Morgan Shepherd, 71, is running the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Loudon

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Morgan Shepherd is 71 years old. He is going to attempt to qualify for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend.

And if you’re asking whether he’d be the first septuagenarian to start a Cup race, the answer is yes, he would.

He’s entered in the No. 52 Support Military/Victory Weekend Toyota for Bob Keselowski, who like Shepherd, is old. Except not as old. The father of current Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski is a relatively youthful 61 by comparison.

Shepherd last started a Cup race in 2006, also at New Hampshire, and finished 42nd of 43 cars. He first started a race in 1970, at Hickory, N.C., when Richard Nixon was in the White House.

The good news for Shepherd is that the last driver of the No. 52 – Paulie Harraka – set the bar so unbelievably low at Sonoma that there’s nowhere to go but up for the native of Ferguson, N.C. Harraka crashed into another car as the cars were leaving the pits before their pace laps to make for one of the most inglorious Sprint Cup level debuts of all-time.

To be fair, Shepherd has still raced semi-competitively in the Nationwide Series the last several years, and has four career wins.

Assuming he starts (and probably likely parks it shortly thereafter), he’d set a record as the oldest Cup starter by some six years. Sports-car racer Jim Fitzgerald holds the record at 65 years, 6 months and 22 days when he finished 17th in a Rick Hendrick-owned car at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. James Hylton, 78 now, tried to qualify for the 2007 Daytona 500 at 72 but failed to qualify.

Score this one in the “old guys rule” category.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.