Concord, N.C., Sept. 9, 2003 -- Steve Park, driver of the No. 30 AOL Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the guest on Tuesday's Winston teleconference. Following are highlights of that teleconference. STEVE PARK , NO. 30 AOL CHEVROLET MONTE ...
Concord, N.C., Sept. 9, 2003 -- Steve Park, driver of the No. 30 AOL Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the guest on Tuesday's Winston teleconference. Following are highlights of that teleconference.
STEVE PARK , NO. 30 AOL CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
Park is currently 31st in the point standings. He was eighth in the first race at NHIS in July, was a season-best fifth at Michigan in August and has scored three of his best finishes this season in the last eight races. He has two Bud Poles this season, which match his career total.
YOU HAD A NICE FINISH AT NHIS IN JULY, AND YOU HAVE TWO TOP-10 FINISHES IN THE LAST FOUR RACES THERE. LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING BACK?
"Yeah, I really am. I call it home, even though it's not really where I'm from, but I used to race there a lot in the Modifieds, the Busch North and Truck Series. I always look forward to going to NHIS."
MICHAEL WALTRIP IS CURRENTLY TESTING THE SPEEDWAY PACKAGE FOR NEXT YEAR. HAVE YOU DISCUSSED THAT TEST WITH HIM?
"I just think that the bigger plates and bigger spoilers that are in place for Talladega, it's a good opportunity for him to go down there and test. Even though I am not a part of DEI anymore, I am a friend of Michael's and I get a chance to talk to him quite a bit and see what he thought of the changes. They always look to do something to make the racing--I wouldn't say better, on the superspeedways, because the race fans love the cars when they're 43 deep, three cars wide all day long. With the smaller fuel cells, they're trying to separate the cars a little and put more of the racing in the driver's hands than what we've seen in the past. He's down there until tomorrow, and I won't get a chance to talk to him until then. What is the answer? I don't think anybody has the answer to restrictor-plate racing. NASCAR works hard with Goodyear to make sure that we can keep the cars balanced and safe and keep the fans safe and do it in a way where we can put a good show on for the fans, because that's the reason they go to places like Daytona and Talladega."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR IS GOING TO GO FROM MULTI-CAR TEAMS TO MEGA-CAR TEAMS LIKE SOME OF THEM ARE NOW?
"That's a good question. I've seen the sport go from single-car teams to multi-car teams to five-car teams. The economy has been in a slump in the last year or so, but teams are still fielding three to five cars. That makes it harder for the one-car teams to compete. I don't know what the limit is. NASCAR tries to keep a limit on people dominating the sport with multi-car teams by having different car owners, but a lot of car owners have found the loophole of having their wives and their children, you name it be owners of race teams under the same roof. Who really knows what the answer is? I feel if you can get a sponsor and be competitive on the race track, there's no reason for you not to have a multi-car team. If it hurts a team, performance-wise, by having multiple cars, then you should cut it back to a two-car or single-car effort, but if you have five teams and five sponsors that are competitive week in and week out, I think it's healthy for the sport."
LOOKING AHEAD TO FUTURE SCHEDULES, IS 36 RACES THE RIGHT AMOUNT? HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHAPE THE SCHEDULE?
"I really don't have a voice in it, but I like the road races. I think they should add one or two more. I like night races because it allows us to have Sunday off and race on a cooler Saturday night. It's great for the fans to race under the lights. The Musco lighting system doesn't have a lot of shadows, and it's not like the old Saturday night racing where the lighting wasn't that good. The night races that we have now, it's almost refreshing to have Sunday off not only for ourselves, but for the teams. I'd like to see more Saturday night racing, and I'd like to see another road course added to the schedule. I know there are a lot of guys who don't like road courses, but if you're going to crown a champion in Winston Cup, you should be diverse enough to be good on short tracks, superspeedways and road courses. That makes for a true champion and a championship-caliber team. There are actually 38 races, including the Bud Shootout and The Winston. I think we're reaching the limit on how many races we can run. I'm not against adding races, but I think restructuring the schedule--we don't need to be in Rockingham in February. We race in California and Florida, and those races should be considered at a time of year when it's cold in places that we race. It seems like the rain has followed us around all year long, and the reason why is the weather and the places we race at a certain time of year--why don't we race in Florida and California in February and March, and then go back in October and November. It's a lot warmer out there then than it is in the Northeast at that time of year. We used to go to Daytona and then to Rockingham. They talk about the place not getting filled up, but Rockingham is not a user-friendly place to watch a race in late February, early March. We should change the schedule to race in places where the weather is better."
IF YOU ADDED ANOTHER ROAD COURSE, WOULDN'T SOMETHING HAVE TO GIVE?
