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July 13, 2013

From Haulin’ the Mail to Haulin’ Race Cars

How did No. 2 hauler driver go from haulin' the mail to haulin' race cars across the country"

HHP/RCR HHP/RCR

No. 2 NASCAR Nationwide Series team hauler driver Barry Sheppard has spent most of his professional life driving for a living. However, he didn’t get his start driving across country hauling race cars. The Stuart, Va., native made ends meet by delivering mail.

One day, his friend and NASCAR team owner Eddie Wood asked him to help out for a trip to Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway. Shortly after, Sheppard was offered a fulltime position with the premier racing organization and he quickly left the mail route behind and hit the road as part of Wood Brothers Racing. 

The silver-haired southerner recounted how he got his start in NASCAR.“I was bored and didn’t have anything to do in the afternoons. Eddie (Wood) and I have been friends for years; I’d go over to the shop, sweep the floors and whatever was needed,” Sheppard said. “Well, their hauler driver just up and quit one day. I told Eddie I’d like to see what it’s like, and that weekend I headed to Rockingham.”

A short time later, Len Wood called Sheppard into his office and offered him a fulltime job as the hauler driver for the No. 21 team. Back in the day, Sheppard remembered times that there were just four of them on the crew. At Daytona International Speedway teams brought separate engines for practice, qualifying and the race, and would be able to make the swap in 45 minutes.  While testing is restricted in today’s world, back in the 90’s teams would test non-stop. 

Sheppard made the drive to and from Talladega Superspeedway eight times in one year for six tests and two races. He was with Wood Brothers Racing for 11 years having worked with drivers such as Michael Waltrip, Elliott Sadler and Ricky Rudd.  “My favorite was Ricky Rudd,” Sheppard said.  “He was good to us and respectful. He was just a smart old-school driver.”

In 2003, Sheppard made the switch to Richard Childress Racing as the hauler driver for the No. 31 team and Robby Gordon.  In his 10 years with RCR, he’s worked with Gordon, Dave Blaney, Casey Mears, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Sadler and now Brian Scott. 

Sheppard saw an opportunity to see the country while being paid to work alongside his friends. At the time, the furthest west he had ever been was Spiceland, Indiana, and for 18 years, the Southern Virginian has crossed the countryside multiple times.

This season, Sheppard will pilot his Freightliner rig to more than 20 states in 10 months stretching as far west as California and as far north as New Hampshire.  He sums up his job after 18 years on the road like this: “I’m still having fun each week and have enjoyed it over the years.”

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