Lepage makes unwanted history with wreck By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, 1998) Kevin Lepage made history on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, but his footnote won't be one the NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie...
Lepage makes unwanted history with wreck By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, 1998) Kevin Lepage made history on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, but his footnote won't be one the NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie will want to remember when he recalls the inaugural nighttime running of the Pepsi 400.
Lepage triggered the first multi-car crash in the history of night racing at the "World Center of Racing" when he appeared to simply lose control coming off Turn 2 of the 2.5-mile trioval, only 32 laps into the 160-lap event. Before the dance was through, no less than 11 cars had been drawn into the melee that stretched the length of the 3,000-foot backstretch.
"I'm disappointed at what was a little bit of a rookie mistake, I guess," Lepage said, shaking his head sadly after emerging from the Monaco Infield Care Center adjacent to the garage area. "I'm not sure what it is. I went into Turn 1 following John Andretti. Came out of Turn 2 and the car broke loose."
Lepage speared the outside wall, then spun back into traffic in a dense cloud of smoke that swallowed up the cars of Hut Stricklin, Rick Bickle, Johnny Benson, Ted Musgrave, Geoff Bodine, Michael Waltrip, Steve Grissom, Jeff Green, Dan Pardus and Darrell Waltrip. Lepage's car was hammered by Bodine's Philips Ford -- among others -- and it spun most of the way down the backstretch before it stopped on the infield grass, where it belched some smoke and flames. Lepage quickly dove out of the PRIMESTAR Ford as safety crews responded.
"Jack (Roush, team owner) came over and said maybe someone took the air off my spoiler," Lepage said penitently. "I just hate it for all the other guys (involved in the accident) and I hate it for my team. They worked all week long to get this car back together after Talladega and to come here and destroy the car is pretty frustrating." Lepage suffered a fractured right scapula, or shoulder blade, in the incident and reported he was only sore, but said "I definitely won't be playing golf tomorrow, but I'll be fine by the time we go to Phoenix next week."
"Lot of smoke," Bodine said simply, adding wryly, "if we could make a tire without smoke, then we'd be able to see the wrecks. I just couldn't see."
Others stated the same case.
"I don't know what happened -- it looked like someone turned the 16 car (Lepage)," Stricklin said after his Oakwood Homes Chevrolet had been retired. "It was just one of those things and I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It seemed like every lane I chose was wrong.
"There was just so much smoke you couldn't tell. You just tried to keep your car straight and hope no one was in front of you."
Another who failed in that task was Green, but not for lack of trying in The Money Store Chevrolet.
"I came off turn two and they were all bottled up," said Green, who rejoined the race after repairs, as did eight of the 11 cars involved. "I'd committed myself to the middle and it closed up about the time I got there. All I could see was smoke. I couldn't tell if there was a car there or not and I couldn't even tell who I hit, but I hit someone and someone hit me.
"I guess I should have hit the grass, but there probably would've been someone down there, too."
The cars of Lepage, Bodine and Stricklin were eliminated on the spot. The others rejoined the race but Bickle retired his Thorn Apple Valley Ford with handling difficulties later in the event and Pardus was eliminated in another, single car accident.
Obviously, to end a race early in the garage is the ultimate heartbreak, but Bodine, a former Daytona 500 winner who had stated pre-race that to compete at Daytona was the epitome of his sport, shed the appropriate tear when all was said and done.
"History is being made tonight at Daytona," he said. "I just wish I was out there making history with those guys."
Source: NASCAR Online