By Joe Dunn
In her last race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Danica Patrick got together with Morgan Shepherd which sent her into the wall. It was a pure racing incident where Shepherd got loose and slid up into Patrick’s car. The immediate reaction from Danica has been well documented and of course included a lot of comments that illustrated her lack of knowledge about NASCAR and the way these cars react to each other on the track.
In the aftermath she finished 30th, 5 laps down, while Shepherd finished 8 places ahead of her 3 laps down. Skipping Daytona, Danica returned at Chicagoland for the Dollar General 300. This week, she didn’t have anything to blame on anybody else. Her run, which mainly consisted of being 2 or 3 laps down to the leaders was the typical run of a rookie, except of course for the TV guys still drooling over her and giving her way too much attention.
Danica again began the race weekend with one of the best cars, for one of the best teams, that was specially prepared for her and this race. Danica’s performance was pretty much uneventful this week. She managed to stay out of the way of the leaders, and it wasn’t until past the halfway mark before she actually challenged anyone on the track. She managed to stay out of trouble and finished a career best 24th, 2 laps down.
For Morgan Shepherd the Dollar General 300 was a new type of learning experience for the 68 year young veteran. When the rumors went out early in the week that Richard Childress Racing was not going to run the unsponsored 21 car at Chicago, there was discussion about Shepherd using the 21 number on his car for a guaranteed start. Those discussions continued but by the time they were at the track Thursday, NASCAR had ruled that an RCR car must be used to complete the deal. The frenzy that followed resulted in an RCR 21 car arriving at the track late Thursday. By the time the car made it through inspection, Shepherd was able to run 17 laps in the final practice with a car that was not prepared for this race.
This was a rather uneventful race for Morgan Shepherd also, except that he didn’t have to worry about qualifying. His driving style was pretty similar to what it has been for the past years. Treating the car like everything was coming out of his own pocket, (which for the most part IS the case) he carefully ran a conservative race, taking care not to tear up the car. Shepherd is an old school racer who understand the phrase, ‘bring it home in one piece.’ In the end, Shepherd finished 25th, 3 laps down, one spot behind Danica.
There are still a lot of unconfirmed rumors running about Shepherds future with the 21 team. But so far, now comments yet from anyone at RCR or from Morgan Shepherd. Speculation is that Childress may allow Shepherd to use the 21 car in the remainder of the unsponsored races for the season.
All of this of course brings us back to the month’s old question, where is John Wes Townley? Still, nobody at RCR will comment.