Morgan Shepherd knows in his heart he won't win the Sam's Town 300, the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
But his priority is saving souls, not collecting trophies.
"You could say that, considering the big Jesus logo on my hood," Shepherd said Tuesday.
The 69-year-old stock car veteran operates Victory in Jesus Racing Ministries in Conover, N.C., and his zest for NASCAR is surpassed only by his zeal for God and faith.
But Shepherd could not simply turn the other cheek Monday when he said he saw two teens fleeing from several security guards outside a Walmart on Nellis Boulevard near Craig Road, a few miles from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Instead Shepherd jumped from his rental car in the parking lot, where he was waiting while wife Cindy finished shopping, and chased down one of the shoplifting suspects.
"A police car pulled in to head them off and the last (suspect) split off. I got him down and was on top of him," Shepherd said. "A police officer came by and I told him to throw me some cuffs. (The suspect) said, 'Please let me go.' But I already had him handcuffed. He said he didn't want to go to jail. I said, 'Well, you shouldn't be stealin'."
The suspects, ages 15 and 18, were arrested for petty larceny, according to Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Barbara Morgan.
"I was mad at myself that I didn't say something to him about Jesus Christ," Shepherd said of the teen he apprehended. "God created that opportunity for me, but I didn't go far enough."
Shepherd went to the Walmart to buy an oil drain pan to work on his two race cars at the speedway in preparation for Thursday's practice sessions in NASCAR's second-tier series.
"Timing was incredible," the 44-year NASCAR veteran said while taking a break from working on his cars. "I reckon that's why I had to do something about it."
Shepherd credits healthy eating and a workout program that includes roller skating and roller dancing for helping him run down someone nearly 50 years younger.
Shepherd has won 15 Nationwide races, but none since 1988. He has won four Sprint Cup races, the last at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1993, when at 52 he became the second-oldest driver to win in the series.
His No. 89 Faith Motorsports Chevrolet is popular with fans for the Victory in Jesus Racing decal on its hood.
Financing limited Shepherd to two Nationwide races last year, and this year's racing schedule continues to be month to month.
He said he would not be able to race without donations of parts and supplies from some of NASCAR's top stars, including Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress.
Shepherd did not try to qualify at Daytona, and a parts failure relegated him to a 33rd-place finish Saturday at Phoenix.
"Fans will even send us $10 to keep racing," Shepherd said. "People ask me when I'm going to stop racing, and I say they'll have to ask the Lord. I'm here to serve. As long as he wants me here I'll be here."
While there's no end in sight for Shepherd's racing career, he hopes not to have to reprise his role as a crime fighter any time soon.
"I see so much stuff on TV when people stand back and don't do anything. I'm just not like that.
"God has just blessed me to be 69 years old and have the health I do."
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.