Rookie Shepherd dusts field for win No. 1

Sunday, April 26, 1981 – Thirty-nine-year old Morgan Shepherd led 203 of 500 laps in the Virginia 500 to earn his first NASCAR premier series victory, beating Neil Bonnett by a full 15 seconds at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Shepherd, competing for rookie of the year honors, took the lead for the final time with 89 laps remaining in his No. 5 Cliff Stewart-owned Pontiac.

Martinsville was the site of several memorable events in Shepherd’s career. In addition to his first premier series win, in 1977 he won a Late Model Sportsman race that provided enough funding to allow him to continue his racing career; and in 1980 he was married on the start/finish line at the .526-mile facility.

Shepherd became just the third driver to win during his rookie season, joining Dale Earnhardt (1979) and Earl Ross (1974).

The victory came in Shepherd’s 15th start in the series, his first as a full-time competitor.

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