Steve Park, No. 30 America Online Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pole Winner's Press Conference: Note: This is Park's second Bud Pole win in 2003 and the fourth of his Winston Cup career. This is also the second straight Bud Pole at Daytona for the AOL...
Steve Park, No. 30 America Online Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pole Winner's Press Conference:
Note: This is Park's second Bud Pole win in 2003 and the fourth of his Winston Cup career. This is also the second straight Bud Pole at Daytona for the AOL Chevrolet and the third straight for Richard Childress Racing. Jeff Green won the Bud Pole for the 2003 Daytona 500 and Harvick captured the Bud Pole for this race in 2002.
"Sitting on the pole at Daytona is like a dream come true. Being a small boy and growing up in a racing family, you always wanted to win the Daytona 500 and sit on the pole at Daytona. We accomplished one of those goals. I'm just real thankful for Richard Childress and all of the RCR bunch. They gave me the opportunity. We all know the story where I lost one job and then acquired another job. I'm just real thankful for the opportunity I'm in right now. I haven't been this happy in about a year and a half. We're in this 20-week stretch that we go through now where you better enjoy what you're doing because you spend quite amount of time on the road, and quite amount of time away from family, so you better enjoy what you're doing. And I'm thoroughly enjoying what I'm doing right now. We need to take the performance up of the America Online team to where it needs to be. What's great to see is the whole team is really eager. All of the people were all brand new from all walks of life and different racing. The one common thread that we see is that everybody on the team is energetic, and they want to do good and they want to race good. That's a great quality to have in people. Again, we're just reaching the tip of the iceberg right now. We know we can go fast for two laps, now we've got to go fast for 400 miles."
THIS IS KIND OF HOW THE 30 CAR CAME OUT OF NOWHERE AND WON THE POLE IN FEBRUARY. WERE YOU HOLDING SOMETHING BACK IN PRACTICE?
"We weren't really. We were in race trim. The main thing was the car drives good, and once we get in qualifying trim we can get the speed up to where it needs to be. I think we ended up 16th- or 18th-fastest in practice in race trim, so we knew that we could pick up four or five tenths. We exceeded our expectations and ran as fast as we could, but it doesn't surprise me because this is the same car that sat on the pole. The America Online team had the confidence that in qualifying trim this car could qualify good. We focused on making sure that we have a race setup that's going to lap and handle good. Daytona is different from Talladega where you don't need raw speed, but you need a good-handling race car here at all times. We worked on getting that today, and we knew in qualifying trim we'd be pretty good."
THE DRIVER IS ALMOST TAKEN OUT OF THE EQUATION IN QUALIFYING AT A RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACE, ISN'T HE?
"Michael Waltrip is a good friend of mine, even though we aren't teammates anymore, and I think he said, and correct me if I'm wrong, but he said a drunk or orangutan could qualify on a speedway. I don't think he's that far off. Maybe a drunk orangutan wouldn't get the job done, but a sober one might. When I used to work for Dale (Earnhardt), I asked him what was the key to going fast at Daytona. He said, 'Are you holding it wide open?' I said, 'Yes sir.' He said, 'Are you holding it on the bottom in the corners?' I said, 'Yes sir.' He said, 'And you're holding it straight on the straightaways, right?' I said, 'Yes sir.' He said, 'Well, that's the key to going fast at Daytona.' I said, 'Thanks, I appreciate the tip.' From the Master of Daytona, the key to going fast is have a good race car. Again, I just want to thank Richard Childress and America Online and all of the guys that put this car together. This car actually had a body put on it, and it's the same car that they qualified on the pole with in the '500."
"We're sweating in Daytona because it's so hot, but they sweated for the last month putting the body back on the race car again. So those are the unsung heroes. Those are the guys that you don't see on TV. They put the cars together, and put the engines together in the engine shop, and the mechanics that put the whole thing together. It's just a handful of us that get on the racetrack and go fast, and get on TV, and get a chance to go to the media center. So I just want to thank those guys back home. You might get sick of hearing it, but it's true. We just hold it wide open and try to go fast, and without a good car and a good engine, you can't do that."
