HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (November 29, 1999) The 1999 season can be summed up as a season of many changes for the better for Kevin Lepage and Roush Racing's No. 16 TV Guide team. In just his second year and first full season in NASCAR Winston Cup ...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (November 29, 1999) The 1999 season can be summed up as a season of many changes for the better for Kevin Lepage and Roush Racing's No. 16 TV Guide team. In just his second year and first full season in NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition, Lepage experienced an early season sponsorship change when PRIMESTAR was bought by DirecTV. In addition, he witnessed the departure of two crew chiefs before teaming up with current crew chief Pat Tryson. In most cases, these types of changes can send a driver and crew into a tailspin they are unable to recover from. However, Lepage and the No. 16 TV Guide team faced these challenges and overcame the adversities to finish the 1999 season in extraordinary fashion.
Lepage and crew began the season with high hopes of a top-15 finish in the point standings. After placing 13th in the season-opener at Daytona, it seemed as though the team might be on its way to achieving that goal. Although Lepage finished 42nd in the following event at Rockingham, things still looked promising as the team posted three consecutive top-25 runs at Las Vegas (21st), Atlanta (19th) and Darlington (22nd).
The No. 16 team had a solid start under its belt going into the first Bristol event when they were hit with a couple of possible setbacks. Primary sponsor PRIMESTAR decided to suspend its interest in NASCAR and sold its rights as the 16's primary to TV Guide. Around the same time, crew chief James Ince left the No. 16 team. What could have been a backbreaking situation for Lepage and the team ended up being a very promising one.
TV Guide came on board with an abundance of enthusiasm. Marketing representatives knew they only had a limited amount of time to take advantage of NASCAR racing and the types of marketing platforms that could be centered around motorsports. Quickly, TV Guide put together several promotions that have since been nominated for industry awards, including the feature of celebrities on the hood each week with a related sweepstakes, and a show car tour for their affiliates.
"Working with TV Guide has been an excellent opportunity for the No. 16 team," said Lepage. "I'll have to admit I was a little nervous when I heard PRIMESTAR was leaving, but I quickly felt at ease when TV Guide signed on. The transition was great and things seemed to click right off the bat for both parties. I've enjoyed being a part of the numerous promotions throughout the season and would love the opportunity to team up with TV Guide in the year 2000."
After the departure of Ince, Skip Eyler joined the team and immediately got results. In just his first three races as crew chief for the No. 16 TV Guide team, the average finish was 14th. Things definitely seemed to be headed in the right direction and it looked as though Lepage and crew were well on their way to the top-15.
The great beginning that Lepage and Eyler shared quickly faded and the team began a mid-season struggle. There was an apparent breakdown in communication between Lepage and Eyler and rather than let the situation get out of hand, Jack Roush stepped in and made some personnel changes.
Pat Tryson took over at the Pepsi Southern 500 and this is when the magic began. Immediately things clicked between Lepage and Tryson. The communication was there and in just their first race together, the No. 16 team with new crew chief Tryson scored its best finish of the season, fifth, which was also Lepage's best career finish.
"The addition of Pat Tryson is just what this team needed," said Lepage. "The morale was down and everyone began to think this team was second-rate. Pat came in and got this team believing in itself. He brought a lot of knowledge over with him and the communication between us was phenomenal.
"He understood what I was saying about the cars and knew exactly how to fix the problem. If we didn't know what to do, his patience shined through and by putting our heads together, nine times out of 10 we could figure it out. I really enjoyed working with Pat and this crew the second half of the season. Everyone got a taste of what this team could really do and I just wish we would have all been together the entire season."
Together they will be as Lepage, Tryson and crew move into 2000. In the final 11 races of the 1999 season, this combination achieved Lepage's first career Bud Pole, one top-5, two top-10 and five top-20 finishes. The team's average finish was 19th and they completed 99 percent of the laps run in competition. These are the types of statistics that top-15 teams are made of. Maybe the No. 16 team did not get the results they had hoped for in 1999, but if they can carry the second half of the season momentum into the year 2000, there might just be a seat on the Waldorf's stage for Lepage.