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Lepage one of several in race from NASCAR

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 1, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH -- For NASCAR veteran Kevin Lepage, it felt good to drive the second-fastest car in the Rolex 24 starting grid. But then he is happy to be behind the wheel of any race car these days.

"I'm without a NASCAR ride at the moment, so it feels good to just put my foot into it on the banks of Daytona again," said Lepage, who will share driving chores with Scott Lagasse, Dave Riggins and Dave Machavern in the No. 48 GTS Mustang.

Though Riggins' qualifying run was second to the GTS Corvette of Justin Bell, the car starts eighth because Grand American Road Racing awarded the new Daytona Prototypes the top six starting slots.

Lepage, who has driven for several Busch and Winston Cup teams since 1994, is somewhat of a rookie when it comes to road racing. Still, he figures he has a knack for the sport.

"To me it's a lot like driving a big go-kart around," Lepage said.

He isn't the only NASCAR driver at the track this weekend. Kyle Petty and Derrike Cope are enjoying some seat time in the sports-car world.

Said Cope, "In NASCAR, you don't get a lot of opportunities to turn right, so any time you get a chance, you go for it. A lot of times it turns out we know a lot more about road racing than people give us credit for."

YOUNGEST STARTER: When Tom Hessert III makes his first Rolex 24 start today, he'll set a record. At 16, he'll be the youngest to start the event.

Hessert, from Cherry Hill, N.J., will drive the No. 68 Racer's Group Porsche whose lineup also includes his father, Tom Jr.

"Being here all week has been unbelievably awesome," said the younger Hessert, who sports-car race experience includes club racing and semipro events.

The mark for the youngest starter in the Rolex 24 was set by Clint Field, who co-drove at 17 with his father, Jon Field, in 2001.

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