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Logano’s fury justified after wreck caused by Shepherd at NHMS

  • Joey Logano's crew works on his car after he crashed into the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. The crash took Logano out of the race. Brad Keselowski won. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    Joey Logano's crew works on his car after he crashed into the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. The crash took Logano out of the race. Brad Keselowski won. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Joey Logano's crew works on his car after he crashed into the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. The crash took Logano out of the race. Brad Keselowski won. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    Joey Logano's crew works on his car after he crashed into the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. The crash took Logano out of the race. Brad Keselowski won. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Joey Logano's crew works on his car after he crashed into the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. The crash took Logano out of the race. Brad Keselowski won. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • Joey Logano's crew works on his car after he crashed into the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. The crash took Logano out of the race. Brad Keselowski won. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Joey Logano spoke with a tone soaked in frustration and anger, using it whenever he could to convey a point he was determined to have heard.

This wasn’t heat-of-the-moment emotion from the Penske driver. Logano’s fury had built over time, and he was convinced he had a point.

Logano was speaking after his wreck on the 212th lap in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which was caused when the 72-year-old Morgan Shepherd – running more than a dozen laps off the pace – got into Logano’s left side when the latter tried to pass on the outside

and sent him into the Turn 3 wall. Logano went from running second to headed for the garage, where a TV crew caught up with him – and the predictable happened.

“Slowest car on the race track took us out. Go figure,” he said. “He gets out of the way on the straightaway and then goes into the corner and slides right up into the lane I was in. Whatever. I don’t know.”

Logano wasn’t finished, and had another barb ready to go.

“I feel like there should be a driving test before you get out in a Cup car to make sure you know how to drive before you drive one,” he said.

Logano was furious. He was also right.

The situation was a headache for NASCAR, and it could have been a lot worse. The incident was a reminder that, to drivers who are actually trying to win a race, there’s a fine line between Shepherd the aging curiosity and Shepherd the moving obstacle.

The competition of the sport is at stake. The health of the drivers on the track is at stake. There is just too much going on in a race to make room for someone who can’t keep up, and Logano wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

“It was pretty bad,” said Clint Bowyer, who finished sixth. “Love Morgan Shepherd and he means a lot to this sport, but if you can’t hold your line … it was a caution waiting to happen, unfortunately.”

Shepherd did have supporters, one of which was Roger Penske, the owner of Logano’s team.

“Obviously he was not doing anything out there that he expected to have someone in an accident with him,” Penske said. “That’s the great thing about the sport, that if you want to tee it up here and bring your car and have a team, we let them run,” he said.

Even though his own driver was involved in the wreck, Penske’s words have to be taken with skepticism. After all, his other driver, Brad Keselowski, had just finished a dominant victory, so it wouldn’t have been wise for Penske to pile on and ruin the good light his team was in.

More importantly, however, is the position Logano was in. With two wins this year, Logano is a lock for the Chase, and a wreck that ruins his chances at a victory does nothing to affect his chances at a Sprint Cup title.

Imagine, however, if Logano had been winless. He would have been in second, close to a win that would have made his season – only to see it spoiled entirely by a car that had no business mixing it up with the best in racing.

Logano would have been incensed, beyond the level he was already at. Penske would have been enraged. And NASCAR would have had a serious mess on its hands. Had Logano instead been Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Bowyer or Tony Stewart, that’s precisely the nightmare it would have been faced with.

It would have had that nightmare because this is something NASCAR can control. Accidents happen. They’re part of the sport, and always will be. But there’s a difference between accidents caused by two competitive drivers battling for track position or the lead in a crucial race, and one caused – or at least the result of – a driver that has to make a conscious effort to avoid traffic each time the pack approaches his place on the track. Raising the minimum speed limit could be a way to go. Regulating the amount of laps a driver can go down while remaining on the track could be another.

This is not to say that Shepherd doesn’t know how to race. Far from it. He’s been behind the wheel of a stock car since 1970, compiled 168 top-10s and finished in the top 10 of the standings four times. He knows the rules, he just can’t perform up to their standards, even if NASCAR is not ready to put the blame on Shepherd’s shoulders.

“Morgan Shepherd has always been approved. He’s been approved for decades,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development. “He met everything he needed to meet.”

Still, the ticking time bomb went off Sunday. NASCAR should be relieved it was as manageable as it was. Another incident, and the criticism could be impossible to ignore.

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

If Shepard wrecks frequently I might agree but does he? Dale Earnhart Sr. wrecked others to win and they let him drive. Shepard is just like a slower car in IMSA road racing, they slide around a bit, keep clear of them to avoid a wreck. With modern vitamins and health therapies age doesn't mean much. The paranoid young are jumpy and inconsistent in a way that Nascar must constantly monitor and correct them. Shepard knows the rules and is no worse than another other driver. He is not a ticking time bomb. Complaining about him is just "the press as usual" dumping something negative as quick as they can. Hate generates viewers as the news media knows. But this is entertainment so it is not acceptable nor is it a legitimate part of the general news.

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