STEVE PARK , NO. 1 PENNZOIL CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: DID YOU PUT ANY EXTRA EMPHASIS ON THIS RACE? "No special emphasis was put on this race. We just looked at the first nine races and we knew we struggled qualifying, so the emphasis was put on ...
STEVE PARK , NO. 1 PENNZOIL CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
DID YOU PUT ANY EXTRA EMPHASIS ON THIS RACE? "No special emphasis was put on this race. We just looked at the first nine races and we knew we struggled qualifying, so the emphasis was put on making a race car that is not only going to race good, but qualify good. That's what the guys did. When you ask these people to work 20 hours a day, if they don't believe in this team and they don't believe in my ability, then it's very hard. You'll have people quitting and you'll have people saying, 'I don't want to work 20 hours a day. What for?' It just showed today that through all the hard work and all the effort that was put in, that if we can do this I'm going to put the car on the pole. They help up their end of the bargain. I help up my end of the bargain. Among all the media rumors about me losing my job and me not being with DEI - like I said, our contract is up at the end of the year. I guarantee you I plan on being in that race car until the end of the year. I don't race to finish 20th. I race to win. If I don't have the confidence in my team to win, then I need to go somewhere else. But, I have the confidence in Tony Gibson, all the new people that we hired, the engine shop, the whole team that we had that we can do stuff like this - like we can sit on poles and we can win races. We're not going to stop this year until we do that. That'll quiet all the critics that we have and everything else. If the driver doesn't have the confidence in the team, then he is not going to do well. I have all the confidence in the world that this Pennzoil team is a team that can qualify on the pole and win races. Among all the hogwash that I have to read that all the press puts out there - I mean, I have broad shoulders - just dish it out because I can take it all. You know who is going to look like a fool when all this is done? All the press people because when I'm in victory lane winning races, everybody that has had a bad thing to say about this race team is going to bite their tongue. I'm going to put it in their face and show it to them that not only were they wrong, but if they expect Steve Park to be polite to them and honor their wishes now that things are going good, that is not going to happen. We can all decide our future. My future with DEI is one that is strong right now. We want to qualify on the pole like we did today. We want to win on Sunday. Our goals haven't changed. That is something that we want to do. To not run well is something that hurts us all as a team, as a driver. It makes us more focused to go out, work on our race cars and make them a car that can not only qualify on the pole, but win races. We're not going to stop until we do that."
DOES THIS POLE STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DEI? "It doesn't make a difference. What makes a difference is your thinking of it. I feel like our team is solid. Our relationship is one that dates back to '96 when Dale Earnhardt hired me to come to this race team, so it's a long standing relationship that I've had with Ty Norris and Teresa Earnhardt and the late Dale Earnhardt and it's one that I'm not giving up on. If I drive the Pennzoil car for 20 years, that's great. That is something I want to do. The main thing I want to do is win races and get back to the form that this team was heading for before I got hurt. We're not going to quit until that is done.
"Again, contract negotiations are something that is publicized in the press and sells newspapers, but our main focus hasn't changed. My shoulders just got broader for the fact that no matter what people say, my main focus, my main goal is to sit on poles and win races. I've got the confidence in the new Pennzoil team that we built - Ty Norris and Teresa Earnhardt gave us the opportunity to put the tools together to give us the opportunity to do stuff like this. All your confidence has wavered. My confidence hasn't wavered. Our team's confidence hasn't wavered. They've worked tirelessly to make us a car that can sit on the pole."
HAVE THERE BEEN TIMES THAT YOU'VE FELT LIKE 'THE OTHER DEI CAR?' "No, nothing hurts me. I've been through a lot in the last year and a half. I'm telling you what, nothing hurts me. People need to remember that on restrictor plate tracks that DEI has a third car and we showed that at Talladega. This team - I've never seen this team work so closely and so well together with the '8' and the '15' that it has this year. That starts with Tony Gibson and his leadership. Even though we have three race teams, we have one team. We have one team with three race cars. That's the best I've seen it work in the last four years. Again, the Pennzoil team is a team that is just getting stronger and stronger and it's working together with the other teams to make it a team that is capable of running up front on restrictor plate tracks like Daytona, like Talladega. We had a car that I thought could win the race at Talladega and really got DQ'd in the pits because the spoiler brace got knocked off when the '12' car hit the wall and NASCAR made us sit for two or three laps to fix it, instead of letting us go back out and not lose a lap. But, with all that said, the finishes have not been indicative of how the car has run. The car has been strong at times in the races and the finishes just haven't showed that. We need to get poles. We need to win races and we know what we need to do.
"I'm telling you right now as we sit here, I'm fixing to win races. That's the only way it's going to quiet all the critics down. I have all the confidence in the world in where I'm at and the team that I'm with that we can do that."
