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STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) Fresh off a fourth-place finish Saturday night in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Park heads to New Hampshire as one of the hottest drivers on the tour in...

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) Fresh off a fourth-place finish Saturday night in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Park heads to New Hampshire as one of the hottest drivers on the tour in the past five races. Since winning his first NASCAR Winston Cup race on Aug. 13 at Watkins Glen, the 33-year-old Islip, N.Y., native has recorded finishes of 33rd, fifth, 10th and fourth. He's moved from 17th to 13th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings and trails 12th-place Matt Kenseth by only 12 points and 11th-place Mike Skinner by 18 points. Park led four times for 130 laps Saturday night at Richmond en route to his top-five finish at RIR. He qualified 23rd and finished 28th earlier this season at New Hampshire. Park discusses racing at New Hampshire with restrictor plates, driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and his outlook for the remainder of the 2000 campaign. "I just can't believe it's come down to running a restrictor plate on a one-mile race track, a place that I don't think any of us before the recent tragedies that have been there ever thought it was a place you could lose your life at. I've run modifieds there, and we ran restrictor plates on the modifieds. The difference is the cars are a third of the weight and have a ton of horsepower. They were flying around there. They were obviously going way too fast, but the Cup cars are... you know... it's a mile race track. "Are we going to run restrictor plates at Atlanta and places we are going 190 mph? I just think there are other things they can do than to choke these cars down with restrictor plates to make them safer. I haven't had a chance to run 'em up there yet, but putting a restrictor plate on and restricting the horsepower, what's hurting these drivers are stuck throttles and having situations where they're driving into the corners so deep there's no time to react before you hit a wall head-on. All a restrictor plate is going to do, I feel, is make us drive the cars that much deeper into the corners to try to make up the time we're losing going down the straightaways. That's just my opinion. "We haven't had a chance to run 'em there or test 'em there, but if we don't have the horsepower to go down the straightaways, where we're going to have to lift, because we're carrying a lot of speed down to the corner, we're going to carry a smaller amount of speed further into the corner where you're going to have even less time to react to a situation of a blown tire or a stuck throttle. We've seen that in the modified cars when they first went to New Hampshire. They were going too fast. We had excessive speeds down the straightaways, but we weren't going in the corners as deep. When they put the plates on, we had to drive the cars smack down all the way in the corners. We could (hold it wide open) with the modifieds when the track was first paved. I went around there one lap about 99 percent wide open. We might get these Cup cars around there wide open. "You hate to say it's coincidence. It's obviously a problem. If it wasn't a problem, it wouldn't have happened. I applaud NASCAR for recognizing there is a problem there and reacting as fast as they did to put kill switches on the steering wheel. I don't think that a lot of drivers in here think that a kill switch on a steering wheel is going to solve the problem of a stuck throttle because of the short amount of time you have to react to it. The thing Jack Roush is working on where you have a brake pedal switch and something that has a fail safe vacuum switch on the intake manifold that'll take a situation where you have a stuck throttle and excessive brake pressure to kill these cars is something that's automatic and the driver doesn't have to do it. That's the direction we need to be going in. "Those efforts should be explored more, and Jack should have some help from somebody to help finish the research on that and come up with a fail safe device that will work automatically when there's a stuck throttle situation and excessive brake pressure, but the last thing we want to do is hurt the show. We've got a great thing here. NASCAR Winston Cup is the best form of auto racing in the United States and the fans dig it. They come out in hundreds of thousands to watch it. I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen, but taking away horsepower from the cars is going to make the cars more equal and who knows what it's going to do handling wise and getting down in the corners and stuff. If it does hurt the show, that's the last thing I think we want, and I think it's the last thing NASCAR wants. "Maybe it's something they just want to look at in the interim to find some sort of safety device, but I think with the technology that's out there today, there's got to be a way to develop a soft wall or develop a throttle switch or brake switch like Jack Roush is working on. I don't think it's fair that Jack has to do it on his own. If he had some help from NASCAR or from all the competitors it would be better. I think there's other ways around it rather than putting restrictor plates on cars at a one-mile race track. "New Hampshire is one of my favorite places to run. I've run there in the open wheel cars, trucks, Busch, I've run every single thing that they've had up there in NASCAR. You don't go to New Hampshire thinking it's a place that if something would happen, you'd lose your life. I still don't feel that way. I think the situations that have happened are kind of freak, but to have two of them happen in the same year, obviously there's a problem that needs to be addressed. "Before we won at Watkins Glen, we were just kind of competitors week in and week out. Now these guys can walk through the garage and know they are winners and know they can win and have won. It just makes you that much hungrier from a driver's standpoint to go after that second win. I know it's made me a lot busier. What racing is all about for all the sponsors and everybody else is just getting out there and winning. There's no better reward than having the opportunity to win. Take a sponsor like Pennzoil that's been in the sport 10 or 11 years and the take 'em to their first victory. When you've got a guy like Dale Earnhardt behind you promising your sponsor you're going to win and it just might take a little time, it puts a lot of pressure on all of us to do that. As a team and a company we've all been through the tough times, and we've stuck it out to enjoy the good times. "Dale Earnhardt is driven to win and anything he puts his name on or his label on, needs to be driven to win. When you do something right, you might ge t just half a grin from him. But if you do something wrong, you certainly know about it. He's just given me a great opportunity. He hasn't lost faith in my abilities as a driver, and we've been through about as much as any car owner and driver could go through since our relationship began, and he stuck by me. To me, a handshake from Dale Earnhardt is pretty much all you need because when he tells you something he sticks to it. "It's been a blessing. There's not a lot of down sides to it. I was brought up in a pretty strict family and growing up, even if I did something right, you'd get a little bit of praise, but if you did something wrong, you'd get your tail whipped. Times have changed a lot these days with the way parents raise kids and stuff. I still believe in the methods my parents used to raise me, and I think Dale was raised the same way. He treats all of his employees and myself in the same manner I was taught growing up, so it hasn't been really bad. It's been something I've been used to. "This sport carries a lot of pressure, not only from your sponsors but from your car owners and everybody else around you. It's a very performance based industry, and you're only as good as your last performance. You need to perform and you need to be on your game most of the time. You've got to surround yourself with good people in order to do that, and I feel I'm surrounded by some of the best people right now. I think we proved that up at Watkins Glen, and I think Junior proved that at the beginning of this year. He showed what chemistry and keeping a good, tight knit group of guys together for a long time can do. "We're not too far out of 11th, but we're pretty far out of 10th and Gordon is 10th. He hasn't had the great year he's used to having in the past, but it's a pretty big jump to where he is in 10th place (416 points). That's a lot of points to be making up, especially when you're competing against the finishes that Gordon is going to have. Mathematically we have a shot. We feel like we need to win again and continue to run near the top five and top 10. We've dropped out of a few races that have really hurt us. Gordon dropped out at Michigan, and so did we. We had an opportunity to gain some points, and we didn't because we broke down. "We've just got to keep our stuff together and keep running like we feel like we're capable of running and try to win and finish in the top five and let the points fall where they may. You don't want to wish bad luck on anybody, but it's probably going to take some good luck on our part and some bad luck on his part for us to get in the top 10. We're not giving up on it yet."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Mike Skinner , Jack Roush