Park, Lopez More Time to Prepare for Daytona

Park, Lopez get Daytona reprieve MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 8, 1998) Pennzoil Chevrolet driver Steve Park and crew chief Philippe Lopez might be the only two people in America happy with the news that last Saturday's Pepsi 400 at Daytona ...

Park, Lopez get Daytona reprieve

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 8, 1998) Pennzoil Chevrolet driver Steve Park and crew chief Philippe Lopez might be the only two people in America happy with the news that last Saturday's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway was postponed until Saturday, Oct. 17.

Neither Park nor Lopez were pleased that fire disrupted so many lives in the Central Florida area and they certainly sympathize with race fans whose travel plans must be altered to attend the October race. But last weekend's postponement means that both Park and Lopez will participate in the first-ever night race on the 2.5-mile high-banked track when it once appeared they would be relegated to watching the historical race on television.

Park is recovering from a broken right femur, left collarbone and right shoulder blade suffered in a March 6 wreck in Atlanta and will return to the No. 1 Monte Carlo on Aug. 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"First off, and most importantly, my thoughts and prayers go out to the people in Central Florida whose homes have been damaged by the fires," Park said. "I rode my motorcycle to Florida and was there for a few days and I couldn't believe the devastation. I also couldn't believe the amount of volunteers and firemen who were down there helping out. I've never seen anything like that before.

"I guess if there is an upside it's that I will get to race. Obviously, I'm excited. Before the season started I remember looking at the schedule and thinking that's going to be one of the best races of the year. To see our cars on a superspeedway at night will be cool.

"This also means we can use this race to add to our point totals in the rookie of the year battle. They take the top-15 finishes, so when the season is over we will have run 17 races. I know we are at a disadvantage because of the time we missed, so right now we can use every break we can get."

Lopez did not plan to attend the race in order to stay in Charlotte where his wife Angela gave birth to twin girls, Sidney Frances and Ashley Colette Lopez, on June 29.

"If there was a small blemish about becoming a new father it was the timing in missing Daytona, but I'm pretty excited about getting to go in October," Lopez said. "I wish it were under different circumstances, because nobody likes what those fires have done to Florida. The 15 consecutive races at the end of the year means we are going to have to be very well organized not to burn our guys out. If we aren't careful it will start showing up in the results.

"Mistakes are made when guys are burned out. Every team is facing that. Now it's going to be harder to get the guys days off and Lord knows we don't give them enough right now. In Winston Cup racing, we try to give our road guys about one day off every two weeks. It seldom works out that way, but they understand that. "

The new schedule poses some challenges to the Dale Earnhardt Inc., crew chief. The season will end with 15 consecutive races beginning at Indianapolis and ending at Atlanta on Nov. 8. It also means, for the first time in NASCAR history, two restrictor-plate races will be run on consecutive weekends when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visits Talladega on Oct. 11 and the make-up date at Daytona on Oct. 17.

"Running two superspeedways back-to-back is going to make a lot of people nervous," Lopez said. "Right now, we don't have three speedway cars and really don't plan to have another done before those races. We have more important things to work on right now than building a potential, worst-case scenario race car for October. Of course, you can go through two speedway cars in one weekend and that could leave you without a back-up car for the second weekend.

"Everyone will get by the first week, but the problem is the second weekend. A lot of the crew chiefs are going to be pretty nervous those two weeks. In fact, a lot of people right now are arranging deals with each other. If they run into trouble they might use another team's third car if they aren't in trouble."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Steve Park