Morgan Shepherd

April 26 in NASCAR: Morgan Shepherd’s upset win at Martinsville

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While Morgan Shepherd‘s first Cup win came relatively early, in his 15th career start, his win at Martinsville Speedway on April 26, 1981 came 11 years after his first start.

Shepherd, a rookie at the age of 39, surprised the field when he led 203 of 500 laps to claim the victory on the short track.

Driving the No. 5 Pontiac for owner Cliff Stewart, Shepherd beat Neil Bonnett, who was the only other driver on the lead lap, by 16 seconds.

It was the first Cup Series win by Pontiac since a victory by Joe Weatherly in October 1963.

“It didn’t sink in until I came around for the checkered flag,” Shepherd said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” “I almost cried.”

Shepherd would go on to make 517 starts in the Cup Series through 2014. He’d win only three more times, with each one occurring at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Also on this date:

1964: Fred Lorenzen led all but 13 laps to win at Martinsville over Marvin Panch for his fourth straight win. He’d win in his next start two races later at Darlington. Lorenzen won eight times in 16 starts that year.

1987: With a victory at Martinsville, Dale Earnhardt completed a run of four wins in a row. He took the lead with 17 laps to go when leader Geoffrey Bodine spun from contact with Kyle Petty.

1992: Mark Martin won at Martinsville. He led the final 27 laps after Brett Bodine’s suspension broke. It was the 12th straight Cup win for Ford.

2009: Brad Keselowski won his first career Cup Series race, scoring the victory at Talladega after contact with race leader Carl Edwards sent Edwards into the fence coming to the checkered flag.

2014: Joey Logano passed Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth in half a lap and led the final four laps to win at Richmond.

April 25 in NASCAR: Wallace nips Allison for Martinsville win

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Rusty Wallace was on the hot streak.

The Team Penske driver entered the April 25, 1993 Cup race at Martinsville Speedway having won three of the first seven races of the season. He was also fresh off two consecutive wins on the short tracks of North Wilkesboro and Bristol.

While Wallace had nine short-rack wins in his career to that point, he’d yet to hit his stride on the half-mile track in Virginia, having only won there once in 1986.

After starting fifth in the race, Wallace led by Lap 88. After leading 400 laps, the race came down to a nine-lap shootout between him and Davey Allison.

Allison was a few car lengths behind Wallace with four laps to go. Right as Wallace flashed across the start-finish line, Morgan Shepherd crashed in Turn 4 after his brakes failed.

As Shepherd’s car came to a stop in the middle of the track, Wallace and Allison raced on.

“I slowed down and Davey never did,” Wallace said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Forty Plus Four.” “I saw him out of the corner of my eye and I mashed the gas.”

Allison was on Wallace’s bumper as they roared through Turns 3 and 4.

According to “Forty Plus Four,” Allison said he tried to “sneak up on him, but Rusty saw me a little too soon and accelerated just enough.”

The two drivers dodged Shepherd’s derelict car on the inside.

“It’s a tough deal when you’ve got a wrecked car in the middle of a turn and have to race back to the caution flag,” Wallace said.

Wallace beat Allison to the finish line by half a car length for his fourth win of the year. Over the next three years Wallace would win four of seven Martinsville races.

Racing back to the caution would still be allowed until September 2003. It was outlawed beginning at Dover International Speedway after a crash involving Dale Jarrett the race before at New Hampshire. Wallace was one of the drivers who praised the move.

“Some of these guys who are jumping on the gas so early are causing a hell of a wreck behind them – the leaders were with all these guys darting back,” Wallace said in the Charlotte Observer. “Finally, NASCAR said, ‘That’s enough of that.'”

Also on this date:

1954: Gober Sosebee had to wait a day to be declared the winner of a 200-lap race at Orange Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina. While he had passed Al Keller for the lead with 32 laps to go, Dick Rathmann was shown the checkered flag first, according to “Forty Year of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” Sosebee protested and after NASCAR officials spent the night reviewing scorecards, he was awarded his second career win.

1971: Richard Petty won a race at Martinsville over David Pearson, but wasn’t declared the official winner until five days later, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.” Pearson’s team challenged the win due to the gas cap being unsecured on Petty’s car during the final laps, a violation of NASCAR rules.

1982: In his 107th start and after finishing second 10 times, including in seven races in 1981, Harry Gant earned his first Cup Series win with a victory at Martinsville over Butch Lindley.

1993:  Future Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman was born.

2004: Jeff Gordon won a controversial race at Talladega over Dale Earnhardt Jr. after he was declared the leader following a late caution.

