Chevrolet Driver Steve Park Interview

Tuesday, Aug. 24, 1999. Winston Teleconference with Team Monte Carlo driver Steve Park. STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We've had six top 15 finishes in the last (nine) races, which has really shown some consistency in...

Tuesday, Aug. 24, 1999. Winston Teleconference with Team Monte Carlo driver Steve Park.

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"We've had six top 15 finishes in the last (nine) races, which has really shown some consistency in the Pennzoil team. This team is capable of running in the top 10 every week and looking for its first win.

"He's (Dale Earnhardt) has put it together not only for me but for Dale Jr. and the whole DEI team, including the truck team and the Busch team. We've heard in the past that people wondered if Dale was going to put the commitment into this team that would be needed to make it competitive. I think he's shown the commitment to this sport of really putting into Winston Cup racing a little bit of what he's taken out of it. This organization is capable of winning races and winning championships in the years to come.

"I feel we can be competitive in Winston Cup. I feel like running in the top five and clicking off our first win is within our reach now, whereas before it seemed like it was in the far distance. With the addition of Dave Charpentier, and Steve Hmiel has been here for awhile, with his abilities and his knowledge of the race cars, he's helping the guys build cars that are capable of running up front. Dave Charpentier is doing a great job of working with me and also working with Paul (crew chief Andrews) to analyze information that we gather during tests and really give us an all-around better program.

"I think Bristol is a place I look forward to going to. A lot of people don't like it, but I love running on Saturday nights. It does remind me of really where I came from. I think I've proven in the past I'm not really afraid to put a wheel on somebody and not afraid to take a little wheel mark myself. Bristol is a place I definitely look forward to going to. We had a little problem qualifying there last year. I have the confidence we can go back this year and qualify well and really have a strong run on Saturday night.

"Darlington is another one of my favorites. It's challenging for a driver to get around. I think Dale Earnhardt has proven in the past that he's one of the best at Darlington. He helped me there a lot in the Busch Series, to run well there. I've just taken to Darlington as one of the places I enjoy going to also. Richmond reminds me of going back to another Saturday night short track. I'm just excited about the next three races that are up and coming.

"If the beating and banging don't get you, the carbon monoxide will (at Bristol). You usually have a pretty good headache before the night is over. Goody's has been a good sponsor for NASCAR and a big part of the growth of this sport. Bristol is a pretty awesome place, and we like to go there and mix it up. Saturday night will be a little bit cooler than racing during the day. The excitement that the fans bring there, their driver introduction and what the TV personalities do to hype up the start of that race is something that's just so exciting. I think that's what the draw to Bristol is.

"I have a great spotter. We usually have our biggest laugh and our biggest arguments at Bristol because it's not physically possible to spot accurately at Bristol because we go around there in 15 seconds. The radio transmissions don't work as fast as you can warn somebody of an upcoming incident. We work together real well over the course of the year. I have all my faith in him, and he has his faith in me. We've got the faith in The Lord, and that's all you need to get through Bristol. It's a tough place. To come out of there with just a few bumps and bruises and scrapes on your car with a top-10 finish is a huge accomplishment.

"I'm definitely looking forward to having a teammate. For thinking we're at a disadvantage, I never consider myself being at a disadvantage. If you thought that way, you'd be at a disadvantage. We have all the ingredients here to run well. We have the people now. Our whole program from cars to motors to even the driver is getting better. A year or two years ago, I remember when they dug up the first bit of dirt and built this new shop we have and stuff. Two years down the road here we sit, capable of running in the top 10 in Winston Cup. People don't realize that's a huge accomplishment to put together something like that from an upstart team that didn't even have a shop to a team that's capable of running competitively in Winston Cup in such a short amount of time. That growth is going to transfer over into that Budweiser team with Dale Jr. He's a good friend of mine and all his guys are all the guys I raced with in the Busch Series. We have a big family here that's used to working together. We're not at a disadvantage, but I think it's going to be an advantage to test at different race tracks and share all that information. We need to keep an open notebook and an open mind to make this two-car team work. I think that's what we have here at DEI.

