Park Darlington preview

Starting in his 80th Winston Cup points event, Steve Park in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-owned ...

Starting in his 80th Winston Cup points event, Steve Park in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-owned #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo heads to Darlington, S.C., for the Pepsi Southern 500 this weekend at Darlington Raceway; shown live on ESPN beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.

With a total of five top-10 finishes in all of last year, the Pennzoil driver appears to be on a roll of sorts lately and, with his fifth-place finish this past weekend at Bristol, surpassed last year's total. Posting six top 10s this season, including a win and two other top fives, Park has drastically approved upon last year's performance. At this point last season, Park completed just 91% of all the laps raced compared to the 96% he 's run during the 2000 Winston Cup season.

Moving up to 13th from 20th in the points standings in the past five races, Park, along with the Pennzoil team, continues to see improvement over previous years. Comparing last year to this, Park's average starting position is better, going from 25th to 11th. His starting positions aren't the only thing that has changed for the better. In all the races competed in this season, Park has posted an average finish of 12, in comparison to 22nd from 1999. Superior finishes also bring more money and Park has already earned $271,999 more than this point last year and is well on his way to breaking the $4 million plateau -- needing only an average $36,000 in the final 11 races to reach that mark.

If history works in favor of the 33-year-old driver, Park could very well see himself sitting in the top 10 of the points standings at the end of the season -- currently he's 370 from the 10th spot. When reviewing last year's numbers, he completed nearly 100% of the laps in the final 11 events (3682/3289) and had an average finish of 13th -- including three of his five top 10s. One of those top-10 finishes occurred on the 1.366-mile oval at Darlington Raceway, known as the track "Too Tough to Tame."

In last year's Labor Day weekend event at Darlington, Park struggled during qualifying and started in the 39th spot. He wouldn't be in the back of the field long and worked his way to a 10th-place finish. During the spring event early this year, the Pennzoil team suffered from engine failure, relegating them to a 39th-place finish after starting 31st.

"Last race (at Darlington) was real disappointing to say the least," said Park, whose best finish (fifth) at Darlington occurred in 1995 during the Busch event. "There is such a rich history at Darlington that I personally look forward to racing on the egg-shaped track."

"Turns one and two are the toughest on the track since you're literally racing inches from the wall and if you're not careful, you'll be wearing that Darlington stripe," continued Park. "Everybody has been working real hard back at the shop so I'm pretty confident that you'll see that Pennzoil Chevrolet on the track at the end of the race."

Steve Park Darlington Raceway Performance Record

Year    Race                                    St      Fin     Laps    Status  Winnings
2000    Food City (WC)                  31      39      218/293 Engine  $31,550
1999    TranSouth Financial 400 (WC)    29      12      293/293 Running 36,220
        Pepsi 500 (WC)                  39      10      270/270 Running 45,130
1998    TranSouth Financial 400 (WC)    DNS
        Pepsi 500 (WC)                  31      24      361/367 Running 28,025
1997    Diamond Hill 200 (Busch)        22      34      113/147 Running 4,565
        Dura-Lube 200 (Busch)           21      5       147/147 Running 15,575

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Steve Park