#1 Pennzoil Chevrolet
Martinsville Speedway (.526-mile oval)
Seven races into the 2001 Winston Cup season and Steve Park, driver of the Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-owned #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo, sits fourth in the points standings -- the highest ranking in his young career. Heading into Martinsville Speedway this weekend, Park starts in his 98th Winston Cup event just 123 points behind Dale Jarrett in the top spot. The Virginia 500 is scheduled for live coverage beginning at 1 p.m. EST on Sunday, April 8.
It seems as though Park has been busy chasing Jarrett this season, not only in the points standings but on the track as well. In two races this season, the N.Y. native has followed the points leader to the finish line. At Darlington, Park led the most laps only to have a late caution allow Jarrett to take over the lead following a pit stop. This past weekend at Texas, Park again had one of the dominant cars and a late caution afforded him the opportunity to pit for four tires. A strategy also used by Jarrett' s team. The two easily worked their way back through the field from sixth and seventh to finish first and second, giving Park his fifth top-10 finish of the season.
Leading in five of the seven races competed, Park has amassed more than 540 miles from the front spot, second only to three-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon. Park also is second to Gordon in the number of laps led -- Park with 458 and Gordon with 524. While Gordon has led 21 different times throughout the first seven events, Park accumulated that many laps by leading only 13 different times in five races. Park failed to lead a lap at Vegas and Atlanta.
By winning $270,443 for his efforts at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, Park has now amassed more than the $5 million in prize winnings since joining the Winston Cup circuit in 1997.
Although Martinsville hasn't always been good to the 33-year-old, Park recently tested at the .526-mile with positive results. Competing in his seventh event at Martinsville, Park has faired only average in previous events with his best finish occurring last fall when he took the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish. In the previous starts, Park has averaged a 26th-place starting position while finishing in an average position of 22.83 -- stats that are surely to change with the recent string of successes for the Pennzoil team.
In last year's spring event at Martinsville, Park ran eighth at the halfway point before going a lap down at lap 296 of the 500-circuit race. A stop and go penalty for passing on the left during a restart then put him another down with 125 remaining. In spite of spinning twice and a damaged Monte Carlo, Park captured a 25th-place finish. The event last year posted a record number of cautions (17 for 112 laps).
Crew Chief Paul Andrews: "We found out lots at the test that will help us during the race. Although we ran through some things that didn't work during our qualifying runs, we're hopeful that we've figured those problems out. I think we discovered what not to do. Martinsville is a tough track to test since it changes throughout the actual race weekend as rubber builds up. We were finding those same situations occurring during the test."
"Steve is really good with brakes and very cautious so we're not really worried about that; we're more concerned with the handling and getting the Pennzoil car to come off the corners nice and strong."
Steve Park: "Each week we're just trying to improve upon our previous performances. Not getting too optimistic. For Martinsville, we're just shooting for a top 10. I felt good about the test as far as the race setup was concerned. It was getting through the corners smooth and that's what Martinsville really requires so you can save on the brakes. The better the car, the less brakes you have to use."