"I've always owned my own businesses before I started racing for a living. I know how hard that was, just balancing the business side of it. Now I know what it's like just balancing the racing side of it. I couldn't imagine trying to balance it all together. I think Ricky (Rudd) does a great job. I've had the opportunity to race with him over the last year, year and a half, and he's a good race car driver, too. It's unfortunate a guy like that who has a great past in auto racing and a great future is struggling. You hate to see that happen, and it shouldn't really be happening in this modern day of Winston Cup. Hopefully Ricky is going to get a sponsor and continue to employ the people who have been with him for a long time and continue to share the success he's had. He's won a race every year since he's started racing or some sort of thing like that which is a huge accomplishment. Sitting here now looking at it, I wish I could say I could win a race every year for the next two or three years, if not more, but a guy like that shouldn't be sitting in a position not to have a sponsor.

"Last year was a year that you go in with a lot of expectation and a lot of excitement and came out after three races with a lot of disappointment and a lot of rehabilitation. I got back involved with it again late in the year. It really hurt my growth process in learning what I needed to know to be competitive in Winston Cup. It's like anything else. If you take up a sport and put it to the side and take it up a little bit later, you don't learn as much as saturating yourself with information week in and week out. That's what we've been able to do this year. The first race this year I still felt like I was starting my rookie year. All year long it's felt like my rookie year. It doesn't really feel like my sophomore year. When we go to these race tracks, I've been to 'em already once before. I couldn't say that even one month ago. I couldn't say that I had raced at all the tracks before, but now I say I can and now I look forward to going to these race tracks for the second or third time because I've grown in the sport and I feel more comfortable knowing I don't have to go and learn the race track and learn how to get in and out of the garage area and everything you go through as a rookie. I'm getting more comfortable with the race track. It's also building my confidence. I sat down and talked to Dale about it, and I said that's the first time since I started racing in Winston Cup it was like what I felt in the Busch Series. It proved to myself again, and I think it proved to everybody else, that given the right situation and the right circumstance that Steve Park can run up front. It (Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte) ended as a bittersweet night. It ended bitter, but it was sweet to feel that you were capable as a driver of running up front and capable as a team and showing a glimmer of things to come in the future and how exciting it will be to be able to do that week in and week out in Winston Cup.

"I can tell you I had a dad who raced. We grew up in a great home and really weren't saturated with a lot of money. I wouldn't change a thing from the way I was born and raised and brought up in a racing family. It taught me some values early. If I wanted to race, my dad never pushed me into racing. He introduced me to it, and I took to it like a duck to water. As I grew in racing, he taught me or I had to learn that I had to work and respect everything that I had. Nothing was ever given to me. I had to work three jobs and earn the money and buy the parts. My dad would work 24 hours a day side by side with me to give me all the support and help he could. Financially, I needed to go out and work for it.

"As I grew in racing, when it got to the point where I couldn't work three jobs and afford to pay for it, it taught me the side of racing where I had to market myself and go out and try to attract a sponsor. It helped me grow in that area, too. I think growing up the way I did made me a racer that was capable of working on the cars, promoting himself, going out trying to get sponsors and then balance the whole thing. In owning my own team and learning the business side of it and the racing side of it. I can tell you what. When I was capable of racing for somebody else, I think I became a better driver not having to own all that stuff.

"It was just a situation where they felt the tire they had there (Michigan) last time, it seems like you can never make everybody happy to be perfectly honest. The last time we were there, half the field loved the tire and half the field thought the tire was a tire that wouldn't turn properly. The engineers at Goodyear went back and developed a tire that would definitely turn better. It threw everybody a curve ball when we went back. You saw guys that had dominated the race the time before struggle this time and you had guys that struggled last time that dominated the race this time.

"I don't think it's an issue of whether it's a good tire or a bad tire. Goodyear obviously makes a great race tire that's safe and doesn't have problems that put the drivers in jeopardy. Race car drivers just like to complain. I know at first I wasn't thrilled with the tire because it was different, but once we got out there racing on race day, I actually thought it was a better tire. I think you just get mixed emotions. Sometimes in the middle of the season when people are racing for points they don't like change. I think you see a lot of complaints come from that. As for the tire, week in and week out, I think we're on the safest tires in the world."

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Series NASCAR Cup