BUSCH: Daytona: Day before the race notes and quotes

Scott Riggs, driver of the No. 10 Nesquik Ford, was involved in a multi-car accident during Friday's Busch Series first practice session. The No. 10 Ford suffered extensive right-side damage, and although Riggs was able to drive the car into the...

Scott Riggs, driver of the No. 10 Nesquik Ford, was involved in a multi-car accident during Friday's Busch Series first practice session. The No. 10 Ford suffered extensive right-side damage, and although Riggs was able to drive the car into the garage, a backup car will be needed for tomorrow's race.

SCOTT RIGGS-10-Nestle Nesquik Ford Taurus

"I'm not sure what happened. The 16 was up high and somebody clipped me from behind. It happened so fast that I'm not even sure what side clipped me first, but one side clipped me and then I hit the other car and I hit the wall. I just hate this for the guys because we worked so hard on this car for this race. Our backup car was the primary car for this team for the last two years, and we'll be OK, but I just hate it for the guys."

IS THERE ANY CHANCE THAT YOU CAN FIX THE PRIMARY CAR? "I don't think so. It flattened the side pretty good and we would have to spend the rest to today fixing it. I think we can get the backup ready for Happy Hour and then have at least one practice session with it on the track."

YOU ONLY BROUGHT ONE CAR DOWN TO TESTING HERE IN JANUARY. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THE BACKUP CAR BEFORE? "Yeah, we tested the backup in Talladega. Like I said, it was the primary the past two years and Jeff Green finished fourth here last year. We just need to get it prepped for Happy Hour and basically shake it down for the race tomorrow."

WAS THE ACCIDENT A CASE OF SOMEBODY ELSE'S INEXPERIENCE IN THE DRAFT? "I was in a pack with some good cars, and I think that there were some cars that weren't as good that hastily jumped into the draft. I was just the one that got the brunt of it this time."

Kevin Lepage is one of several drivers currently without sponsorship for Saturday's Busch Series EAS/GNC Live Well 300, but unlike many of the drivers in the Busch garage, he is funding the race team with money from his own pocket. Lepage, who won the pole at the inaugural Busch Series event at Kansas Speedway last season, has two wins in 164 starts and is the owner and driver of the No. 71 Matrix Motorsports team.

KEVIN LEPAGE-71-Matrix Motorsports Ford Taurus

HOW TOUGH HAVE THE PAST FEW MONTHS BEEN TRYING TO FIND A RIDE AND/OR SPONSORSHIP? "The disappointing thing is that when we went into the off-season, we knew we didn't have Busch sponsor and finding sponsorship right now is just plain tough. And then not having a Cup ride for 2002, for the second year in a row, was doubly tough. At least last year we had some sponsorship to run the Busch car a couple of time, and when that wasn't the amount of money we needed to run it, I had a Cup job later in season and that was enough to finance the Busch operation. To have neither one of them to start the season is disappointing, and it's not because of a lack of effort. We've had a lot of conversations with a lot of marketing companies, we just haven't been able to sign the one major deal."

THE DRIVER-OWNER OPERATION SEEMS TO BE BECOMING LESS VIABLE, WHETHER IT'S IN THE BUSCH SERIES OR WINSTON CUP. WOULD YOU CONSIDER A PARTNERSHIP OR SELLING YOUR TEAM TO FOCUS ON DRIVING? "One of the angles that we're working is getting a group of people to buy into our race team and maybe eventually own the race team. I don't have a problem doing that. What I want to do is race. There are organizations like Valvoline, who decided to become a partner in a Winston Cup car to understand what it takes and to have a controlling interest in where the money goes. Over here on the Busch side, you can't even get somebody to come over here for $3 million. It's really tough. The car counts are down and I feel that I'm in a position to run for a championship with this race team because I don't have Cup ride and I'm committed to doing the Busch Series if that's what it takes to compete. We're looking at one-race deals, five-race deals and 10-race deals right now. We're ready to do whatever a sponsor wants, we just need to get something in writing."

