STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Park finished ninth Sunday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 and moved from 20th to 17th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. The 32-year-old Islip, N.Y., native...
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Park finished ninth Sunday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 and moved from 20th to 17th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. The 32-year-old Islip, N.Y., native has four top-10 finishes this season, his third behind the wheel of the Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Monte Carlo.
"The Pennzoil team has been working hard. We didn't have an opportunity to go there (Charlotte) and test, but we felt with the new car the guys had built it would be a great opportunity to run that car in The Winston Open and hopefully get in The Winston. We were hoping to get through both of those races (Winston Open and The Winston) and run that car in the Coca-Cola 600, but unfortunately we had a late-race crash in The Winston that kept us from doing that. We went to a car that wasn't necessarily a backup car but a car we ran last year (in Coca-Cola 600) and led 80 laps, so we had a lot of confidence in that car also. "We had a good race car at times. With the sun being out it's usually a guessing game at Charlotte how loose you need to be in order to be in good position or have a good handling car once the sun goes down. We started the race a little bit too loose. We were running near the top 10, and I was pushing it a little bit too hard and got the car spun around in turn four. I gathered it back up and didn't hit nothing and was able to come in for tires and get the car tightened up a little bit and work our way back in the top 10 most of the night. We felt we could have had a late-race charge and gotten out of the pits near the top five that we probably had a top five car. We seemed to struggle a little bit all night staying near the top 10. Late in the race we made a good run toward the top 10. "I'm kind of partial to it (two weeks at Charlotte) only because I live in the Charlotte area. The guys that are based in Charlotte, I don't think, mind being here two weeks because we're home. We consider Charlotte our home track. We get to sleep in our own beds at night and definitely enjoy being a part of The Winston weekend and having a day off between The Winston and Coke 600. Although two weeks seems like a long time for two races, it's not as bad when you live in the area and you can spend those two weeks at home with your family. "What's made racing what it is today is the excitement and what brings fan s to the race track is seeing some hard driving. You hear people complain that Winston Cup races are too long and there's not much excitement in the middle segments. I believe with The Winston being as exciting as it is and seeing the way the grandstands were filled to almost a sold out crowd, it shows that not only from a driver's standpoint, we like the excitement of it. It gives us an opportunity to display some new paint schemes and not worry about the Winston Cup championship points. Without a doubt, the fans love it. You can just tell by the turnout of fans for The Winston. They are the ones that have motivated this sport and propelled this sport to where it is today. We need to continue to do what we feel is right, and that's please the race fans. "I'm probably not as popular as my boss is, but I've spent a lot of time with him and I haven't heard him comment on feeling that himself or his family have ever been put in a position they feel is dangerous. We mingle with the race fans a lot, and I'd say 99 percent of them are very gracious, not only at the race track but when you have 170,000 people located in your hometown, even when we go out to dinner and stuff, 99 percent of them are gracious enough to wait until you're done eating or not interrupt you when you're trying to have a meal with your family. I think it just shows that the NASCAR fans not only love what we're doing, but they also respect some of our time. I think it's different than other sports. You see the incidents that happened in baseball just a couple of weeks ago where a player went up in the stands. You just don't see that in NASCAR. You see it more in the NFL and baseball and all the other stick and ball sports. I think we all love what we're doing, and we respect the race fans as much as they respect us. "The fans are there to have a good time. It seems like baseball and football, there's different states competing against each other. I think there's more rivalry in the stands among baseball fans and football fans where you've got a New York team playing against an L.A. team or something. I think there's tension brewing in the stands to start with in the stick and ball sports. NASCAR fans are there, not representing their own personal state but representing maybe one or a couple of drivers so you have more of a diverse fan. They're not there defending their own state or their own town that they live in. They're there to watch a good race or to watch one of their personal favorites that they've picked for one reason or the other do well. "All I know is I didn't throw it in reverse on Nemechek, so I don't think it was me pressing too hard. I think he was pressing too hard in that incident. At Texas with the Pruett incident, yeah, I was pressing hard. I had a car capable of winning that race. I showed courtesy and patience for a lap or two and when I got a run on Scott, he tried to defend his position. It was a racing deal, and we had talked about it afterwards, but I've been given good race cars this year, and I think you can tell by my driving style, when you have a car that's capable of running up front you can get up on the steering wheel and drive the heck out of it. There's no undue pressure from Little E's success. They have a team that's been together for a long time, and they're like family. They've jelled obviously in the Busch Series with two championships. They've moved that whole team up to Winston Cup and continue their success. We're just finishing our building stages with the addition of Paul Andrews and some of the people he's brought on board. We've been in position to win a couple of times this year. We've had some mechanical failures and some other things have happened to keep us out of victory lane, but I think we're going to struggle to get that first win. For some undue reason, trying to pass some bad luck or whatever, but I think once we get that first one, the second and third ones won't be too far behind it. We're not putting any undue pressure on ourselves. By looking at our record of top 10s, we've put ourselves in position to win a lot. It just needs to click. We need to be near that top five toward the end of the race, get a good pit stop, get out in the top five and race for the win. That's what we're working to put ourselves in position to do. "No I have not (signed new contract with DEI). Right now, it's up in the air. We've been in heavy negotiations, and Dale has done a great job of trying to make it a priority for me to get something in place so that I can get back to concentrating on trying to win our first race and not be a part of that big silly season