2010: Kevin Harvick beat Jamie McMurray by .011 seconds to win at Talladega. It remains his only victory on the superspeedway.

April 5 in NASCAR history: Jeff Gordon finally breaks through in Texas

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From its start, Texas Motor Speedway was a cruel mistress to Jeff Gordon.

After it opened in 1997, Gordon was involved in wrecks in the first four races at the 1.5-mile track, scoring DNFs in 1998 and 1999.

Then the track teased him.

In the 12 races held from 2001-08, Gordon earned five top 10s, including two runner-up finishes.

By the time 2009 rolled around, the man who had won everything the Cup Series had to offer had won everywhere but Texas and Homestead.

What better way to end an overall 47-race winless streak than winning in your 17th try at Texas?

That’s what Gordon did on April 5, as he started second and led 105 of 334 laps, including the last 28.

“You guys got me a win at Texas, I love you!” Gordon exclaimed to his team over his radio in the midst of performing burnouts on the front and backstretch.

“How ironic is this?” Gordon told Fox in Victory Lane. “We go on this (winless) streak and we end it here at Texas, a place that had eluded us for so long. … We’ve never had a car like this at Texas.”

The win was Gordon’s 10th and final victory with Steve Letarte as his crew chief. The No. 24 team wouldn’t win again in 2009 and 2010 or ever again at Texas with Gordon as the driver. The house that Eddie Gossage built would be the site of a couple low points for Gordon in the second half of his career.

Also on this date:

1953: Dick Passwater only led three laps in his 20 career Cup Series starts. Those three laps delivered him a win at the old Charlotte Speedway. Passwater came out on top after he assumed the lead from Pop McGinnis and held off Gober Sosebee for the victory. Passwater would only compete in 10 more races before returning home to Indianapolis. After his owner, Frank Arford, died while trying to qualifying for a race, Passwater made his last start in a self-owned car, finishing ninth in the Southern 500.

1964: Fred Lorenzen wins for the third straight time in the spring race at Atlanta in an event that saw only 10 of the race’s 39 cars finish.

1981: Richard Petty beats Bobby Allison to score his 15th career win at North Wilkesboro. It was Petty’s first win since 1969 without cousin Dale Inman as crew chief. Inman left after they won the Daytona 500 in February to work with Dale Earnhardt on Rod Osterland’s team.

1986: Morgan Shepherd leads 110 of 200 laps to win the Xfinity race at Bristol. It was his second straight win. Shepherd made 14 Xfinity starts in 1986. He had eight DNFs. In the six races he finished, he won four and placed second and eighth in the others.

1992: Alan Kulwicki wins his second straight Bristol race, leading 282 laps from the pole and beating Dale Jarrett and Ken Schrader. It was Kulwicki’s fourth career win and the first of two victories he would earn in his championship campaign. The win also snapped Bill Elliott’s four-race win streak.

1997: Mark Martin won the inaugural Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Preliminary entry lists for Auto Club races

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NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams travel to Auto Club Speedway this weekend for the second race in the three-race West Coast swing.

Cup Series – Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Ross Chastain is again listed in the No. 6 as Ryan Newman continues to recover from the head injury he suffered in his last-lap crash at the Daytona 500.

The two non-chartered cars are the No. 96 with Daniel Suarez and the No. 66 with Timmy Hill.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity Series – Production Alliance Group 300 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-six cars are entered.

Daniel Hemric is back in the No. 8 for JR Motorsports.

Anthony Alfredo makes his first series start, driving the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Landon Cassill is back in the No. 89 for car owner Morgan Shepherd.

Click here for the entry list.

Cole Custer wins pole for Las Vegas Xfinity race

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Cole Custer will start on the on the pole for today’s Xfinity Series regular-season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Custer claimed his series-leading sixth pole of the year with a speed of 181.372 mph around the 1.5-mile track. His six poles match his total from last season.

Christopher Bell qualified second (181.372 mph). The top five is completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric.

Elliott Sadler will start eighth in his final NASCAR start.

Driving for Morgan Shepherd, Landon Cassill qualified ninth. It is the best start for a Shepherd Racing Ventures car since Charlotte in October 1995 when Shepherd started ninth.

Noah Gragson will start 36th and Alex Labbe will start 37th after they spun in Turn 4 on their qualifying runs. Gragson slid onto pit road and barely managed to keep his car from hitting the pit wall.

Ja Junior Avila had his qualifying time disallowed after he did not have a window in place on his car. He will start last.

Click here for the starting lineup.