HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 4, 2000) TV Guide has notified Roush Racing that it will not continue its primary sponsorship of the No. 16 Ford Tauruses driven by Kevin Lepage for the NASCAR 2000 season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Team owner Jack Roush said the team would start the season at Speedweeks 2000 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida still seeking primary sponsorship for the team. Roush said the team will run without corporate support to start the season if necessary, but fully expects to have sponsorship in place by Daytona.
NASCAR Speedweeks 2000 begins on Feb. 9, with practice for the Daytona 500 beginning on Friday, Feb. 11.
"We can't let a team with this amount of talent and chemistry escape," Roush said. "Once we got the right team organized around him, and Kevin got some more grounding in Winston Cup competition, the results began to come -- 5th at Darlington, the Pole at Atlanta, not to mention being one decision away from a top-3 finish at Talladega.
"With the consolidation of the No. 17, No. 97 and No. 16 to Charlotte this team will have improved access to facilities, equipment, people and resources. We expect the No. 16 to be immediately successful."
The move of Roush Racing's Liberty, N.C., operations to Concord, N.C., will be completed by March. The result will be the teams of Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Ford), Chad Little (No. 97 John Deere Ford) and Lepage will be in one facility adjacent to the Concord Airport.
The move will consolidate Roush's NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division resources in the Charlotte area, notably chassis and transmission work (Concord), research and development (Mooresville), sales and marketing (Huntersville) and the seven teams themselves, including those of Mark Martin and Jeff Burton (Mooresville).
The 1999 season marked what was only Lepage's first full year of NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition, and was highlighted by a Bud Pole at the last race of the season, the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as well as a stellar outing at Talladega as a member of the Winston "No Bull 5" team of competitors.
By finishing fifth at Darlington, one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, Lepage, along with teammates Martin and Burton, qualified to compete for an additional million dollars in prize money at the famed superspeedway in Alabama.
Lepage completed 10 of the last 15 laps in the lead pack, ahead of experienced veterans Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett, but was shuffled out at the last.
"We had one of those seasons that clearly marked a turning point in both my career and the status of the team," Lepage said. "Obviously, we're always wanting to win every race, but more realistically, our goals for '99 centered on getting time together as a team and time for me in the Winston Cup cars.
"And, I think we accomplished some great things last year, from our runs at Talladega and Darlington to something I'm really proud of, taking the pole at Atlanta. We've got a great package put together, and we're all looking forward to working with a new sponsor to further all of our racing and business activities, so hopefully we'll be ready to go by Daytona."
Lepage finished 13th after starting 14th in the 1999 Daytona 500. He ended the season 25th in the standings with one top-5 and two top-10s. His best finishes came after he was joined by crew chief Pat Tryson at the No. 16 team.