As the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series comes to a close with only one race remaining on the schedule, Morgan McClure Motorsports suffered its first engine failure of the year after just 130 laps of Sunday's 393-lap Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.

While showing potential in the race by advancing as high as 18th, the No. 4 Kodak Pontiac expired on lap 131. Kevin Lepage pulled the car into the garage to find a part had failed in the power plant.

Lepage began the last November Winston Cup race at The Rock with a car which was free everywhere around the track. During radio communication on Lap 92, Lepage alerted the team of the engine overheating and tape was removed on the next pit stop. The car gave no indication before the part broke but when it did break it was terminal and left Lepage 42nd on the results page.

The end of the year is also punishing on a few of the Morgan-McClure crewmembers. Crew Chief Tim Brewer spent most of Saturday night at a hospital being diagnosed with kidney stones. He was in agony as he sat atop the pit cart calling the shots for the event. He hopes to pass the stones before leaving for Homestead.

Tony Cardamone, jackman for the team, had to sit out this race as well as Homestead due to ligament surgery on his hand. While jacking the car in Phoenix, the jack handle ripped Cardamone's ligament from his knuckles. He had surgery last Wednesday and his hand will remain with a finger splint and bandaged for approximately five weeks. Mike Schmuck, a Busch Series crewmember, filled in as jackman.

"The Kodak Pontiac was pretty good before the engine blew on it," said a dejected Lepage, who hopes to remain with the #4 Kodak team next year. "It is the end of the year, we were trying something new with it and it did not work. We had a fast car.

"The entire team worked hard. The crew had a stand-in jackman, but they adjusted and did a great job.

"We will go to Homestead to test and close out this year. It will be interesting to see the improvements they have made to the track there."



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