at the end of the year. There's opportunities out there right now that might not be opportunities in the next few months, but Dale and I have had a long standing relationship, and we're both working hard on trying to get something done. We've both made a commitment to each other to try to work things out among ourselves first before we do something else. We've looked at different areas of the contract, and we're just trying to negotiate some of the small stuff through it. Me and Dale have made obligations to each other to try to solidify this amongst ourselves first before we do anything else. "Pontiac has obviously had a lot of success if you look at last year. What NASCAR has done is let Fords have some rule changes for this year that has helped them out. They let Chevrolet kick their front nose out to try help their front downforce. We're still not convinced that's the answer for Chevrolets, but it's been a band-aid for right now that's been working. I think we have parity among the three auto makers. I'm sure Pontiac feels like they've been left out on the rule changes, but they have been pushing pretty hard trying to get something that will enhance the performance of their make. Right now, I think if you look at the finishes over the last few months, since they've given Chevrolet the rule change, that you see a good mix of Ford, Chevrolet and Pontiacs up near the front. NASCAR does a good job of looking at the cars in the wind tunnel and making sure they all have an equal amount of downforce. I'm not for a rule change that's going to make us all run common templates. I think that having brand identity among the three makes, and now the fourth with Dodge coming in, is what's built this sport from the beginning. I don't think we all need to be running IROC cars out there. I think as long as we can all keep looking different and having the same aerodynamic downforce, front and rear... NASCAR has done a good job in the past doing that, and I'm sure they're going to continue looking at it for the future. "Dover is a great race track. We've had some really good finishes up there in the past. We're real excited about going there this week. Just like every weekend, it seems like every track we've been to so far we've had a decent amount of success at. The concrete has made Dover very durable, and you don't hear as many complaints as you used to about it because everybody has gotten the shocks figured out and Goodyear has brought a good tire there. It makes for a good race. I'm excited about this week and going up there. "We've looked at it, but we're hoping we all stay away from common templates. NASCAR comes to all of our shops and talks to all of the crew chiefs and engineers and tries to get a good roundabout plan of what direction they should be going in. We're not for common templates, but we're continuing to prepare for what the future is going to bring. Hopefully that will get scratched and we can continue to have brand awareness on the race track among the four auto makers. "You hear people talk about chemistry until you're blue in the face. I think Dale Jr.'s team has shown what keeping the same group of guys together for a long period of time can produce on the race track. We've been so far away from that until the addition of Paul Andrews. He's been a breath of fresh air for myself as a driver, to have someone I get along with and become good friends with and also have the same direction in what we need in a race car to be successful. I've got a lot of confidence in Paul and Dave Charpentier and Steve Hmiel and the guys who are building the cars and the engine shop. We just finally feel like this is the first year we have a foundation that we can build on. We haven't felt like we've been capable of winning races. From the beginning of the year this year, we feel like we're knocking on the door of getting to our first victory lane and the closer and closer we get it's like a bunch of sharks with blood in the water. We can smell it, and we're getting ready to kick it down. "Dover is close to where I've run a lot of races up in the Northeast. We get a lot of race fans up there, and I usually try to go to the souvenir trailer and sign autographs and spend a little extra time with a lot of people and a lot of race fans that I used to see a lot and don't see as often as I'd like to. We have a large fan base in not only the tri-state area, but also in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and a lot of the northeastern states. It's exciting. It's what keeps you going through the hard times, and it's the people you want to celebrate with during the good times. Hopefully we're going to give them something to cheer about in these next couple of weeks and get our first win. "People have to realize he's in the shop every day. He loves race cars and he spends as little time as possible in the office and leaves a lot of the business stuff up to Teresa and meetings they have among themselves. The rest of the time he's kicking around the shop or in the engine shop or having lunch with everybody. He's a pretty hands-on car owner. It's great to have the opportunity to have a car owner who not only has had a lot of success in the past but also knows auto racing. He's helped us out more than a few times looking at what we're doing and the directions we're going in. He's been down that path before and knows it's not quite the right way. The best thing he's done is surround ourselves with good, quality people that have been around auto racing for a long time. We feel like we're surrounded with some of the best people in racing. We've got probably one of the best developing engine shops. The guys are building good cars, and Dale Jr. has proved that. Nothing would please me more than to put that Pennzoil car in victory lane. "It is strange. We're in the midst of a race season, and everybody's focus is on getting through these races and trying to develop these cars and getting them to be the best they can be without having to worry about changing them all again. We all just went to a new body style, and Ford went through a bunch of changes. We just don't want to see the sport lose its brand identity by going to a common template and making all the cars look the same. I know they've tested bigger greenhouses on the superspeedways to try to eliminate some of the problems of restrictor-plate racing and give us some of the horsepower and slow the cars down aerodynamically. That is something that NASCAR is working hard on, but I don't think you're going to see it going the way of common templates. We built specialized cars for speedway racing so it wouldn't be as big of a deal as just putting a bigger greenhouse on our speedway cars and then leaving the rest of our cars alone and not going to a common template. We haven't prepared an R&D car to go to Daytona and test some of the bigger greenhouse stuff that they did at Talladega. I know Richard Childress has at Talladega, but I know for a fact we're not going to be a part of that next week down there. I know our engineers and our aerodynamic specialists are going to be a part of a group if they do test something that's going to look like it's going to be the way NASCAR is going to go that they'll be there, and I'm sure every other team will be there, too."
