This Week in Ford Racing October 5, 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Kevin Lepage, driver of the No. 16 TV Guide Taurus, will be one of five drivers with a chance at winning a million dollar bonus in two weeks at Talladega Superspeedway as part of the...
This Week in Ford Racing October 5, 1999
NASCAR Winston Cup
Kevin Lepage, driver of the No. 16 TV Guide Taurus, will be one of five drivers with a chance at winning a million dollar bonus in two weeks at Talladega Superspeedway as part of the Winston 500 and No Bull 5 promotion. He spoke about that opportunity, along with his season to date on the Winston Teleconference.
WINSTON TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
KEVIN LEPAGE -16- TV Guide Taurus --HOW ABOUT CHARLOTTE THIS WEEK? "We're really looking forward to it. The TV Guide team built me a brand new race car that we'll debut tomorrow. It's the finest car, we feel, we've built out of Liberty (N.C.) with the body anyway and we're pretty optimistic that we'll have a decent run there this weekend."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON A CHANCE AT THE MILLION DOLLAR BONUS IN TWO WEEKS AT TALLADEGA. "It should be very exciting next week. I believe on Thursday we do a skeet program to try to figure out who the lucky people will be as far as their driver combination. I've never shot a gun before, so, hopefully, somebody's not picking me to be the man. I guess they're going to handicap Ward Burton because he's a pretty good shooter, but all next week is gonna be real exciting. We were down there last week testing the TV Guide Taurus. We were very pleased with testing. Even though we got rained on, the time we got on the race track was very beneficial, so we're looking forward to it. I love Talladega and love the speedway. We're expecting to put on a good show there."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHEMISTRY OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN A DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF? "Let's look at tomorrow. We'll be on the race track for about two hours, maybe three, but most of the time we're on the race track we're only doing one or two-lap runs...basically qualifying runs...so you go out there and make your one lap run and when you come in the crew chief tries to dissect your lap. A good crew chief will sit there and be patient with you and let you think about it...pull some answers and questions out of you to try to figure out what he needs to do to make the car better...where it seemed to be ill-handling in the corner or whatever. Those are good qualities of a crew chief where they can just sit there and say, 'OK, get your breath and let me look at the tire sheet, look at the air pressures.' They let you gather your thoughts because you get around Charlotte in a short time in a one-lap run and the car will do a lot of things. You just need some time to get all that information together for a crew chief. A good crew chief will be patient with you. A crew chief that isn't good is one that takes the first words out of your mouth and takes that as exactly what the car is doing and may try to fix that. He may actually hurt the car because you're not fully explaining yourself. You need to take some time to re-evaluate that one lap that you were out in the car."
HOW HAS IT BEEN WITH PAT TRYSON? HE IS YOUR THIRD CREW CHIEF THIS YEAR. "We really thought we had the right combination at the beginning of the year with James Ince. I mean, we had our best finish to date last year, which was sixth. We ran 13 races together, had a lot of success, and at the beginning of the year we were very happy together and then, all of a sudden, he decided he wanted to make a change. To me, that was a surprise, but I guess to some people in the garage area he had been talking about making a change anyway. Then we brought Skip Eyler in. That was a choice not of mine. Pat Tryson was our first choice, but Jack wanted to give Skip another chance. We worked really good together at certain parts of the race and other times we didn't. We'd never really get on the same page together. It seemed like when we'd both get on the same page, somebody would jump off or flip the page. Jack decided, 'Well, we've gotta make one more change here. We're trying to get a sponsor for us and we're running out of time and running out of races.' So we brought Pat Tryson over and our first time out was fifth (at Darlington) and 13th at Dover a couple of weeks ago. So we've had some highlights...qualifying very well...so there are some things that Pat has brought to the team. We just hope that we can put it all together between now and the end of the year to get the TV Guide Taurus in the top 10 the next six races or maybe a victory or whatever it takes to secure TV Guide for next year."
