LOUDON, N.H. (July 21, 2001) -- It was a perfect afternoon for Steve Park and the Pennzoil team during the New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway and, although they didn't win the event, a sixth-place finish seemed just as...
LOUDON, N.H. (July 21, 2001) -- It was a perfect afternoon for Steve Park and the Pennzoil team during the New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway and, although they didn't win the event, a sixth-place finish seemed just as exciting after a string of bad luck in recent weeks.
"I'm pleased," said Park, who remains 13th in the Winston Cup points standings. "We've had five really bad weeks where we've struggled and to come close to getting another top five is a good sign that we're back. We qualified fifth and finished sixth and I consider that being back on track."
Beginning on the inside third row, Park quickly moved into the third position where he remained until the first pit stop under caution on lap 59. Returning to the track toward the front, the New York native, who ran the modified series on the 1.058-mile oval early in his racing career, only fell out of the top 10 during green flag pit stops late in the race. Just prior to that stop, however, Park remained on the track long enough to lead two laps and earn the five bonus points.
In the fifth position late in the race, Park held onto the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet as it began to slide through the corners as the new track surface became worn and the outside groove was too "dirty" as numerous series competed on the oval throughout the weekend.
"We didn't have any grip on the outside. We were hoping the sealer would give us an opportunity to have some grip on the outside, but it just didn't. The extra groove never happened," continued Park. "The sealer kind of got wore off and deposited to the outside grooves so you couldn't run out there without getting marbles all over your tires. I think if we could have kept the outside groove clean, there's definitely plenty of grip out there."
Challenged for the fifth position with less than 10 laps remaining, Park was bumped on the back quarter panel but retained control of the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet in spite of losing two track positions. On the very next lap, the two cars in front of him got tangled up but Park swiftly manuevered around the spinning vehicle to continue.
"Coming into the closing laps it looked like Jerry (Nadeau) was trying to block the position and (Jimmy) Spencer wanted it. So, he took it," said Park, regarding the late race incident.
Crossing the finish line in the sixth position, Park posted his best Winston Cup finish at NHIS as Dale Jarrett also scored his best with a victory.
"This was our best finish here. It makes me feel real good. We've won a lot of races here (in other series), we just haven't been able to be competitive in Winston Cup," added Park. "To come back and qualify good and finish good - I just feel great about it."
Rounding out the top five was Jeff Gordon, Ricky Rudd, Tony Stewart and Jimmy Spencer as the Winston Cup teams prepare to return to Pocono Raceway next weekend.