Morgan Shepherd has started 1,000 NASCAR series races: What exactly inspires him?

"At 76, Morgan Shepherd is driven to inspire others."

That was the headline on a recent ESPN story on a driver making his 1,000th career NASCAR national series start.

Enter a faithful GetReligion reader — Father Geoff Horton of the Roman Catholic diocese of Peoria, Ill. — who shared the link with us.

"Another ESPN Holy Ghost story for you," Horton said in an email. "Morgan Shepherd keeps racing at age 76 to promote his mission to ... Gosh. The article never really quite says."

True enough.

Yes, ESPN hints at a faith angle:

"I don't keep count," Shepherd said. "I enjoy the race fans and the racing. God has blessed us being here this long."

And the story notes the cross on the hood of Shepherd's car:

"It's more or less an opportunity," Shepherd said. "We carry the cross on the hood of our car and we're ministry-minded. I try to encourage people to get up off the couch and do something with their life.
"That's what I do."
He said the ministry that drives him possibly keeps companies from sponsoring him, although he has had some support from Visone RV and race fans.
"It's hard to find people when you've got the cross on the hood," Shepherd said. "We do have race fans that help us. ... We don't do big deals, but we keep coming.
"We know we can't go but so many laps because you can't buy the tires and the engines with the money you're going to get."

Give ESPN credit for including those details. But I'm with Horton. I'd like to know more about the specific nature of Shepherd's faith and ministry.

Similarly, USA Today offered vague details:

While making another 50 years of racing is unlikely, Shepherd still loves coming to the track to spread his religious message. His car has a giant cross on the hood.
“I give Him all the credit, the opportunity of carrying the cross on the hood and the people we reach all over the world,” Shepherd said of his faith. “You wouldn’t believe the fan mail I get from Germany, Russia, everywhere that appreciates our stand in racing.”

That's interesting, but will any news organization take the story across the finish line?

Just when I was starting to doubt it, I came across a feature by Gerry Fraley, who covers baseball and auto racing for the Dallas Morning News.

Kudos to Fraley for getting to the heart of Shepherd's story:

It all changed on Feb. 23, 1975. On that day, Shepherd dropped to his knees and begged for spiritual help. He brought Christianity into his life and became a man of strong faith.
It saved his life. Shepherd believes without the transformation, he would not be alive.
"All I cared about was myself," Shepherd said. "I was a waste. It's a shame that I wasted all those years. Lots of people say the words, but after you truly say it and mean it, God takes over from there.
"I am so blessed that I didn't end up a drunk or in jail. My life changed quick enough that we could turn everything around."
Shepherd put his faith into practice. In 1986, he established the Morgan Shepherd Charitable Fund, which helps disabled in Virginia.

That'll preach — and give readers vital information about Shepherd's motivation.


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