Judd Shepard's career back on track after crash

Motor Sports

March 24, 1996|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Judd Shepard is working hard to achieve his goal of racing sprint cars professionally. Despite the ups and downs that he has encountered in his brief career, the young Hampstead driver has never given up.

Judd is the brother of Jeff Shepard, the local sprint car driver from Finksburg who now races professionally with the Club All Star Circuit of Champions and the World of Outlaws, two professional touring sprint car organizations. It has always been Judd's dream to follow in his brother's footsteps.

Judd and his brother were taken to Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., by their parents every week when they were young. All they thought about in their teens was racing a sprint car.

Jeff was the first to get behind the wheel, with Judd part of his crew. After Jeff's career got under way, Judd got his chance to race in a back-up car. He raced in a few races at the end of 1990 before joining his brother as a two-car team the following year.

At the end of 1991, Judd's career almost came to an end. At the start of the super sprint feature, there was a multi-car pile-up during the early part of the race. Judd was charging down the front stretch and failed to see the red flag that was displayed late after he passed the starter's stand. Judd plowed into the stopped cars at top speed, flipping violently end over end. Many thought that Judd would not race again.

Under doctor's orders, Judd did not race the next year as the Shepard family focused their attention on Jeff's racing. But that did not stop Judd from still wanting to race again.

"I never knew what happened," recalled Judd. "I was knocked unconscious so the crash never really affected me. I never had any flashback and I wanted to race again right away. I don't have any fear of racing. When I am out there I don't hold back."

As soon as Judd could, he returned to racing, helping Jeff with his team and also racing Quads, four-wheel bikes. Then in 1993, he joined Tim Richardson of Finksburg racing enduro karts. It was a big step toward his return to sprint racing. Judd showed that he didn't lose his competitive edge as he won 15 races.

Judd was idle in 1994, saving money to put together a race team. Last year, he was able to return to racing in the Armaclad Sprint KARS Series.

It didn't take long for Judd to show that he hadn't lost his touch. Midway through his first full season, Judd won his first career feature at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway. It was a night he will never forget.

"Everything we did just worked, everything just fell into place," said Shepard. "My mom and dad were working and they weren't there. It was just the crew and me and our girlfriends there. It took a week to sink in."

Shepard went on to finish eighth in points in the series and barely missed being named Rookie of the Year.

Racing his own car, Shepard plans on running the circuit again this year and opened the season last week at Lincoln with a seventh-place finish. He was satisfied.

"We have a new Maxim chassis," said Judd. "It was tricky to operate. We worked all week to get the car ready and got to the track late. We started in the rear of the heat and finished fourth, then we finished seventh in the feature. We were just hoping to finish in the top 10 in our first time out, so we were pleased."

The 26-year-old driver has come a long way since his accident. With his brother on the road, Judd would love to join him racing in the near future. If the speed of his recovery is any indication, it won't be long before both are on the Outlaw tour and racing the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa.

Weekend results

The Lincoln Speedway was the only track in the area to get their show in last weekend. Cris Eash of Woodbine finished ninth in the super sprint feature. Former Reisterstown native Dave Haight was runner-up. of Westminster was sixth in the thundercar feature. Allen Cullum of Hampstead was 11th and Westminster's Bill Brown 12th.

Westminster's Steve Barnes finished 13th in the Goody's Dash Series race at the new Homestead, Fla., Speedway.

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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