YOU'VE SAID THAT THIS WILL BE YOUR LAST RACE WITHOUT SPONSORSHIP, BUT THE NEXT RACE IS IN ROCKINGHAM, A SHORT DRIVE FROM YOUR SHOP IN HUNTERSVILLE, NC. IF THE CAR COUNT IS LOW, WOULD YOU CONSIDER TAKING A CAR THERE? "We're not even considering it. Our motor bill is $25,000 a race to rent. Seven sets of tires will run us $10,000, and then you have travel costs. Those costs can reach $50,000 real quick and if you wreck a race car, that's why it takes $100,000 to run these races. There's no way I can do it. Donna (Lepage, wife) and I sat down a month ago and talked about some things in the works, and one of the things we decided was that we needed to come here because we're still talking to people and they want to run for the championship. We figured we could show our commitment to this team by funding this one race out of our pockets, and if we didn't come here we wouldn't have a shot at winning the championship, either. If you miss Daytona you should just say goodbye until next year. If we win the race on Saturday, that may give us an incentive to go to Rockingham, but the purses in the Busch Series aren't enough to finance a team alone. We plan to run Daytona, and if we get a sponsor that wants to run Rockingham or the first 10 races, we'll be ready. We have cars ready to go at the shop, all we need to do is paint them and put a motor in them. The one thing we did all winter long was prepare all of our race cars. They're ready to go and we built this speedway car in a short period of time. We didn't qualify the way I wanted to, but the effort the guys put in, I was pleased."

THERE ARE LOT OF QUALITY TEAMS WITHOUT FULL-TIME SPONSORS THIS YEAR, INCLUDING REISER ENTERPRISES AND MICHAEL KRANEFUSS RACING. IS THIS PROBLEMATIC OF THE BUSCH SERIES, AND CAN IT BE FIXED BY SHORTENING THE FIELD TO 36 CARS? "I don't think you can have a 36-car field because when they signed the multi-million-dollar TV deal, it was for 43 cars. FOX and NBC expect 43 cars. In the Busch Series, we race a lot of mile-and-a-half race tracks, and if you take seven cars out of the field there will be a big void. I think NASCAR needs to use all of their offices and all of their connections. They have people call them everyday wanting one-race deals, trying to promote a new product or company. They need to sit there and see who's without a sponsor and committed to the sport right now. We've been down here eight years; we're not a new race team. I've been in the Busch Series for eight solid years, and although I haven't competed in a full-time deal the last three years because of some other commitments, I'm ready to build Matrix Motorsports into a full-time Busch team. I moved the team to North Carolina last year and have the space and the potential to put a full-time team together. NASCAR needs to put a list together, and I don't know what the pecking order is going to be, but I want to talk to these new companies trying to break into the sport."

IS IT A CASE THAT THE RACE TEAMS ARE LOSING POTENTIAL SPONSORS TO THE NASCAR AND THE RACE VENUES? "Not from what I'm hearing. From my conversations, there are sponsors that have had disheartening discussions with teams and have gone to NASCAR to investigate other options. I think there are some teams that are trying to throw a high number at the sponsors and negotiating downward. Everybody is trying to land the next $15 million deal. I just want enough money to go racing. That's where the driver-owner operation may be a plus. I'm the driver and the owner and I can say what price it's going to take to run the team. I don't have a hierarchy to pay, so my costs are better in line with some companies looking to get into the sport. I think that some of these companies that go to NASCAR, that can lead to bigger things. I look at Sharpie in the Cup garage, and maybe that's what is going to have to happen. A race sponsorship lets a company get their feet wet in racing and once they see what the payoff is, maybe then they'll reconsider sponsoring a team."

DO YOU LOOK AT SOMEONE LIKE RICKY CRAVEN WHO WAS GIVEN ANOTHER CHANCE TO COMPETE AT THE WINSTON CUP LEVEL, AND FEEL YOU COULD DUPLICATE HIS SUCCESS? "If you look at my Winston Cup career, I don't think I was ever with an organization that I was the number one guy. That's not taking anything away from the Roush organization, but with five teams, you can't replicate a motor and a chassis five times. One will always be a little better and I understand the pecking order. They may give you the same tires, but you can't build five motors, five cars and five pit crews the same. There's no way that could happen. If you look at the Kodak ride, that's a good ride, but I think being in Virginia hinders them from the technology that's down in North Carolina. I really thought that the 7 car was the best opportunity I had down here and they didn't have a sponsor. Jim Smith had to make a decision on how to keep his team alive and that wasn't based off of what I did behind the steering wheel. He needed to do something for sponsorship and he did, and unfortunately, I wasn't a part of that equation. I think that if I could hook up with an owner like Cal Wells, someone that's willing to give a young guy like Craven or me an opportunity and some time, I think we'd be good. I haven't had the same crew chief for more than two years, and when you look at the real successful teams, there's years of chemistry behind them. I haven't had the situation of stability, but I think with the right situation, I can go back to Winston Cup and win races some day."


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Drivers Jeff Green , Kevin Lepage , Scott Riggs , Jim Smith