Climbing to fifth in the Winston Cup points standings, Steve Park in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-owned ...
Climbing to fifth in the Winston Cup points standings, Steve Park in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-owned #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo starts in his 96th Winston Cup event as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 this Sunday afternoon, March 25; shown live on FOX beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.
Checking down the list of cars to be run this season at various tracks, the Pennzoil car numbered 006 was scheduled to make its season debut at Bristol Motor Speedway this upcoming weekend; however, with the success of the car numbered 017 at both Rockingham and Darlington how could it not be a natural selection to bring it the half-mile track as well. With the dominate performance of "017" and Park, crew chief Paul Andrews elected to try his luck once again with the same car and give Park the opportunity to win his second victory of the season -- after falling just short of that feat last weekend.
Setting a track record, Park earned his first career Bud Pole Award last year during the spring event at Bristol Motor Speedway. Leading for a total of 40 laps after the green flag fell in 2000, Park posted his best finish at the half-mile track. He went on to better that result later in the season at Bristol when the Pennzoil Chevrolet crossed the line in the fifth spot. Entering his sixth event on the circle track, Park has amassed nearly $200,000 in prize money while earning two top-10 finishes and starting first and third in the last two events.
Having a 2-second advantage over the field with less than 20 laps to go, PennzoilÒ driver Steve Park appeared to be on his way to his second victory of the season, that was until the caution flag came out for debris with 18 laps remaining during the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway. Heading into the pits with the lead, Park returned to the track just behind race winner Dale Jarrett in spite of a good stop by the Pennzoil team. Several laps later another caution flag came out when the #31 and #5 crashed and stopped the race with 10 laps remaining. When the field returned to green flag racing at lap 7, Jarrett took off with Park in hot pursuit. Better on the long runs, Park wasn't able to close the gap between the two and, after leading the most laps throughout the 293-lap event, finished in the second spot. In his previous five races at Darlington, Park posted two top-10 finishes.
"You hate to be disappointed with second, but man, that was a hard race to lose last weekend," said Park, who moved up eight spots to fifth in the Winston Cup points standings. "We had the dominant car but it didn't come down to a long run and that is what we were set up for. Sounds impossible to be disappointed with second. We've just never been in that position before -- but it's a good problem to have. The Pennzoil guys have really pulled together and with Bristol up next, we'll be just fine.
"Obviously, we are really going to try and start up front again," said Park. "We didn't miss the pole by much in the fall so we've got a pretty good chance on Friday to duplicate last year's effort. We'd rather get that Pennzoil car toward the front to try and stay out of all the trouble that's bound to happen with all the bumping and banging that goes on."
"As a crew chief, I've been pretty good at Bristol," commented crew chief Paul Andrews. "Although Goodyear is bringing a new tire to the track this weekend and we haven't run those tires on a cement track, I think we'll be okay.
"At Bristol, the car has to turn hard and you need the driver to drive hard," continued Andrews. "It is also a mental challenge for the driver because he has to trust that the car is going to respond correctly and it's our job to make sure that it does. One little flaw either in the car or driver and you can qualify 20th rather than first -- it's that close."