WERE YOU ABLE TO BRING ANY OF THE SUCCESS FROM DEI TO RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING?
"I think they're called trade secrets and I don't think you're supposed to share them. But I'm not really that smart to share trade secrets from one team to another. We didn't run fast in the 1 car, so obviously we weren't getting the trade secrets. The 8 and the 15 always ran good and we didn't. I wouldn't share anything that I learned from there with RCR because we never ran worth beans in the 1 car. The 8 and the 15 had it figured out and we didn't. I just took my seat over to the guys at RCR and they're the ones responsible for having a good race car and us going fast here on a speedway."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE TEAMMATE THAT LEADS THE CHARGE?
"I don't know if I'm leading the charge or not. Kevin Harvick's a guy that I think we all look up to at RCR. He's just a great teammate. I went from one great teammate in Dale Jr. to another with Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon. The key to running good in Winston Cup today is having a multi-car team that works together as one team. We have that at RCR. The something that maybe we lacked at DEI was just working together as one unit, and then making all three cars capable of winning the race. I just had questions in my mind. We'd come to the speedway and the 8 and the 15 would run so good, and I couldn't understand why the 1 car didn't. And I guess they couldn't understand, so they made a driver change. I'm really happy that they did. I'm real happy to land where I landed. It's been a miserable year and a half, and now there's light at the end of the tunnel and I'm extremely happy where I am. Richard understands racing, and race cars, and sponsors, and everything else, and it's just great to have his leadership at the helm of a great ship that he's got in Winston Cup with great teammates like Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon. I'm just proud to be a part of it. We've all seen that RCR has run good on speedways and plate races before, and we all know Dale's record and what he was able to do in the past, so it doesn't surprise me that we ran so good."
"Our main focus is getting the America Online team to run in the top 10 where it needs to be. This team's brand new, and I never thought after five years that I would be back with a team as new as the America Online team, but we have a tremendous amount of potential to make this team a team that can run in the top 10 week in and week out." "Qualifying started at 8:00, so it definitely cooled off when it got to be nighttime. Guys that ran later like myself and Kevin, got the luck of the draw. It got cooler, and when it gets cooler you tend to run faster. At the speedways it's a double-edged sword. The air could get denser, it could mess with your tune on the engine, it could mess with the aerodynamics, so it's kind of a crapshoot. We rolled the dice on a gear that we thought would be good at 9:00 at night, and Kevin went with something that he thought would be good at night, and they were different. We turned the exact RPM that Richard wanted to see. I'm not really sure what Kevin turned, but that might have been the different between first and second. Just having an RCR front row is something we projected to do. We didn't want to run the same gear because if I was third, maybe the other gear would be first. We rolled the dice and got first and second, and I'm just real thankful for that. It goes back to being a team effort and the communication that goes through all three teams to make RCR a success."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE UNIQUE BLEND OF PERSONALITIES THAT IS NOW AT RCR?
"What's unique about the blend is now we all are about the same age, or pretty close. Richard's really good at spotting talent, and he does a great job of leadership to take a guy like Robby Gordon who's a great race-car driver and maybe needs to have a little bit of the edge taken off, and Richard's capable of doing that. And yet, you take Kevin Harvick, who sat out a race last year and maybe needed a little calming down, and Richard's the guy that can do that. You take a guy like myself who's been tossed around and tossed out, and then has been picked up by RCR, he's the guy that can give me the confidence back to win races. I mean, we've won races in the past, and we plan on winning in the future, and Richard's the guy that can do that. He just has a unique talent of spotting people that can drive race cars that might not have the whole package, and he can fine-tune them into the race-car driver that can win races. If you don't believe that, just look at what he did with Dale Earnhardt. Dale was one of those guys that was up on the wheel, and just wanted to win as soon as they dropped the green flag. They won numerous championships together and numerous races together, with a relationship that was so solid where Dale doesn't win races and Richard was he guy that could tell when Dale was getting excited and could calm him down and say, 'Hey listen, you've got a car that can win this race, let's just get it to the end of the race.' And that what they did and they won a lot of races. It's pretty unique to see when you have the leadership within that team, and a great team."