YOU HAD TO FIGURE YOU WOULD BE HIGHER THAN 26TH IN THE STANDINGS RIGHT NOW, DIDN'T YOU? "We actually thought we'd be a top-15 race car week in and week out. We finished 13th at Daytona at the beginning of the year. There were a lot of things at the beginning of the year that were good and then all of a sudden we made the crew chief and the sponsor changes. There were a lot of things that went on within our race team. We lost a lot of key pit crew guys during the winter time. Jack is moving our shop from Liberty to the Concord area and a lot of the guys had lived in Liberty or in that area for several years. Their families are there, the kids are in school, and they felt they needed to make a change. Well, the perfect change was Kyle Petty going back home to his dad's place. They needed some people, so a lot of our team went over there and we lost a lot of good people during the winter time. A lot of people said, 'Well, you had 13 races last year so how come you're not running good this year?' There are a lot of reasons and those are just a few of the reasons why we didn't run as good. Going through crew chiefs and everything else, it's just been a trying year for everybody, but Jack hasn't given up on our race team and I haven't given up on Jack. It's shown in the last few weeks because we've had progress, now we just have to have progress between now and the end of the year so we can build for next year."
ARE YOU STILL CONFIDENT ABOUT TV GUIDE COMING BACK? "I really do. I was told today that TV Guide got bought out by Gemstar, which was news to me. I didn't even know they were on the auction block. I don't know what their plans are now. I'm leaving here in a few minutes to go to New York City for an appearance and one of the people from TV Guide is gonna be there, so I'm gonna talk with them and find out what their feeling is about this merger. I don't believe it's gonna change the name, I think it's still gonna be TV Guide, but what it's gonna do for the racing we'll just have to wait and see."
HAS JACK SAID IF HE'S GOING TO MOVE THE LIBERTY OPERATION TO THE CONCORD OR CHARLOTTE AREA? "Yeah, there's a building already done by the Concord Airport which will house the 97 and the 17 team, and they're turning ground as we speak right now on the second building which will house the Liberty group."
HOW HARD IS IT TO LEARN ALL THESE TRACKS AND ALSO DEAL WITH THE SPONSOR UNCERTAINTY? "I'll go back to the beginning of 1998 when I got in the 91 car with Joe Falk. It was an unsponsored car with no points, no provisionals, and performed very well. That was pressure last year. I'm in one of the best organizations in the garage area with Roush Racing. We have one of the best marketing programs in NASCAR and, if Jack can't get a sponsor for the 16 team, then Joe Falk's not gonna get a sponsor for the 91 car. It's tough. I'm down on myself because of the way we've run this year, but I can only do so much with the race car. We need to surround ourselves with good people and we haven't had that opportunity all year long. As of late we have by bring Pat Tryson over, so the performance has shown in the last three or four weeks. We just need to keep doing it between now and the end of the year. If TV Guide doesn't come back, I'm sure there are other sponsors out there that will be knocking on the door, but the only way they'll knock on the door is if we can show them some success and we've been doing that."
IS THERE ANY SELF DOUBT ON YOUR PART? "No. I mean, if I didn't think I could be a Winston Cup driver I would have never taken the step last year to come up with Joe Falk. I'm a new guy here. I've gone through three crew chiefs this year, so our chemistry between driver and crew chief hasn't been there. If you look at the success of a lot of guys who are winning races week in and week out, how long have they been together with their team, their owner, their crew chief, their crew guys? They've all been together two, three, four, five years at a time, I haven't had that luxury. We had a dry spell during the middle of the year this year -- Watkins Glen, Sears Point, Indianapolis -- places I didn't go to last year with the Winston Cup car because I had a little sabbatical there, so there are a lot of races I didn't perform well because that was my first time going there. I believe I can get the job done. Darlington was a good example. Charlotte last year was a good example. Richmond, we were running third last year and broke a part, so there are a lot of places we've run well we just haven't been able to show that in the finish and we're working on that."
DOES VICTORY COME IN SMALL STEPS? "The way I look at it is the same way I look at the Busch Series -- you've gotta run in the top 10 week in and week out, top five week in and week out, and then the victories will come. Until we get ourselves to run week in and week out in the top 10 or top five, victory will be a long way away, but I don't believe it's gonna be as far as a lot of people think it is. I believe that if we can stay together with this team and move it into the year 2000, I believe we can win by halfway next year."