Charlotte Steve Park takes one too many hits

Park takes one too many hits By Matthew Hood Leach CONCORD, N.C. (May 20, 2000) A 19th-place start in a field of only 20 cars? No problem. Sheet-metal damage from someone else's wreck? Forgettaboutit. But a 180-mph encounter with the Turn 1...

Park takes one too many hits
By Matthew Hood Leach

CONCORD, N.C. (May 20, 2000) A 19th-place start in a field of only 20 cars? No problem. Sheet-metal damage from someone else's wreck? Forgettaboutit. But a 180-mph encounter with the Turn 1 wall during The Winston at Lowe's Motor Speedway was too much for Steve Park to overcome.

After all he had endured to get to that point, it was no wonder the third-year driver was a little steamed. Actually, he was more than a little steamed.

On lap 62 of 70, Park nudged Joe Nemechek to take second place behind Dale Jarrett. On the next circuit Nemechek hit Park from behind and sent him spinning. Park's Pennzoil Chevy slammed the oustide retaining wall before being nailed in the side by Tony Stewart's Pontiac. His car was mangled, and Park's temper wasn't in much better shape.

Once he was checked out at the infield care center, Park quickly made his way to Nemechek's hauler to discuss the incident. An animated conversation took place within the No. 33 team's hauler, but when Park emerged he had cooled down. A bit.

"It was just a friendly discussion," Park said -- with some understatement -- after he walked out of from the Oakwood Homes hauler. "Me and Joe are friends and our families are friends. I just wanted to clarify what happened. I just thought it was uncalled for. It wasn't even a heated discussion. It was just a discussion."

The wreck brought an unfortunate end to what might have been a historic evening for the third-year driver.

Park won the Winston Open, the 30-lap qualifying race for NASCAR's all-star event, in dominating fashion, earning him the No. 19 starting position in the big show.

He passed three cars on the first lap, and by lap 10 he had charged into 11th place. Two laps later he made an impressive move on the oustide, passing Nemechek and Jeff Gordon to move into ninth. The No. 1 was quite possibly the best car on the track, and it seemed Park might become the second driver to win The Winston after qualifying via the Winston Open.

Park made his way into the top-5 by the end of the first 30-lap segment. He was pushed back to eighth in the inversion of the top-12 runners before the second segment, and was running there when he got caught in his first wreck of the night.

Gordon and Rusty Wallace tangled, and when Park checked up, Dale Earnhardt got into the back of him. Park's car suffered only cosmetic damage, but it was enough to knock him back to 13th place soon after the restart.

Still, the 1 car continued to charge, and had taken sixth place by the end of the second segment. When two cars ahead of him came in for pit stops before the final dash, Park climbed to fourth place. With Bill Elliott fading, Park made his move around (and perhaps through) Nemechek for second.

"I thought we had a car that could win," Park said. "It's The Winston, no points and a lot of money on the line. I feel bad for my guys. They worked hard to get the car in the race and right there at the end I thought we might have something for them, but it wasn't to be.

"The car was quick. It showed at the end there. We were able to run the outside real good. When Bill Elliott checked up that gave us the opportunity to go by. I got by Joe on the outside. I thought Joe and I were both going to have the opportunity to run down Dale Jarrett there at the end.

"I'm just glad everybody is OK. That was a pretty hard lick. It's just fortunate we can go into each other's trailers and talk about these things. I didn't spin him out." -nascar.com-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Steve Park , Joe Nemechek