Owner Decisions Tear Lepage

Kevin Lepage says he’ll be racing next year, but exactly for whom and in what division, he doesn’t know.

Lepage and many familiar with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series thought the Vermont native had a lock on the wheel of Larry McClure’s No. 4 Chevrolet for the 2001 season. But as most know by now, Lepage was dropped from contention for the McClure ride after Robby Gordon was picked - in a 11 p.m. meeting – two days before the season ended in Atlanta.

Lepage has tried his best in the days since Atlanta, a race he missed with the No. 16 team now shut down by Jack Roush, to keep a low profile and not to point fingers over losing the No. 4 gig.

“When you’re talking to a team owner about a job, you know that you’re not the only one in the running for the job,” Lepage says. “And you also have to deal with sponsors who are paying a lot of money to be in Winston Cup racing. They have a big voice in who goes in their car.

“I knew it was between me and Robby, so I just had to wait and see how the cards were going to fall. Larry gave me the opportunity to sit down and talk with him a couple of different times. He had me up at his shop (in Abingdon, Va.). Larry gave me an opportunity, but the way the cards fell, he just ended up with Robby.”

Lepage can’t help but think the No. 4 ride would have been his if Roush had officially closed the No. 16 team a little earlier in the season.

“Some of reason they went with Robby was Jack Roush didn’t make the announcement he was closing the team until the Thursday before Atlanta,” Lepage explains. “That kind of caused people to wonder if I was going to leave the 16 team. Robby had the opportunity to get out of his deal earlier.

“That hurt me as far as Kodak was concerned. I had told Larry that I was getting out of my contract after Atlanta. But you never know, they could have come up with a miracle and told me I was still under contract for two more years.”

Because of the late-night Atlanta sponsorship wrangles on who the No. 4 driver was going to be, and with him being at home after not making the race, Lepage found he was no longer in the running after many fans already knew.

“The last time I talked to Larry was on Saturday after second-round qualifying at Atlanta,” Lepage says. “We were getting ready to head down the highway, and Larry was walking through the motor homes. Larry told me he was still very high on me coming to drive for him. It was between me and Robby as to who was going to be the driver of the Kodak car.

“He said he was going to sit down and let me know what was going on. But with me not being at the track on Sunday when it was announced, they didn’t happen to think to call me and let me know what was going on. I ended up finding out on the Internet.”

While virtually all the top-caliber rides are now locked up for the 2001 Winston Cup season, Lepage says if worse comes to worse, he’ll focus on a limited Busch Series campaign at a new Matrix Motorsports shop in Huntersville, N.C.

“That’s just the way things happen,” Lepage says. “Hey, this is a tough business and you’ve got to have broad shoulders. I got into Winston Cup based on what I did on the race track, and I believe I’ll be back there.”

He’s certainly keeping an open ear for a Winston Cup ride.

“We have an open phone line if there’s anybody looking for a Winston Cup driver,” Lepage says. “There are some good rides out there, I’m just waiting on the phone to ring.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000, Kevin Lepage

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