PAUL ANDREWS (Crew chief No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I think we're not where we need to be, but I think our performance is good. We've made some large improvements from a year ago, and there's still some more that need to be made. "When bad luck is brought on by some things we do ourselves, whether it's pit stops or whatever, or just involved in accidents or engine problems, we've had some of those. I hate to see those things. Things that are in our control, and some of those things have happened, too. There's definitely room for improvement, but nobody wants to see their car fall out of a race. "At the first of the year, there were a lot of people getting hit by cars and tires and so on and so forth. That's something we need to look at. Drivers were running through each other's pits. That's been a constant problem and something we need to continue to look at. NASCAR has finally done something about the right side tires. Now they've made a rule that you have to move the tires. That's got a lot better. Sometimes they don't want to make a rule because they don't want to have to enforce it. Sometimes it takes for them to make a rule before the problem goes away. I'm sure there's some other little things they can do to be safer. I'm not the one to look at it all the time. "It seems like the deal with Pruett (Scott at Texas), he's had several incidents after that and people can only take so much cutting them off. Sometimes you can slam on the brakes and get out of the way and sometimes you can't. That deal at The Winston, that looked like a chain reaction deal. I haven't seen any great replays of that on the back straightaway. That's not the place you'd want to get hit, going into turn one. I don't really have any problems with what Steve's been doing really. "Obviously there's going to have to be some more repeat winners than Dale Jr. The sport is competitive, and I think that's what you're seeing. It's great for the sport. The fans hate it when one driver wins 10 or 13 races. Jeff won 13 and Rusty has won 10 a lot. They hate it. I think as competitors we hate it, too. I think (many different winners) is great for the sport, and I'm glad to see it. I can't wait until it's our turn. I may be wrong, but I don't know if you'll see a single team winning 10 races again. We'll have to see. Time will tell. "I think the manufacturers all have good race cars. The Pontiac is up to speed, and it's real competitive. The Chevrolet has come out with a new 2000 Monte Carlo, and it finally came out (on the race track). Ford already had a good car, and they made it better. The adjustments we made on the Monte Carlo earlier in the year, I think we've got a real good car now. I think that's part of it right there. Everybody stepped up their program. Everybody has got really good cars right now and good engine packages and they're getting smarter and they know how to make their cars work. "(A Pontiac rule change will) probably get the two Pontiac drivers more competitive than what they are. Bobby (Labonte) was strong Sunday night at Charlotte. Everybody has their ups and downs, but I think the Pontiacs are still competitive. There's still a big controversy with the restrictor plates. The Chevrolets the second time around ran a lot better. If there's a rule change for restrictor plates, I think you'll see it for all manufacturers. They'll try to slow everybody down. The Pontiacs aren't as dominant as they were last year. "That was a special situation then (as crew chief for Alan Kulwicki). A lot of the drivers wanted to be in that same picture (as owner-driver). They thought that was magic, but that was a special situation. It took a special individual to make that work, and individuals that have tried to make the owner-driver deal work since then have fallen by the wayside. I don't know if you'll see that again. Things have changed tremendously since 1992. "I can't say that it won't happen, but things have definitely changed. We've got a unique situation here with Dale Earnhardt. He's a driver-owner, but he's not driving his own cars. He handles that real well. That's a pretty close situation, and I think that's the only way it will work is for the driver-owner to be hugely involved. To make it a multi-car concept like we have here just when Dale drives for Richard Childress still (might work), but that's as close as you'll see it. "(Kulwicki was) very determined and very dedicated to make it happen. There's so much more demand on the driver with appearances and so forth, Alan really didn't have that many demands. He did after the championship, but before that he didn't have the demands. The short time we had him after the championship, he was feeling the pressure of everybody going at him. That's part of it I think. There's so much demand on the driver now, not just on Sundays but throughout the week."