Park Road to Recovery

Surgery successful, Park ready for recovery By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online HAMPTON, Ga. (March 7, 1998) Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Steve Park, who suffered multiple fractures in a crash in practice Friday while preparing for ...

Surgery successful, Park ready for recovery By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 7, 1998) Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Steve Park, who suffered multiple fractures in a crash in practice Friday while preparing for Sunday's PRIMESTAR 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, will be sidelined for as much as four to five months, an official from his race team said Saturday morning. "The doctors haven't really given us a solid timetable, but it looks like Steve will be out for four to five months," said Ty Norris, director of motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Inc. "That's what we've seen with Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott and Kyle Petty, who have all had femur fractures. He's going to need a good coach and therapist to get him through this." Park, 30, underwent successful surgery Friday evening at Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta to insert a metal rod in his right leg to speed the healing process of his broken thigh bone. His other injuries include a fractured left clavicle (collar bone) and left scapula (shoulder blade) and two broken front teeth. Understandably, Park's injuries unleashed a torrent of concern, support and inquiries from fans, media and drivers. Norris said Elliott and Petty were among the first to contact him in the garage area offering support, and that Elliott referred Norris to the doctor who treated him after he suffered a broken leg in an accident in the 1996 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Ironically, the physician is in Atlanta this weekend traveling with an Auburn University basketball team. "My phone rang twice while I was walking into this room to do this press conference," Norris said. "There's a bunch of drivers calling about driving the car, which is good." However, for the short term DEI has that situation handled, Norris said. "We want to thank Phil Parsons for jumping in the car yesterday and making a cold turkey lap, which we had to do to become eligible for second-round qualifying," he said of the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division regular, whose first lap in Park's back-up car was the 48th-quickest of 50 drivers who attempted to qualify. NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular Mike Wallace was ready to make a Bud Beer Second-Round Qualifying attempt before that session was canceled due to rain. Consequently the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet failed to qualify for its second straight race. "We have a test scheduled Tuesday at Darlington and Ron Hornaday will drive the car there," Norris said of preparations for the March 22 TranSouth Financial 400. "If the test goes well, hopefully Hornaday will drive the car at Darlington and certainly at Bristol (Food City 500 March 29)." Hornaday, the 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, won the 1997 truck event at Bristol Motor Speedway. That victory was part of a mid-season romp that saw him become the series' all-time victories leader. Hornaday drives the NAPA Chevrolet for Dale and Teresa Earnhardt. "After Bristol the trucks are in full gear and, looking at the schedule, the truck series couldn't be in a farther corner of the country from Winston Cup, so it doesn't appear Hornaday could help us any more after that," Norris said. "By Monday or Tuesday we hope to have a long-term solution mapped-out. What would be devastating for any team is to have a driver-of-the-week, and we don't want to do that. It's very difficult to bring a guy over from the Busch Series, with the differences in the cars. "Steve Park is a tremendous race driver who we feel has the potential to be one of the greatest to ever come along, and even he had difficulty last year going from the Busch garage over to the Cup side." Norris said DEI planned to take an approach similar to the one used in the NASCAR Busch Series for Dale Earnhardt Jr., in which he sacrificed his rookie of the year eligibility for seat time. "The team was put together for Steve and it'll be his team when he returns," Norris said bluntly. "We didn't put this team together with Pennzoil -- one of the best sponsors we've ever seen -- to run for rookie of the year. We want to be in the best position we can be in to win the 1999 Winston Cup championship. "It would detrimental to the long-term goals of this race team for Steve to sit out the rest of this season. It's the same thing we did with Dale Jr. last year. He ran nine races and lost his eligibility for rookie of the year, but he is a contender for the Busch Series championship. "It's tough to lose the opportunity to win rookie of the year with Steve, but as soon as the doctors indicate he's ready to return, and Dale Earnhardt will have the final say there, it's our intent for him to be back in the car." Norris said Park would probably be released from the hospital "early to mid-week next week," depending on his recovery.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Darrell Waltrip , Steve Park , Kyle Petty , Mike Wallace , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Phil Parsons