Lepage Preseason Thunder - Ford interview

Kevin Lepage will be starting his first full season with Peak Performance Motorsports after joining the team late last season. Lepage attempted to qualify for eight races after getting in the seat for the first time at Dover and made...

Kevin Lepage will be starting his first full season with Peak Performance Motorsports after joining the team late last season. Lepage attempted to qualify for eight races after getting in the seat for the first time at Dover and made seven of them. He had a season-best sixth-place qualifying run at Kansas and comes into 2006 looking for similar success.

KEVIN LEPAGE -- No. 61 Peak Performance Motorsports Ford Fusion

YOU'VE CHANGED THE NUMBER ON THE CAR FROM 66 TO 61 AND THERE ARE SOME NEW THINGS GOING ON WITH THIS TEAM. "Yeah, really what we wanted to do with the number change was just to start 2006 with a whole new slate. Last year, Jeff Stec and the whole Peak Performance team went through a number of changes -- driver changes, crew chief changes, personnel changes, and then when I was hired toward the end of the year we steadily climbed the hill. The guys were really focused and we just decided to go into this year with a new number and a new frame of mind. The driver is committed for a two-year program. The crew chief is here for two years. The team is all staying together, so we decided to just start off fresh. That's why we made the number change."

IS THERE ANY SIGNIFICANCE TO THAT NUMBER? "Actually that was Jeff Stec's jersey number when he played football, plus it was a number that was available. The whole point was that we felt like we were a whole new race team and wanted a new start. The old number got picked up relatively quick, but we started talking about the change with about two races to go last year. We felt we needed to come out of the box this year like a brand new team, but with a lot of depth and a lot of notes from 2005."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS SEASON? "We're really looking forward and we're focused for this year. We're running a Taurus here. We wanted to build a new Fusion, but we just didn't have the time to do it with our finances so we left it alone. Right now it's pretty competitive and the Ford Taurus was very good last year on the speedways anyway, but we have a bunch of new Fusions being built for the downforce stuff. We're going to test in Vegas with one, but we're just a new team with a lot of changes going on. Hopefully in the next few weeks there will be a lot of new announcements."

OBVIOUSLY THE KEY IS TO MAKE THESE FIRST FIVE RACES WITH WHERE THE TEAM FINISHED IN POINTS. "We're looking at our string of performances last year and we're gonna hit those same races beginning this year. We were very solid on all the race tracks. Out of the first five, Bristol is the only one I didn't race with this team. But if you look at the first four -- excluding Daytona -- we were very solid in qualifying. We were number one or number two in our group from people who needed to qualify. Yeah, there is a little more competition in our group of guys who are out of the top 35 and there are some people buying numbers. You have some things going on, so we really don't know big our group is gonna be or how strong our group is gonna be until we come here in Daytona in February, but it is gonna be very important to be in the top 35. But with the way they changed the rules, the impounds are a thing of the past, except for a handful of races. That's gonna allow us to qualify like we needed to do last year, but to also allow us to adjust our car and race. We weren't able to do that a lot last year. We had to qualify and race our setup. A majority of the time we qualified around the top 10, but we faded to the back because of our qualifying package. I think we've got a good qualifying package. We've got the Yates-Roush horsepower, so I really think that with the chemistry that Greg Conner and myself developed in the short number of races last year, that we should easily be in the top 35 by after the fifth race."

HOW HAVE YOUR FIRST TWO DAYS GONE HERE? "We actually picked up about four-and-a-half tenths from when we unloaded here. We had a couple of things that went wrong on us that was to our own doing, but we overcame that and kept working on the car. We were 18th-fastest out of 34 cars yesterday afternoon and we're right there with some of the Ford teams. We're really pleased with it because we made big gains yesterday. Obviously, we need to be better but after talking with some of the other Ford teams about their engine combination and gears, that has really helped us a lot. I think when we come back in February we'll be a lot better."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Lepage