INDIANAPOLIS -- Starting in the lucky 13th position, Pennzoil driver Steve Park knew he had a strong car for the Brickyard 400 on Sunday afternoon after posting the fastest time during final practice and then demonstrated his strength as he led...
INDIANAPOLIS -- Starting in the lucky 13th position, Pennzoil driver Steve Park knew he had a strong car for the Brickyard 400 on Sunday afternoon after posting the fastest time during final practice and then demonstrated his strength as he led the most laps en route to his best finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"We had a good car and again it showed you that rack position was key," said Park. "I'm real proud of this whole Pennzoil Chevrolet team. We've got a great trace team and we ran strong all day long today."
A little loose in the beginning, Park moved the Pennzoil Chevrolet into the top 10 by the 35th circuit behind the strong horsepower of the DEI engine and then led for one lap during green flag pit stops on lap 63. Continually fighting his way through traffic and making strong passes along the backstretch, Park took over the lead from crowd favorite and Indy native Tony Stewart at lap 80 with help from his teammate Michael Waltrip, who stayed on the high line to keep Stewart at bay.
Pulling away from the field, Park had more of a 4-second advantage over the second-place driver when the caution came out for debris at lap 132. Although he would have needed to pit for fuel only later in the race, Park saw his lead dissipate when the yellow flag brought the field back together. Deciding to take on four tires along with fuel on the final pit stop, Park returned to the track in the eighth position. Fighting hard to work back into the lead, Park swapped positions with several cars late in the race and finished seventh.
Leading the most laps (39) of any driver, Park earned five bonus points in the championship race and jumped two positions to 11th in the standings with the top 10 within his grasp being 82 points from the next spot.
"It's gut wrenching to let this one slip away," said Park. "To be able to dominate the race and run as well as we did and then lose it in the last 30 laps is really hard. You work all day to try to win it and then give it away at the end. Fortunately, I'm young and I'll race a lot more of these races in the years to come."
Winning his third Brickyard, Jeff Gordon claimed the victory as Sterling Marlin, Johnny Benson, Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
"My hats off the Jeff Gordon," continued Park. "They made the right call at the end. They came in the pits and took two tires and they got him out first. The last pit stop just got us a little bit behind and with only 20 laps to go and a bunch of cautions there was not enough time to work our way back up front."