TORONTO, Ontario — Despite facing adversity throughout the entire Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto weekend, Pete Shepherd fought back for a top-10 finish.
“It was a big day for us, obviously,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I can’t thank VRX Simulators enough for getting us out here today. We wouldn’t be here without Rob and his team over at VRX so just an exceptional day for us. I just have to thank the crew – thrashing on it. We never got any laps at all because of my mistake in practice as I hit the wall early in practice, didn’t get to qualify. I ended up starting 19th and had a couple of incidents, but got up to 10th at the end of the day. It was a great run for us.”
Starting at the tail of the field, Shepherd made his way forward, running just outside of the top-10 when Cole Powell got sideways entering the corner, spinning around and making contact with Shepherd on Lap 26.
“I knew right away that it was a mistake because I was there three or four times myself today,” Shepherd said. “I was just lucky that nobody else was in front of me. That’s easy, could happen to anybody. I think he hit me backwards and it happened so fast. That happens. He’s a great driver, and he’s going to win some races here soon himself.”
Despite significant damage to the right side of the No. 79 VRX Simulators Ford Fusion, Shepherd was able to make his way back up through the field for a 10th-place finish.
The result comes at the perfect time, as this event was the first of Shepherd’s partnership with VRX Simulators.
“It’s so important for NASCAR and for everybody to see big companies come in and get involved,” he said. “VRX’s vision is not just to be a sponsor, but better the sport. They’re big fans of NASCAR first, and they want to be involved with everything and at the race track so because of that, they get so much more out of the experience.”
The performance left VRX Simulators Robert Stanners with a smile on his face post-race, as he said the performance by Shepherd and Jacombs Racing was amazing.
“Pete did just an incredible job,” Stanners told POPULAR SPEED. “To see what he went through, never seeing this track, not having a chance to qualify after the incident, and to watch him go through the field and get a top-10 – amazing. A Canadian driver at it’s finest. I can’t say enough. I’m excited to be apart of Pete Shepherd and his career moving forward. We have a lot of really interesting things in motorsports, but we’ll have him penciled in everything that we do.”
Stanners said the partnership came together with Shepherd following a conversation together at the Daytona 500.
“We were hit hard by a whole bunch of teams in motorsports for sponsorship, and it was just the conversation with him that I had as an individual – just real,” he said. “He’s the real deal. Watching him wheel a car now, he deserves a shot, and at VRX we’re going to give him every opportunity that we can. Look for us to be together next year. This is just the start to a great relationship.”
While not running the full schedule this season, Shepherd still has more races on the schedule for 2018, including a pair of Pinty’s Series races.
“It’s still kind of up in the air,” Shepherd said of the schedule. “We still have two more races that we’re going to do. We’re going out to Antigonish. Stay tuned for a late model racing announcement this week. I don’t want to speak too much of that, but we’re going to have a press release in the lather half of the week about that. Then we also have Jukasa – redemption. We’re going to go there and make sure everything is right.”
Though moving forward to 2019, it is very possible that Shepherd will be back on the tour one time as he feels they’re in a very good position to make that happen now.
“I like racing cars and I never stopped loving racing cars; I always wanted to do it, but different stage in my life with work,” he said. “Now I feel like I’m ready to come back and make a strong run hopefully for a championship sometime soon.”
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