum speed” required at Loudon, “so there wasn’t any issue with that.”

“Morgan Shepherd has always been approved,” Pemberton said. “He’s been approved for decades. Under our situation here, you take a physical at the beginning of the year, you pass your physical, you pass inspection with your car, you qualify for the race and you run the event. He met everything he needed to meet.”

Winning car owner - and Logano's boss - Roger Penske backed Shepherd as well. The Captain referred to Shepherd "a good friend of everybody in the garage area" and asserted there was no malicious intent involved with the incident.

"He's a good friend of mine," Penske said. "We've tried to support him.  Obviously, he was not doing anything out there that he expected to have someone in an accident with him.  I told Joey, 'look, you can't go back and fix it'.  Obviously, you saw when Brad (moved) up to him later in the race, he slowed down to get everybody by him. 

"Look, you're in the race.  He's a guy, and that's the great thing about the sport, that if you want to tee it up here and bring your car and have a team, we let them run, so I don't feel bad about it other than the fact that Joey got knocked out.  I think we had a real good car there.  He was running second at that time, and obviously at that point you say 'damn', but at the end of the day, we've got to move on."

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