"That will probably never happen, but you can look at the places we go to twice a year, and you can say we don't need to go twice a year. I'm not going to sit here and say which places those are, but there's places we go that we don't need to. You don't have to add races. You can just add new venues and new markets and take races away from tracks that have multiple races that the Winston Cup division has kind of outgrown."
IS IT GETTING HARDER FOR DRIVERS TO WIN AND DOMINATE NOW?
"Yeah. It's just getting more competitive year after year. In the last five years, you've seen the number of winners decrease and the multiple winners increase. It seems like more people are winning more races, instead of having Jeff Gordon dominate and win 12 races in a year. Then again, you look at Ryan Newman, who has won six races so far and we have 10 left. It wouldn't surprise me if he walks away with eight wins before the year is out. >From a competitive standpoint, Winston Cup is the most competitive I've seen in years. It doesn't surprise me when there's a new winner almost every week."
HOW MUCH OF AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU THIS YEAR?
"It's one of those deals where you go from one job to another job. The last 18 months, 2 years have been a roller coaster. You all know the situations I've been in: being hurt, losing a ride, getting a new ride. All we want to do is land our feet, race to win, be in a position to be competitive week in and week out. Once we can do that, the story will be somebody else or something else. I'm almost numb from hearing that I'm losing my job. That's been going on for the last two years. Heck, if I lose my job, there are others out there. I'm not going to harp on it or ruin my life over it. I've had such a great career in auto racing, getting a chance to work for the great Dale Earnhardt and up at RCR. I'm just very fortunate and very happy for DEI in the time I spent there and I'm really happy to be at RCR. We have to develop the America Online Chevrolet team to where it needs to be. Richard knows that, I know that. If we get the chance, we can move forward to make this team one that's capable of running up front and winning races. We have made improvements in the short amount of time that we've been there, and we just hope that we can extend that relationship so we can continue to make improvements and put that team back on the map and put AOL back out front where it needs to be."
IS IT HARD TO KEEP THINGS MOVING FORWARD WITH THE CONSTANT RUMORS?
"It might be difficult for somebody else, but it's been going on so long in my life and my career that I am numb to it. I just do the best I can week in and week out. I know that I am with a team that is capable of running up front and I know we can develop this to a team that can win races and run up front. That's the only thing that's going to make me happy, make Richard happy and our sponsors happy. That's kind of what we are shooting for. The sport has changed so much in the last three years that I hope it all settles down over the next two or three. You have all the people you want involved in Winston Cup and all the drivers, and Silly Season kind of quiets down. It seems like Silly Season starts in February and goes to November now. It never did that."
WHAT DID RICHARD CHILDRESS HAVE TO SAY TO THE REST OF YOU REGARDING SATURDAY NIGHT'S INCIDENT BETWEEN KEVIN HARVICK AND RICKY RUDD?
"It's hard to answer that question, because Richard is out of the country on a hunting trip. With ever reaction comes a consequence, and NASCAR is really handing down some consequences for all the people that were involved. Tempers fall short on a short track. Even I felt bead for Kevin when that happened. He had a shot at winning the race or finishing in the top two or three. I was kind of upset too, so I can see tempers flaring up, but it's one of those situations where it's hard to stay in control on a short track. The penalty NASCAR handed down is a reaction to what we saw on Saturday night. I hate to see emotion go to the wayside because emotions are a big part of our sport. But there's more TV coverage than we've ever seen, and stuff like that happened 10 years ago never got on TV and got blown out of proportion. It's just something that is a part of our sport. I hope never to see that go away, but you have to learn to control your emotions. If you can't control them, NASCAR is there to hand down a penalty. His team is very protective of Kevin. That's why that situation got blown out of proportion, because a lot of the crew members went down there to make sure Kevin was OK. They think the world of Kevin and they are there to protect him. A lot of those guys are a little bigger than Kevin is, and they rallied around their driver. He's a championship-caliber driver in a position to race for the championship, and they weren't as upset and not being as aggressive with Rudd's team, I think their main concern was making sure Kevin was OK and surrounded. Tempers got out of control, and who knows what was said around those cars? They just reacted to what was said."
WHAT WOULD NASCAR HAVE TO DO TO GET YOUR ATTENTION IF YOU WERE INVOLVED IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT?
"First of all, I wouldn't put myself in that situation. I get mad, but I try not to express myself in a way that--you have to remember, you represent a sponsor, and if you don't behave in a way that represents them in a positive way... I try to present myself in a professional manner and represent myself and all the sponsors on my uniform. I would try not to be in the position where NASCAR has to hand down a penalty to me so I would behave myself. I wouldn't know what the answer would be to make someone behave in a professional manner. What does it need to be? Probation is good enough, and that's your warning. If you misbehave again, then you get the penalty or the fine. Again, I would try not to put myself in a position to misrepresent myself or my sponsor."