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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Morgan Shepherd #97 Texas Pete Sauces Ford

    Morgan Shepherd is the last man standing out of a slew of NASCAR stars, dating back to the good ol' days~ Sadly, he's also the last of his kind, as well~ As current drivers worry more and more about the aftereffects of a long career in the sport, causing some to retire much earlier than what we're accustomed to... Shepherd has got to be the last of the senior veteran drivers, marking the end of an era~ In today's post, I'm gonna be looking back on his time in the #97 Texas Pete Ford, a team owned by the man himself~

    Morgan's first time driving a Texas Pete sponsored car came in the 1988 BGN season, when he drove Hubert Hensley's #63 Texas Pete Chevrolet in the season finale "Winston Classic" @ Martinsville~ He started the race in 9th, and finished in 6th place~ This was also the only time Shepherd ever drove for Hensley, who had 11 wins during his 21 year tenure in the BGN series as an owner~

    His next race in a Texas Pete sponsored car came in the 1990 BGN season~ He drove 9 of those races for Mark Swaim, and 2 for his own #97 team~ The races he ran for Swaim was in the #9 car, except in the True Value Oxford 250 @ Oxford, when the car was renumbered to #18, due to Joe Bessey being in the #9 car~

   Back then, if a driver had your number, whoever qualified the lowest had to change their number for the race~  It most famously happened to Jeff Gordon, driving the #1 Baby Ruth car in the 1992 Budweiser 300 @ Loudon~ Gordon qualified 44th, in the 46 car field, so Busch North driver Tony Hirschman, who qualified 22nd, got the #1 for the race, while Gordon had to change his car to number 4~  

                                             Morgan Shepherd at Oxford in the #18 car~

    His first race in the #97 car came in the 1990 running of the All Pro 300 @ Charlotte, where he started dead last in the 40 car field, and finished in 36th after his engine expired~ He next drove it in the 1990 AC-Delco 200 @ Rockingham, and after qualifying 18th, drove the car home to his 3rd top 5 of the season, with a 3rd place finish~ Steve Grissom won the race in his #31 Big Mama Meat Snacks Oldsmobile, his 3rd win of the season~ 

   Shepherd ran 16 races in the 1991 BGN series, and drove all of them in his own #97 Texas Pete Ford~ The season started out pretty darn good, with Shepherd picking up top 10's in the first 2 events, with a 7th place showing in the season opener @ Daytona, and a 6th place finish in the Pontiac 200 @ Richmond~ It seemed like Morgan was going to have great success in the series that season, and then... disaster struck~

                                              Morgan Shepherd #97 Texas Pete hero card~
Morgan Shepherd Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN

    Morgan began to have a slew of bad luck, resulting in one of the poorest seasons I've ever seen~ He started 7th in the Pontiac 200 @ Darlington, but his engine blew, resulting in a 35th place finish~ His next race was in the Budweiser 250 @ Bristol, where he started 25th, and was involved in a crash on lap 45 which ended his day, finishing 31st~ In the Pontiac 200 (there were a ton of Pontiac 200's apparently.. haha) @ Nazareth, Morgan put the car 11th on the starting grid, but a blown engine regulated him a 35th place finish~ 

    He again qualified in the 11th spot for the Champions 300 @ Charlotte, but.. you guessed it... another blown engine knocked him out of competition, and he finished 30th~ In the Budweiser 200 @ Dover, he started in the 7th position, but handling issues ended his day on lap 74, and he came home in 28th place~

    He next ran in the Fay's 150 @ Watkins Glen, where he qualified in 5th place, but once again was foiled by that pesky engine, and finished 26th~ In the Budweiser 300 @ Loudon, ignition issues plagued his day, and he ended the day in 39th place~ He was involved in a crash in the Kroger 200 @ IRP, and came home 32nd~ The same goes for the Jay Johnson 250 @ Bristol, where a crash on lap 129 resulted in a 27th place finish~

                                                  Custom Racing Champions card~
Morgan Shepherd Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN

   I hate to continue being the bearer of bad news, but in the Gatorade 200 @ Darlington, ignition problems reared their ugly heads once more, and Morgan finished in 35th place~ He did however have 1 more shining moment in the season, with a 5th place finish in the Autolite 200 @ Richmond~ He even led a lap in the race~ In the All Pro 300 @ Charlotte, Shepherd qualified on the outside of the front row, but his engine blew on the 3rd lap of the race, and he finished in 41st place~

  He ran his final race in the #97 Texas Pete car @ Rockingham, in the AC-Delco 200, and started the race in 19th place~ You just know what happened, don't you?~ Yeah, that's right.. he blew an engine on lap 82, and finished the race in 36th spot~ That concluded his 1991 BGN season, as well as his tenure with sponsor Texas Pete, as they left at the end of the season~ In 16 races, he netted 1 top 5, and 3 top 10's, while leading 9 laps, and finishing 32nd in the final points standings~

                                           Morgan Shepherd #97 Texas Pete Sauces Ford~
Morgan Shepherd Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN
                                                              Click pics to enlarge~
Morgan Shepherd Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN

    This car was done by me in Photoshop, and isn't an actual Racing Champions car~ It does give you an idea of how cool it would look if they did make one, though~ The car never had red rims, but I thought it would look cooler, so I made them red~ I used the 1991 Sears set exclusive #91 Ford to make this one~ I'm not the best at Photoshop, but I think it looks decent, and I'm proud I was able to make it look as good as it does~ 

    Black and red are 2 of the best color combinations out there, in my opinion.. and this car really pops~ It was one of my favorites as a kid, and it's awesome to see it again in its current form~ I don't care that it's just a "fantasy" car, I still have to give it an A+ on the Racing Champions quality scale, because it's easily one of my favorite cars of all time~ 

   Morgan Shepherd continues to race in the BGN series (I know what it's really called) today, and although he operates on a shoestring budget, can still qualify the car pretty well~ I can almost guarantee that if he was in a decent car, he could still pick up top 20 finishes on a regular basis~ He a man who deserves respect, but rarely gets it in this day and age~ I'm very proud of him for all he has done, and continues to do for the sport~ Below are some clips from Morgan's career... enjoy them, and thank you all for stopping by the blog~ :)

                                                            All of Morgan's Cup wins~
    Morgan being awesome and destroying Logano~   

Morgan Shepherd interview~

Top 10 unluckiest drivers - #10 Morgan Shepherd~

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