Morgan Shepherd, the 66-year-old Cup veteran, was running ninth when the caution came out with 18 laps to go. The two late cautions cost Shepherd his first top-10 finish since 1999, but he still finished on the lead lap in 13th place. It was his best NASCAR finish since he was 11th in this race in 2003.


Tony Stewart held off Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last-lap charge to win the Nationwide Series race Saturday for his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway.
“This is not like winning a regular Nationwide race,” he said. “To me, this is the biggest one I’ve had. To finally win at Talladega, it’s more than I can put into words.”
Stewart started from the pole, led 81 of the 117 laps, and sat comfortably out front in the waning laps with Earnhardt on his rear bumper just biding his time to make a move. Caution came out with five laps to go for debris, setting up a two-lap sprint to the finish.
They raced nose-to-tail for the first lap, then Earnhardt pulled out of line to make his charge. Earnhardt nosed ahead of Stewart but didn’t have enough momentum to pull down in front of him. It allowed Stewart to go on to the win, as Earnhardt faded to sixth.
“Me and Tony worked great together the entire race and if I could help it, I wanted it to come down between me and him because we worked together the whole race and it was down to the last lap,” Earnhardt said. “I backed off trying to get the rear bumper to (Greg Biffle) and some of the others to get a run. I thought we had it timed good, but our run wasn’t as good as it could have been, and Tony’s car was just that strong.”
It was Stewart’s first win in any series at Talladega, where he has finished second in six Cup races. His previous best finish in a Nationwide race at the track was second last year. That race was just the first time he’d made it to the finish line in five starts, with four DNFs before it.
David Stremme finished second, his best result since he finished second in Milwaukee in 2004. Bobby Hamilton Jr. was third.
Biffle, who was third on the last lap and pushed Earnhardt up to Stewart, got shuffled out of the draft and finished 11th.
Morgan Shepherd, the 66-year-old Cup veteran, was running ninth when the caution came out with 18 laps to go. The two late cautions cost Shepherd his first top-10 finish since 1999, but he still finished on the lead lap in 13th place. It was his best NASCAR finish since he was 11th in this race in 2003.
Shepherd has no sponsor or professional crew members, and he runs his plain green Dodge with “Racing with Jesus” painted on the hood.
The race was slowed by eight cautions for 27 laps, including a 12-car accident that brought a red flag stoppage of 25 minutes.
The accident happened when Kevin Lepage pitted for a loose wheel under green and blended back onto the track right ahead of the field as the pack headed into the first turn. He wasn’t at the same speed, and the cars couldn’t avoid running over him.
Carl Edwards was the first to hit Lepage, with contact that launched Edwards’ car off the track.
“In my mind it just looks like somebody just pulled up right in front of the field,” Edwards said as he watched the replay. “I’m driving around, minding my own business, and ‘good afternoon.’ I’m just glad I didn’t get hurt there.”
But Lepage was adamant he did nothing wrong, and said he followed NASCAR’s rules for returning to the track when he blended back in. He also fiercely defended his spotter, wife Donna.
“As I was leaving pit road, the spotter says ‘Pack coming’ and I stayed down until I got in turn 1. The first half a dozen cars or so passed me, and the next thing you know I got rear-ended,” Lepage said. “Everybody is mad at me for pulling up onto the race track, but you go to the driver meeting and they say stay low until you get to turn 1 and then pull up on the race track.
“My spotter has been spotting for me for a number of years and I think she did a great job. There’s 40 other guys out there trying to spot these things, and if they couldn’t see me coming out of the pits, then maybe they need to get new spotters.”
The first wreck occurred 10 laps into the race when Dario Franchitti lost his right rear tire. He was down on the apron when his car was T-boned by Larry Gunselman. Both drivers were transported to a hospital, and X-rays showed Franchitti broke his left ankle.
Franchitti, the reigning Indy Racing League champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, will not race in the Sprint Cup Series today. Stremme, who drove the car for two seasons before Franchitti replaced him this year, will fill in for Franchitti.