Roush Dumps Lepage Team

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Jack Roush has shut down the No. 16 Winston Cup team with driver Kevin Lepage for next season.

Roush, who owns the cars driven by Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch in the Winston Cup Series has freed Lepage from his contract for next year – “to pursue other options” – and all current No. 16 team members will be absorbed into Roush’s other NASCAR operations.

Roush had been unable to find a sponsor for the team next season.

Lepage has been the top candidate for taking over the driving duties of the No. 4 Larry McClure-owned car in the series next year, as sources in management with the team have told RacingOne that one of the other possible frontrunners – Robby Gordon – is no longer in the equation as he’s close to nailing down sponsorship with his No. 13 Menard team.

McClure told RacingOne that he’s certainly spoken with Lepage about taking over the car, but has had to wait to see if Lepage would be released from Roush.

Roush has said he will keep his No. 97 team running next year for rookie Kurt Busch, regardless of whether that team finds a sponsor or not.

Heading into the final race of the season - Sunday at Atlanta - Lepage is 26th in the points standings with one Top 5 and three Top 10s.

This is Lepage's second full season with Roush, with similar results. Last year, Lepage finished 25th in the points standings.

In 1998, Lepage ran 13 races for Roush, 13 for owner Joe Falk and one for Buz McCall. That year, he finished with two Top 10s and was runner-up to the late Kenny Irwin in the rookie-of-the-year battle.

The timing of the release is interesting, as Lepage's final run in the No. 16 machine will be at the track where he had perhaps his finest Winston Cup moment.

Lepage is returning to Atlanta this week as the defending Bud Pole Award winner. It was the first of his career in the series.

It's a memory he'll never forget. He had hoped it would take the team to another level of success.

"Winning the pole there last year was a real confidence boost for our team," Lepage said. "We'd taken a few hard knocks for a couple of races before Atlanta and we wanted to finish 1999 as strong as we could."

That strong qualifying run didn't carry over into this year very well, though, and pole or no pole this time around, he'll be driving elsewhere when the new season begins.

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