This Week in Ford Racing September 27, 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Kevin Lepage made his debut behind the wheel of the No. 66 Peak Fitness Taurus last weekend at Dover International Speedway and is scheduled to drive for the team at ...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 27, 2005
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Kevin Lepage made his debut behind the wheel of the No. 66 Peak Fitness Taurus last weekend at Dover International Speedway and is scheduled to drive for the team at Talladega as well. Lepage, who says he enjoys restrictor-plate racing, had his best finish this year in the season-opening Daytona 500 when he ran ninth. Lepage spoke about getting back on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series circuit and about returning to Talladega.
KEVIN LEPAGE - No. 66 Peak Fitness Taurus
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY? "I'm real grateful for Jeff Stec and the whole Peak Performance Motorsports team in giving me a call. We had a meeting last week about going to Dover and Talladega and maybe more, just to get in there and evaluate the race team. I've been around long enough where I can go in and make some improvements for a race team and help the team grow up and give the owner some advice as far as where they're lacking. A couple of weeks off was good. I played some golf and did some bowling and enjoyed the lake a little bit, but I'm still not ready to give up racing, so I'm really happy to be back in the race car and look forward to taking this program up another notch or two."
YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE RUNNING YOUR OWN TEAM SO YOU KNOW BOTH SIDES OF THE SPORT. "Yeah, if you look at what we did with the 37 car. We took it from a team that had two race cars last year. One was complete and one wasn't complete, and when I left the organization a few weeks ago they had seven or eight cars. We didn't have a sponsor at the beginning of the year and we brought sponsorship to them, and a lot of it has to do with what I did in the race car and what we did on the race track as far as performances. And then what I've done off the race track as far as media and other things. This race team has a great motor program with Yates-Roush. I've always had a passion for Fords. I grew up in a Ford car, so to get back in a Ford car is kind of neat, but this team has had a tough year. They've got a lot of opportunities for next year and you can't lose those opportunities right now, so they had to bring in somebody like myself who is a veteran. I'm not gonna say that I'm gonna be able to turn this thing around in a week or two, but we unloaded off the truck the other day at Dover and we were running a 23.50 right off the truck and qualified at a 23.38. We probably should have run a .10 or a .20, but being where they are and the races they've missed lately, we had to just put a solid lap in and that's what we did. The biggest thing for these first two weeks is to try and give back as much feedback to Jeff (Stec) and Greg (Conner) and all the guys involved and see if we can't escalate this program."
DO YOU GET A SENSE OF PRIDE WHEN YOU SEE HOW THESE REBUILDING JOBS HAVE GOTTEN BETTER AFTER YOU'VE BEEN IN THE CAR? "I get satisfaction out of it. Obviously, I would love to have an opportunity with a real good race car and just drive and not have to worry about anything else. I'd like to just come to the race track and drive and not have to make crew chief calls or advise the owners or anything, just come in and do what I did a few years ago when I was with Roush. But since the trend of NASCAR has changed with veteran drivers and young kids and all that kind of stuff coming in the sport, those opportunities are few and far between, so what I have to look at now since my career still has some light at the end of the tunnel and it's not dying, is to take opportunities like the 4 car. We moved that up a little bit and then started the 37 car, and then drove the 7 car with Ultra Motorsports and got them sponsorship. Now we're in the 66 car, so we're gonna take this step again. If you talk to anybody in the garage they'll say, 'Kevin Lepage can get in anything and move it up a level or two. He can help any program that he can get into.' I actually had another owner and crew chief come to me after qualifying on Friday and said, 'How long are you in this car? I want you in my car.' Right now I'm committed to this race team. Jeff and I are gonna talk early in the week and try to figure out what our program is for the rest of the year and hopefully next year, but from all the talks I've had with the people inside the organization they want me around for awhile. So I don't mind it. I walk through the garage proud that I contribute as much as I can to a race team."
DOVER AND TALLADEGA AREN'T THE TWO EASIEST TRACKS TO START OFF WITH WHEN YOU JOIN A NEW TEAM, Are They? "They had a real good car there in the spring and we're bringing the same car back. Obviously, the Yates motor program is not at a deficit and it runs pretty good there. I've run well at Talladega and I like the restrictor-plate races. I like the challenge. If you look back at Daytona and the spring race, we ran ninth there, so I like those restrictor-plate races. It would be great to get the 66 car a top-10 finish at Talladega, but you've always got the big one to worry about. After the drivers' meeting and what's been going on the last few weeks, maybe the big one won't happen, but there's always a chance that somebody could make a mistake or cut a tire down and take out eight or 10 cars. So you've just got to play your cards right and you've got to pick the positions you want to be. Hopefully, we can bring the car home with a top 10."