Steve Park ...
#1 Pennzoil Chevrolet
Pontiac Excitement 400
Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile oval)
Starting in his 101st Winston Cup event, Steve Park, driver of the Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-owned #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo, is getting plenty of track time this weekend in Richmond, participating in both the Busch and Winston Cup events. A very hectic schedule will keep Park hopping between the two garages while the Pennzoil team prepares the Chevrolet for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway. A rare Saturday night event on the circuit, the event is scheduled for live coverage beginning at 8 p.m. EST on May 5.
Last year's event on the .75-mile oval saw the New York native sitting on the outside pole. Challenging polesitter Rusty Wallace several times for the lead during the early stages of the 400-lap race, Park rallied from as far back as 21st to finish 11th. Park will drive the same Monte Carlo that gave him that not only a good run in that first race at Richmond, but also the fourth-place finish there in the fall night race. The same car also saw action at Martinsville earlier this season.
The Pennzoil team has seen early success in the 2001 Winston Cup season. At this point last year, Park stood 20th in driver points after posting three top-10 finishes with his best effort being a fourth-place finish at Atlanta. Now, 10 races into this season, the 33-year-old driver boasts a victory along with two second-place finishes to put him eighth in the Winston Cup points standings. Although the team has suffered some bad luck in the past three outings, Park can easily move back into the top-five rankings with a solid run at Richmond, something he did last fall when he led 130 laps and finished fourth.
Last weekend, Park began the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway in the seventh position. Making adjustments during the first pit stop, the Pennzoil pit crew returned Park to the track in 16th, gaining nine positions with a 14.52-second pit stop. Staying around that spot until pitting again, Park once again needed the Pennzoil Chevrolet freed-up so it would get off the corner better. With just 75 laps remaining to the 250-lap event, Park was running in the fourth spot after just attempting to pass Jeff Gordon for the second position. Pitting at lap 195, Park still ran up in the top 10 but knew he would have to return again for at least fuel. The opportunity to pit again occurred at lap 210 when another caution flag fell at lap 208. With the other teams electing to stay out, Park fell to the back of the lead lap cars in 27th. When the field returned to green flag racing with 19 laps remaining, Park began his quest back toward the front and, in those waning laps, maneuvered the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet past 12 cars to finish 15th.
"We love Richmond especially with the two good runs we had here last year. These types of races are fun because you can really get into a groove and enjoy competing up in the front. This will be a good turnaround race for us since we've had some bad luck in the last three races. I'm ready to run back up in the front again and be there at the end of the race to have a shot at the victory.
"It will be a challenge this weekend competing in both races. I looked at the schedule and realized I just should bring my running shoes with me to get between the two garages in time with all the practices and qualifying between the two series on Friday. But anytime you can get extra seat time, I welcome it, especially at Richmond where I typically run well."
"Since we had pretty good runs here last year, we're pretty comfortable at Richmond. The only difference between last year and this is the tire and we had an opportunity to test the new style of tire this past December in Lakeland. I think we got a pretty good handle on what it (tire) wants. The schedule is a little tight on Friday but I like having the last practice at night so we can get a better race setup in comparison to having practice during the heat of the day."