Morgan Shepherd has been around awhile. When you think about the roots of the sports, you think about men who ran moonshine in the mountains of North Carolina who would get together on weekends and race their cars. The most famous of these men is Junior Johnson whose life was depicted in the movie, The Last American Hero, with Jeff Bridges. Johnson’s moonshine career was legendary throughout the south. In 1986 President Ronald Reagan pardoned Junior for his 1956 moonshining conviction.
But this blog is not about Junior Johnson. This is about Morgan Shepherd whose story is still being written on speedways and Wal-Marts of America. Like Junior, Morgan started running moonshine in the rural south and racing his car on weekends. He got his first Winston Cup start in 1970. That’s 41 years ago and at 69 years-old, Morgan still competes in the NASCAR Nationwide series. He is the second-oldest race winner (after Harry Gant) in 1993, when he won the spring race at Atlanta at the age of 51 years, 4 months, and 27 days.
Unlike many of the sports hottest new stars, Morgan didn’t make the trip back and forth from his Charlotte, NC, home this week, choosing instead to stay out west for both the Phoenix and the Las Vegas races. Morgan moved the hauler, crew and all up to Phoenix to wait for the next race. That was probably a good decision for Morgan and his team. It was a bad decision for three Wal-Mart shoplifters.
Morgan was entering a Vegas Wal-Mart to do a little between race shopping, when he spotted three men (shoplifters) running out. Shepherd did the only thing you’d expect a 69 year-old NASCAR driver to do. He chased after them.
“I just got out and took off after them,” Shepherd said. “I caught one of them just as they were getting ready to hop a little wall at the end of the parking lot. I yanked him down and got on top of him.”
Shepherd said in a matter of seconds a Las Vegas police officer pitched the ageless NASCAR driver a pair and handcuffs and continued pursuit of the other two suspects, along with the store’s security force.
“I cuffed him and sat on top of him,” Shepherd said. “The police department officers showed up and asked if I could hold him a while longer while they ran down the others. I told them he wasn’t going anywhere.”
Shepherd said while the young shoplifter pleaded with him to let him go and about the possibility of going to jail, Shepherd used the time to lecture the youth about his poor choices.
“I didn’t tell him a 69-year-old man chased him down,” Shepherd joked. “He was probably 18 or 19. I told him he shouldn’t be stealing stuff. There is just too much of this stuff going on.”
Now that’s what I call Racing for Jesus! When not on the track in his Racing For Jesus sponsored race car, Morgan can be found in the garage bringing a message of faith and hope to NASCAR drivers and crews. He is the founder and prime spokesperson for Race With Faith Ministries.