CONOVER, NC (WBTV) - Most drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series are in their teens and 20's, but then there's one senior statesman.
"75? How did I get to be 75 years old?" Morgan Shepherd frequently asks himself. It happened, but it hasn't really slowed him down.
"The average person doesn't do the things that I do at 75 years old," Shepherd said.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Morgan Shepherd running his first race at Hickory Motor Speedway in 1967. He's run 976 races in NASCAR's top 3 levels with wins in the Cup and Xfinity Series.
The one that still brings a tear to his eye was Atlanta in 1986.
"About three laps to go I realized that we were going to probably win this race and tears come in my eyes," Shepherd recalled. "I couldn't hardly see the corners, I broke down emotionally, after all these years I thought I was done in racing."
Shepherd has run a lot of races since then, and since his last win in the Cup Series at Atlanta in 1993. He does say that now it's about fulfilling his purpose, which surprisingly, is not racing.
"It's incredible to me, but my life was changed when I was 33 years old. I was living for Morgan, things got pretty rough, and I came to know Jesus, February 23, 1975," Shepherd said. "I always say there's two 'P's': passion and purpose. A lot of people are very passionate maybe about their family, car, girlfriend, or whatever, but they're going along in life and they don't realize what their purpose is."
It is his faith that drives him, and he lives to represent that faith through racing and through his charity that helps the disabled. He even says that his faith has cost him sponsorship opportunities.
"We carry the big Jesus logo with the cross. That's Morgan Shepherd's purpose," Shepherd pointed out. "It's hard to get anybody to sponsor us because we're carrying the cross and stand firm. That's my purpose, is to get the word out."
So to keep getting the word out and to keep that charity going, Shepherd will continue to rely on friends to work on his cars in his shop in Conover and to send money to buy equipment like tires, or to lease a new Chevrolet engine from Richard Childress that costs Shepherd $37,000 just for one race.
But as long as he can pay the bills and make the speed, he'll stay behind the wheel.
"I'm always asked, when are you going to quit? I always tell them that none of my plans ever seem to work out, but the Lord will let me know when I'm finished up here," Shepherd added.
Shepherd is already the oldest driver to start a race in a Cup level, the oldest driver to lead an Xfinity race at age 74, and the oldest driver to start a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Shepherd plans to take his black and gold Camaro race in the Power Shares 300 at Daytona on Saturday, February 25, and that won't be the end of the line.
"If we get in Daytona and everything's okay, we'll continue right on and do the west coast swing," Shepherd added.