Injured Racer Gets Life Back On Track With Family's Help

9 Sports Story

January 05, 1992|By Contributing sports writer

It was not just another night on the tough Pennsylvania Sprint Car circuit.

The Shepard family had returned from the hospital where Judd Shepard III was in the intensive care unit at York Hospital. He was admitted the night before after suffering a head injury in a racingaccident at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa.

Judd Shepard had failed to see the red flag for two overturned sprint cars as he raced down the front stretch at more than 100 miles an hour. Before he could stop, Shepard hit the cars and banged his head on the roll cage; he was unconscious and was taken to the hospital.

The family spent the night and the next day at his bedside.

OnSunday, brother Jeff Shepard and his family decided to race, becausethat's what Judd would want them to do.

So on Aug. 25, Jeff Shepard strapped himself into his sprint car at Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown, Pa., and raced with one purpose -- win for Judd.

"We told ourselves . . . to keep going and do it for him," Jeff Shepard said later that night.

Jeff started on the pole and led every lap ofthe 25-lap feature in a car built and designed by the Shepard family.

It was not an easy win. Kenny Jacobs, a professional sprint car driver with years of racing experience, took over the runner-up spot on lap three and immediately began to pressure the young driver.

Jacobs tried every move in the book to overtake the leader, but Jeff Shepard fought him off.

Running the race of his life, Shepard kept Jacobs behind him and rode to a victory that meant much more than the$2,500 paycheck that awaited the winner. It was Jeff's first career win at the half-mile oval.

"I did it for my brother," said an emotional Jeff Shepard in victory lane. "My mother and family have been praying for him, and hopefully this will do it."

The following week, Judd was released from the hospital. Two weeks after his accident, Judd returned to Lincoln to watch his brother race.

To celebrate his brother's recovery, Jeff turned in another storybook finish to winthe Pennsylvania Sprint Car Championship. It was the biggest win of Jeff's career and Judd was in victory lane to join in the celebration.

Since his near-fatal accident, Judd has steadily improved.

"He is working at the station with me like a trooper," his father, JuddShepard II, said. "When he is tired, his speech is slurred. Other than that, he has recovered fully. He has doctor's orders to stay out of the car for a year."

The Shepards will continue as a racing family working together toward a common goal. Judd will continue to help at the family's 140 Exxon in Finksburg and will help Jeff in his racing career.

BY: Stanley Dillon

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