HAS ANYBODY AT THE TEAM COME TO YOU AND TOLD YOU THAT YOU ARE UNDER FIRE? "Nobody has put their finger on, 'You have to do A, B and C in order to stay in the race car.'"
TY NORRIS , EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, DALE EARNHARDT, INC.:
ON PARK'S STATUS "Steve and I talked about three weeks ago and said...'Let's pull for each other, let's help each other.' When that happens, no matter what anybody says outside these walls, we're not going to concern ourselves with it.
"Steve Park has to get every single thing he can possible get from us this year. At the start of this year we felt like he was in the best position to be competitive again that he had been in a while. The poor guy - he lived with me for a while. It's not like we're not good friends. It's a personal thing.
"We just said, 'Let's believe in ourselves, in each other, in Tony Gibson and everybody on that Pennzoil team. And, Steve, you believe in those guys, then we'll be successful. If there is a point that you don't believe in them and they don't believe in you, then we'll all sit down here like men.' We're not going to handle it like we did last year because we flat out butchered it."
ON BEATING RYAN NEWMAN FOR THE POLE "That was the bullet we were trying to dodge. When we looked at the lineup of how we were going out, we had a lot of things working for us - going out late. Then I looked and Ryan was going out even later than we were, so I knew if we did have the opportunity to be on the front row that we'd have to beat Ryan. Beating him says a lot for this race team because Ryan has just been strong all year long. He qualifies great, so we knew it was a bullet to dodge. Thankfully, we dodged it today. We just did everything we could in our power to put that Pennzoil car on the front row - as close the front we could. We knew we had a shot at the pole if everything went right. Then, when I pulled out on the racetrack and the sun popped out I was like, 'Oh man.' Just when you thought everything was going in your favor the sun popped out, but it really didn't affect us. We backed up our speed and Ryan just fell off a little bit. Thank God we were able to sit on the pole.
"I think this is the beginning. I'm so glad and I'm so confident in the guys that I have to be able to work so hard. You wouldn't believe how hard they worked this week to not only to bring the car to the wind tunnel, but to work on it in the shop and make sure the tires don't hit it. They just put so much effort into making this car into a car that we could qualify that it just rewards not only myself, but the whole, entire team. It just went to show them that with the hard work, it is definitely going to pay off. It showed me today, too, that with the confidence I have in the team and the confidence I have in myself and my ability that if given the car to put on the pole, we're going to put it on the pole. You've got to remember, it has been a year and a half since we sat in here. It's been a long time. You can just imagine what has transpired in the last year and a half for me. It's been a tremendous amount. But, I'm resilient. I'm like an old pair of shoes. You can just keep tossing me to the side and I'm just still fitting good every time you put them on. We want to put injury and everything else behind us and just get back to our old ways and that is winning poles and winning races again."
DOES THIS POLE MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE RELATIONSHIP? "Not really. We have always said that you don't need to win races, you need to compete to win races. Once you compete to win races, then eventually your wins will come.
"If he qualified outside pole and Ryan Newman would have beat him or Tony Stewart would have beat him we would have qualified third - the momentum of a good run and knowing you have a good race car and knowing when you do have a good car that your driver steps up and performs - that's what would have thrilled us. Pole, second third - the pole is definitely a bonus. But, in of itself is not exactly what he needed. What we needed was to come out here, unload fast like we did, have the confidence that the car is going to be there, have the confidence that Steve is going to be there when it counted."
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE OTHER COMPETITORS BE SO HAPPY FOR YOU TODAY? "I think they read the same stuff y'all write. It's been highly publicized what we've all been through as a team in the last year. It's just nice to see. Ricky Craven came over and he was just so happy and ecstatic. He was like, 'Man, hopefully it's just going to get easier from here.' And, that is what I'm hoping, too. But, if it doesn't, I'm ready for that, too. The main thing to quiet your critics is just winning poles, winning races, competing for races, putting yourself in a position to win.
"This isn't a 'Cinderella Story.' This isn't the, 'You won the pole - everything is going to be OK from here on out.' It' just a first step that we needed to take to lift this whole team up to where it needs to be. We haven't qualified good all year long, so we knew that. It wasn't like we needed people to tell us that. We knew that. These guys had the confidence to work twice as hard to get this car that qualified good with. It just goes to show that hard work paid off.
"Now, the next step is to run good. We need to run good on Sunday. We need to qualify and run good all year long. This race team - if you come around and look at it - is nine races old and it's all brand new people except for one. It's not the Pennzoil team you've seen around for the last four or five years. It's a brand new race team, but it's a team that I have the confidence in that is going to be able to do things like we did today and win races. I'm pretty happy about that."