Veteran Portland Press Herald motorsports scribe Steve Solloway once pulled me aside -- OK, it was more than once, but who's counting, anyway? -- and told me the story of Kevin Lepage picking coins out of a motorhome seat cushion, trying to pay for food for he and his wife as he chased a NASCAR opportunity with everything he had back in the day.
Lepage is still chasing as furiously as ever -- and in a world where I rarely root for anyone on the track, I find it hard not to pull for Lepage to find some measure of success in the Nationwide Series this season. It's been almost 10 years since Lepage last won a race of any kind in NASCAR. That's a lot of lefthand turns between wins for the former American-Canadian Tour driver from Shelburne, Vt.
But for all his trying, Lepage is being rewarded this weekend with a chance not many drivers in his position ever get. His last Nationwide Series win came in 1998 at Bristol while driving for car owner Doug Taylor. This weekend, Lepage returns to the site of his, umm, most recent triumph for thet same car owner in Taylor.
Can Lepage win this weekend at Bristol in an unsponsored Ford? No, probably not. But he and Taylor are looking forward to seeing where the team is at in the 4th race of the season.
"As we joined forces once again (in January) we commented to each other that this year’s first race at Bristol would be that much more significant as a milestone of our season’s progression," Taylor said. "This race is very important to our team."
He may have a different perspective now than he once did, but hasn't every race always been important to Lepage? How else to explain digging coins out of seat cushions or taking the time to run the Oxford 250 with a start-up Late Model team in 2007 — while mired in the middle of a stretch where it was virtually impossible to qualify his Cup Series car for racing on Sundays?
No wonder we can pull for a guy like this.