Kevin Lepage, driver of the No. 71 Fast Boys Wings Taurus, qualified 27th for tomorrow's Coca-Cola 600, despite the fact he has limited funding. Lepage spoke about trying to get back into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and how he hopes making...
Kevin Lepage, driver of the No. 71 Fast Boys Wings Taurus, qualified 27th for tomorrow's Coca-Cola 600, despite the fact he has limited funding. Lepage spoke about trying to get back into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and how he hopes making this race will open some eyes.
KEVIN LEPAGE - No. 71 Fast Boys Wings Taurus:
YOU SAID AFTER QUALIFYING THAT THIS WEEKEND'S EFFORT WAS COMING OUT OF YOUR POCKET. WHY DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
"Well, there are a few changes that happened a couple weeks ago between drivers and you had some people that weren't able to race the following week due to accidents. I made a phone call and they said, 'Yeah, you're on the list,' but the list never came back to me. The same thing happened last year and if you look at my career here in Winston Cup, I've had some great opportunities but the opportunities only lasted for six months to a year. We had changes in the crew and within the team during those situations and if you go down to the other side of the garage where the Gordons and Wallaces and those people are, their success has come around their crew. They've stayed together and been together for more than six months to a year and I think that's what happened to me in my career over here. Unfortunately, people have gone in a different direction when they started looking for a replacement driver. I went over to the Busch Series last year and did a great job for an injured driver and ran three Cup races last year and did a great job just as a fill-in driver, but, here we are again this year without a job. I've made phone calls and people have told me we're on the list, but I figured since I had two Cup cars and this place is close to home that we would try our own effort his weekend. We came out yesterday and qualified 27th and that was a conservative lap. All we have is the one race car and I had one shot at it, so it's not like, 'OK, get up on the steering wheel and go for the pole,' It was more, 'Let's go for a top 36 spot' and that's what we did."
DO YOU VIEW THIS AS AN AUDITION OR TO PROVE TO PEOPLE YOU CAN STILL RACE?
"Both, really. I'm auditioning for a ride. There may be people out here that aren't happy with their situation and there may be people out there looking at a second or third team. If you're out of sight, you're out of mind. I went to the race track two years ago when I didn't have a job and I went every week for like four weeks and everytime I went to a race track people would say, 'Oh man, you need to be in a race car. You're too good of a driver not to have a ride.' Well, you just get tired of hearing that stuff. You walk around and ask, 'Hey, can I use your transporter to stand on and watch practice or qualifying?' Then that driver might be thinking you're trying to steal his job, which you're not, but you knew somebody on that team and you're just looking for an opportunity to stand on the transporter. So it was very difficult for me as an individual to go to the race track and hear this stuff time and time again and not get behind the wheel of a race car. We're pretty much looking at the situation as we're trying to find a ride. Hopefully, somebody remembers me. Maybe there is a car owner or a potential car owner that wants to invest in my race team and maybe take this thing to a limited schedule between now and the end of the year and maybe build a full-time team. I have a building, I have race cars, I have all the equipment, I just don't have a sponsor or a person that wants to own my race team to carry me to the next level."
IS THIS A MAKE OR BREAK WEEKEND?
"If we hadn't made this race, and I'm not saying that making this race has put a feather in our cap from a financial standpoint, but it is definitely gonna help a little bit to cover some of the bills that we have out there and cover some of the bills it cost to come here. Robert Yates didn't give me this motor, I had to rent and pay for this motor. Obviously, it was a great deal because we're in the show, so we're just out there trying to show either a sponsor or a potential owner that you don't need $15 million to run this series. It's nice. It will give you the nice airplanes, the big yachts and all that other stuff that you really don't need in this business - the five engineers, the three transporters, the wind tunnel time. If you've got heart and you've got desire and you've got willpower, you can get the job done. If you just look at who I out-qualified yesterday, there are some big teams behind me."
YOU MENTIONED LAST WEEK THAT YOU'RE NOT 24 YEARS OLD. ARE YOU REALISTIC ABOUT WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES MIGHT BE OUT THERE FOR YOU AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR CAREER?
"When all this stuff started to happen a year or two ago about young drivers, I talked to a veteran car owner in here. His team is on the other end of this garage and I said, 'You know, I'm 38 or 39 years old and I'm not getting an opportunity because of these young kids.' And he stopped me right there and said, 'I'll tell you right now, I'm the guy that's gonna hire someone with a little silver in their hair because you're not gonna tear up equipment. You're gonna give me performance. You're gonna give me race cars. You're gonna give me feedback. I don't have the time and the money to sit here and train a young kid. If you look at it, really, we have some young guys in here that are getting the job done. But we also have another group of young guys that are not getting it done. They're wrecking race cars. They're 30th or 35th. They're making mistakes. Fortunately for these young kids, they have the owner that is giving them the time. But how long will these guys give them that much time? All I'm looking for is a break to go out and get with a situation and be competitive. I've won in everything I've been in, except Winston Cup. I've sat on poles here in Winston Cup. I've been competitive. If you go back and look at my career in Winston Cup, we've had opportunities to win races. Either a blown motor, a cut tire, or a bad pit stop has cost me a win and all I'm looking for is a better opportunity to get back in this sport and show an owner or a sponsor what I can do. I kind of feel like I'm in a similar situation like Ricky Craven. Ricky Craven was done. Nobody gave him two hoots three years ago, but Cal Wells gave him an opportunity and look where he is today. He's won races. He's been competitive. He runs up front, and that's what I'm looking for right now."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS TOMORROW?
"I don't have to race next week, so if something happens to this race car, so be it. Our expectation for tomorrow night is to sit there and try to run 600 miles. That's the first goal and, hopefully, come home with a top 15 or top 20 finish. That's what our goal is. The CLR team is gonna pit the car and these guys are hungry. They haven't really had the success they're looking for, so there might be a future there for me. These guys were very excited yesterday and my hat is off to them because they worked their guts out to get through inspection and get this car ready. Who knows. Right now, I've got 600 miles to worry about. We're gonna go out and practice today and we're not gonna practice with anybody. We're gonna practice by ourselves because I can't afford to wad up a race car. We need to find funding. That's what we've got to find to try to be competitive tomorrow night. We've got the motor. We've got the car. We've got the team. A little extra cash from the quarterpanels would go a long way and who knows what the future could bring us."