Morgan Shepherd has been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. The 79-year-old Shepherd, who missed the 2020 racing season as COVID-19 took its toll on smaller teams like his Shepherd Racing Ventures operation, still intends to field a car for the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.
“As we come to a close of 2020, it truly has been a challenging year to many, and for Morgan Shepherd, it is no different,” began a statement from his team website. “For the first time in 52 consecutive years, Morgan did not participate in any of NASCAR’s three Series. Morgan was in a battle of a different sorts in the challenging 2020 year. After a long year of health issues, Morgan has been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease.
“However, in true Shepherd fashion, he is determined to look into 2021 and make plans for another year of NASCAR racing, as a Car Owner. We all have had challenges to overcome and Morgan has always wanted to be an encourager, defying his age in physical and mental ability. Morgan’s charity work with the physically challenged has inspired him in the toughest times and currently continues in his diagnosis.”
When on the track in recent times, Shepherd is almost always—and by a very wide margin—the oldest driver in the field. Having a career that dates back to the late 1960s, he holds the record for the oldest Cup Series driver in history when he started the 2014 summer race at New Hampshire at the age of 72. At the time of his latest race, the 2019 Xfinity event at Indianapolis on 7 September, he was 77 years, 10 months, and 27 days old. He has nineteen combined wins in NASCAR’s national series, including four at the Cup level with a best points finish of fifth in 1990.
Although Shepherd Racing Ventures is primarily a start-and-park team, the #89 has shown speed when able to run the full race, as evidenced when Landon Cassill piloted the car to a fifteenth-place finish in the 2019 season finale at Homestead. Cassill, a Cup regular who lost his top series ride after 2019, ran four races for SRV in 2020, including the season restart at Darlington before financial troubles kept the team sidelined.
“Morgan Shepherd has been a special person to me and my family over the past couple years. We are keeping in touch and keeping him in our prayers as he battles Parkinson’s,” Cassill tweeted. “I spoke to him this morning and he sounded great, and just wants to get to the track soon.”