Adding to the international flavor of the Craftsman Truck Series with drivers such as Marcos Ambrose and Michel Jourdain, Jr., Canadian Peter Shepherd will attempt to qualify for his first truck series race this weekend at Memphis Motorsports Park in Saturday's O'Reilly 200. Shepherd, one of the 25 finalists in Discovery Channel's "Roush Racing: Driver X," signed a driver development deal with Roush Racing that will put the 19-year-old in selected NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Re/Max events in addition to his driving duties in the USAC Silver Crown division.
Peter Shepherd No. 50 Headz Gamez Ford F-150
What are your expectations for this weekend as you try to qualify for your first truck race? "I pretty much have limited experience in driving a truck. I've only got three test sessions: one at Darlington and one at Martinsville during 'Driver X,' and one at Richmond last week. Going into the weekend, we have set the expectations just to finish where we can put ourselves without taking too many risks. Driving for Roush, you're always going to have a truck that can run at the front, but mainly for me, it's important to stay on the lead lap and get a good run and just get lots of experience for everybody. That's key. Who knows what can happen? If you have a real good truck, you can go to the front, and if not, we'll just get laps and have some fun and learn a lot."
What is your prior experience here at Memphis Motorsports Park? "I've tested a Silver Crown car for 200 laps around here with my team, RE Technologies. They run all the Silver Crown stuff that I do, which Carl Edwards is a part owner. That helped a lot to get some laps around here. Obviously, this is a different type of vehicle, but it's still key getting around a track any time you can. The line is never going to change, so I think it's going to help."
You competed in the Silver Crown race last week at Chicagoland, and now you find yourself in a truck at Memphis. Is there an adjustment period jumping from vehicle to vehicle? "When I first started doing it I figured it would be good to get on all of the tracks, and getting some big-track experience in the Silver Crown car. That's all been great, and when I first got out of the Silver Crown car and into the truck at the Richmond test, I realized that the trucks, with as big and heavy as they are, they don't slow down that well. It took a little while to get used to the brake pressure. I was spiking the brakes for the first session or so, but once I got going, things were OK and I remembered how to drive a stock car again. There was a little bit of an adjustment period where I forgot what I was going and what I was in, but it all came back to me in a hurry, and that's good."
What is the rationale behind competing in the USAC Silver Crown Series this year? "The people at Roush and RE Technologies and Carl Edwards all thought it would be a good idea to get me as many laps as I can. I had six ARCA races guaranteed before I did that, so it was a matter of extra time, and extra time is never going to hurt you, it's always going to benefit you. The more times that you're in a race car, the better you are. I haven't had a break in the last couple of weeks - I've always been testing and doing something - and that's the way I love it. It kinda came up like that and it's been the best thing for me. I guess you could say that I'm on cloud nine. All of this racing has been a dream come true already."
With Carl Edwards being part owner of the Silver Crown team, has he been able to give you some insight? "Carl was able to spot for me at Chicagoland, a race where we finished second. He was giving me little tips every lap, like how to run the car because he's run the Silver Crown cars before and he's run these tracks, so he was giving me lots of advice. I was definitely listening to it because he's one of the best in the business, no question about it, so any time he's telling me to do something on the track, I'd do it, and every time he told me to do something it made the car better, so there's no reason not to listen to him. Every time I do, like I said, it just makes it better for me."
Do you have any other Truck Series races scheduled for this year? "Yeah, there are some more plans. I think there might be another race later on in the year. I don't know for sure what's going to go on. I think I need to get laps here and finish this race off to get approved for some bigger tracks. I'm not sure about Nashville. It's still up in the air and it's a race where Michel (Jourdain, Jr.) will be in a Busch car, so I'd be very happy to fill in for him if he couldn't make it there. It'd be nice to run there, too, and get a little bit of big-track experience in a truck."
With this being a one-race deal - at least for the time being - how are you able to keep your emotions in check? "I try to take it like I've taken every other race my whole life. Obviously, there's lots of pressure, but there was lots of pressure at the Gong Show with Roush, and I was able to manage that, so this is just another stepping stone that you have to take. That's the way you have to look at it. You can't say, 'Oh, this is going to be too much pressure,' because if there's too much pressure now, what's it going to be when you get in your first Nextel Cup race? There's always going to be pressure and it's a matter of doing what you can do and getting a solid run, and I think we'll be able to do that."
You competed against David Ragan and Erik Darnell in the Driver X competition last year and now you're teammates this weekend. Is there a rivalry between the three of you? "I think that everyone gets along great and we all want to see each other do great. I think the 'Driver X' experience actually allowed us to become good friends. There are five Roush cars in the Nextel Cup Series, and I think that years down the road it would be great if at one point all five of us were together in that. It'd be real fun and wild to see. If I have any questions, I feel 100 percent comfortable asking Erik or David for advice. Whenever I ask Erik - he was with me at that Richmond test - he's given me advice that's been dead-on."