Saturday, Sept. 25, 1999. Dover Downs International Speedway. STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Park has moved from 30th to 21st in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings in the past nine races. He has six top 15 finishes in...
Saturday, Sept. 25, 1999. Dover Downs International Speedway.
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
NOTE: Park has moved from 30th to 21st in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings in the past nine races. He has six top 15 finishes in that streak and will start 10th in Sunday's 400-miler at Dover Downs.
"Seeing Tony Stewart winning as a rookie and Joe Nemechek winning last week at New Hampshire is a sign of the times. Guys who have been running Winston Cup for the last 20 years have to contend with these young guys now. When I say young guys, I have to include myself in that. When I see how this series is growing, well, Nemechek has been around for awhile. He deserved to win. Stewart is a rookie, but he's been running in the top five a lot. We're getting to that point now where we can run in the top 10 and the top five. I think we'll be one of the next teams to win that hasn't won yet. I've grown accustomed to victory lane in every other series. The joy it brings you and your team is something you live for. I think everybody in this series has been a winner numerous times in other series. I think it's just a matter of time before we get back to victory lane. It's not going to be from luck. It's going to be from a lot of hard work on the part of the team, myself and everyone at Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
"We're pretty good here. It's so hard to gauge yourself against other people right now. This is the best race car I've ever had at Dover, including the spring race. We really should have qualified in the top five, but we left a little bit out there. We decided to just try to qualify in the top 10 and not go for the pole and end up 30th by making a mistake. Right now, I'm real comfortable with the car. We've got a great race car. It takes 100 percent from everyone to win a race. The driver is just a small part of it. You've got to have a good race car, good horsepower and a little bit of luck on your side. You need to be smart. You need to get to the end of these races before you can win 'em. I think our chances are pretty good. I'm going to be optimistic. We've love to win. That's what we're all here to do. It'd be great to have non-winners win three weeks in a row, but if we can come out of here with a top-five finish, we'd all look at it like a win.
"You need to stay out of trouble here. They don't call it the Monster Mile for nothing. It's a fast track, and the track changes a little bit during the race. It's so fast, it's almost like a restrictor-plate race. If there's a wreck in front of you, it's hard to get slowed down. It's so narrow, it's hard to get around it. You just try to start the weekend off right by qualifying up front so you can miss all that trouble.
"I think it's (signing autographs) an important part of the sport. It get frustrating at times when you're trying to work and when you're trying to focus on the car and the competition we're fighting out on the racetrack. Sometimes it becomes a little bit of a distraction, but NASCAR does a good job of keeping it roped off so we can get our jobs done. I'm going out to my souvenir rig right now to sign autographs. You don't want to deprive people of autographs, but it's nice to set aside a time to do it.
"Winston Cup is a different animal when it comes to autographs and demand on your time. I've never had a motor coach and Earnhardt told me I'd need one in Winston Cup. He told me I wouldn't want to keep staying in hotels, and I wouldn't be able to get in the tracks on Sunday. I never had a problem with that in the Busch Series. Just running those five Cup races the same year I ran Busch showed me what a big difference exists between the two Saturday, Sept. 25, 1999. Dover Downs International Speedway. Just the quantity of people between the Saturday and Sunday races is astounding.
"I miss the Busch Series. I had such a short time there. I come from an open wheel background, and I kind of wish I had another year of Busch competition to hone my skills more. I think it would have made the leap to Winston Cup a little more user friendly. The opportunity was there to go to Winston Cup racing. It's completely different from Busch racing. Even with a little more experience in the Busch Series, you have to kind of relearn things when you come to Winston Cup. I've paid my dues in Winston Cup and taken my lumps. The team is starting to really come around to the point where we can be competitive week in and week out. I won races in the Busch Series and then came to Cup, and it's been a big disappointment up until now. I was a newcomer in the Busch Series, but I was able to get a grasp on things and win races.
"Up until now, it's been an utter disappointment in Cup. It's been hard to keep your head up and stay focused. I've been used to winning in every other series I've been in and then here you can't even see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as when you're going to win a race. It's been almost two years now, but it's turned around. Paul Andrews has come on board as crew chief, and we've got some really good people throughout this team. We've got some good engines, so we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. We want to stay focused and finish in the top 10, and I honestly believe our first win is not too far off.
"I'm not going to be disappointed if we don't win. I think as long as we continue to grow as a team, come in and qualify in the top 10 week in and week out, that's a big accomplishment in itself. When we can do that consistently, then we can think about winning races. I'd like to win a race before the season's over. I don't think it's impossible, but taking a more realistic look, if we can get a top five or a couple of top fives before the season is out, that'll help us come out smoking next year.
"The biggest change on the team has been the addition of Paul Andrews. People get tired of hearing Paul Andrews this and Paul Andrews that, but that driver-crew chief chemistry just hasn't been there since we've been here. Philippe Lopez did a real good job helping build this team, and we were really good friends. We just didn't communicate. Paul came on board and it was right there. We didn't have to second guess if it was going to work or not. We proved we could go fast when Paul came on board at Charlotte in May. We need to run like we did there week in and week out. Communication keeps getting better and better. That growth is what we need.
"I'm looking forward to going back to Charlotte. It's like your home track. We ran so good there last time, and we'd like to get a little revenge on the finish we had there last time. I like Phoenix and we run good at Atlanta. A lot of good tracks are left for Steve Park and this Pennzoil team.
I can't put my finger on one, but we're on the verge of our first top-five finish, and that's like winning in any other series.
"My friends are so used to seeing me win from go-karts right on up to the Busch Series. They keep asking me what's wrong. Why I'm not winning now. I wish I could give them a week's trip with me from Monday through the race on Sunday and then they could see what it takes. They'd go home and say 'I don't know how you do this 34 times a year.'