October 3, 2017
Seth and Sutton Sharp
We sat down with Morgan Shepherd over the weekend at Dover and talked to him about his career.
Keep It 35: You’ve had a long and successful career, is there one moment that sticks out to you as the top of your career?
Morgan: I’d say Atlanta when I won my first race on a mile and a half track. I was in my late 40s then and I thought I was on my way out of racing. Jack Beebe, who owned the No. 47 Race Hill Farm car, asked me about running a car. He told me we could run a
whole year. Suitcase Jake was the crew chief.
We all went to Atlanta and had a good test. For the race, I was leading with about three laps to go, Earnhardt was second. I could hardly see the racetrack because I had tears coming into my eyes because I couldn’t believe we were going to win the race.
Out of all the races, that is the one that sticks out to me. Even my first win at Martinsville, we ran good in the Late Model Series so I was used to winning races. It wasn’t that big of a deal. We led over 200 laps in that race but still it doesn’t compare to winning in Atlanta.
Keep It 35: Looking back, was there an ride or a sponsor that you passed up that you wish you could have done differently today?
Morgan: I had something like that happen to me in 1982. The Coors Beer company was coming over to the East Coast and they contacted me about sponsoring me. I told them that I wouldn’t advertise alcohol. They asked me why I wouldn’t do that. I told them I can go in a grocery store and just because they sell it doesn’t mean I have to buy it. I ended up turning down a big sponsorship and they ended up going over to sponsor Bill Elliott. That’s always been my stand in racing. Ever since I got saved at the age of 33, I quit my drinking and it’s helped me stay close to Jesus.
Keep It 35: Who had the biggest impact on your career?
Morgan: I’d say Ned Jarrett. He lived by me and he was such a gentleman. Much like Richard Petty, he gave so much to the sport. When I’d go do appearances, no matter where it was, Ned was there. He’s so dedicated and such a great guy.
I looked up to him for that because I always felt it was very important to give back to the fans. I know there were some drivers that wouldn’t sign autographs, but I feel like that is the least that we can do. He’s such a good friend and a hero.
Keep It 35: Who would you say were your best friends in racing?
Morgan: Harry Gant. We were always really good friends. He was a tough competitor but a good clean race-car driver. If he got into you, it was a mistake. There are so many other great friends that helped me be here.
There was another man at Hickory Speedway. He had a wife and nine kids. He had a junkyard. Back around 1968, I blew an engine in one of my race cars and I went over to his place.I stood on the bed of his truck, where all of his kids were running around and he looked over at his wife and said “Honey, we have to cut down on groceries this week. We have to get Morgan a new engine for his car.”
Those are the kind of friends that I have been blessed to have over the years. They’d do anything to help us out.
Keep It 35: What keeps you still going as a driver today?
Morgan: I definitely still have that fire. We work night and day just to make it to the track. We are now in a rich man’s sport where everything costs a lot. We don’t have big sponsors, we have small sponsors and a lot of good friends that support us. They support us because of what we stand for. We carry the Jesus cross on the hood because that’s what we are about.
People don’t realize the amount of people we reach worldwide. I get fan mail from Russia, Germany, Australia and all over the world. They will tell us how
much they appreciate our stance in racing.
Keep It 35: Do you have a plans for the future or are you just taking it as it goes?
Morgan: My plans never seem to work out. When people ask me that question, I tell them that I’ll be here as long as the Lord wants me to be here. I just want to continue encouraging others, spreading our message and taking our stand.
We have a charity that’s going on 31 years now where we help handicapped people. Many people don’t realize what happens because of us still being here. This is how we are able to help other people, even if it means that we aren’t helping ourselves. We are blessed to be in this situation.