Team Monte Carlo Watkins Glen review, Michigan preview

Park joins Team Monte Carlo Winners Circle Steve Park, a 32-year-old Islip, N.Y., native, joined an elite group of 26 NASCAR Winston Cup drivers by winning Sunday’s Global Crossing @ The Glen. Making his 77th career start in NASCAR’s...

Park joins Team Monte Carlo Winners Circle

Steve Park, a 32-year-old Islip, N.Y., native, joined an elite group of 26 NASCAR Winston Cup drivers by winning Sunday’s Global Crossing @ The Glen. Making his 77th career start in NASCAR’s premiere division, Park became the 26th different driver to win a race in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The Monte Carlo is the most successful nameplate in NASCAR Winston Cup history with 282 career victories. The Monte Carlo has won six races this season (Jeff Gordon 2, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2, Dale Earnhardt 1 and Steve Park 1). Park’s victory Sunday helped tighten the NASCAR manufacturers standings. Ford leads with 145 points, followed by Pontiac with 128 and Team Monte Carlo at 126 after 21 of 34 events in the new millennium.

TEAM MONTE CARLO WINNERS CIRCLE

Here are the 26 drivers who have won NASCAR Winston Cup races driving a Monte Carlo.

<pre> Jeff Gordon 49 Darrell Waltrip 48 Dale Earnhardt 44 Cale Yarborough 38 Bobby Allison 15 Terry Labonte 15 Benny Parsons 14 Tim Richmond 9 Harry Gant 6 Geoffrey Bodine 6 Richard Petty 6 Neil Bonnett 5 Sterling Marlin 5 Bobby Labonte 4 Donnie Allison 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2 Ricky Rudd 2 David Pearson 2 Buddy Baker 2 Charlie Glotzbach 1 Ken Schrader 1 Greg Sacks 1 Earl Ross 1 Bobby Hamilton 1 Joe Nemechek 1 Steve Park 1

</pre> STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: More of Park’s winner’s interview Sunday at Watkins Glen. “I had talked to Dale (car owner Earnhardt) really kind of previous to coming to Watkins Glen. We had been getting to know each other a little bit. Ty Norris, who was director of motorsports at the time, had called me and asked me when I was going up to The Glen. He said to get up there a day early and have dinner and get to know each other a little bit. We did, and a lot of people didn’t know what was going on. I was talking to Dale, and I was also talking to some other people. When we sat on the pole for the Busch race, and we beat out Mike Skinner who was Childress’ truck driver for the pole in the truck race and Hornaday I think was fifth. Ty called Dale and said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’ “He said, ‘what’s the good news?’ “Ty said, ‘well, the good news is that that guy Park we’ve been talking to is on the pole in the truck race.’ “Dale said, ‘well, that is good news. What’s the bad news?’ “Ty said, ‘well, Hornaday is fifth.’ “Dale said, ‘man, that ain’t bad news. That’s good news, also.’ “It’s kind of an inside joke where the guy they were thinking about putting in their Busch car came up here and had a lot of success and it definitely played a role in being hired by Dale Earnhardt in how well we ran in the Busch car and modified cars up here and stuff. To have it start there and then to have the whole dream of winning a Winston Cup race be realized back at the same place where you were first noticed by the same employer is just incredible. It’s like a Cinderella story. You couldn’t script it any better. To say, ‘man, I was noticed here, brought up into the minors and I don’t want to call the Busch Series the minors, but kind of like the minor leagues and then moved to the majors and win at the same place where you were discovered. That’s a pretty good story. “It’s sweet. I’ve never lost my desire to drive race cars. That was just a minor setback. If anything, I think it opened up my eyes to just how much I really do love auto racing. You don’t really realize something like that until it’s taken away from you. My focus, instead of trying to win races, was just to get my body healed up so I could get back in that race car. Again, it’s just another Cinderella story when you go from starting your rookie year and breaking three major bones in your body to rehabilitating to not knowing when you’re going to come back to coming back and having a lackluster start to having a turnover of a tremendous amount of people to getting an unbelievably talented crew chief from a major team. God kind of works in mysterious ways sometimes, and I think we were blessed getting Paul Andrews and a lot of the other people we have, Steve Hmiel and Dave Charpentier. We have all the ingredients to win races now. We used to just look at each other and say, ‘OK, man, we’ve got all the ingredients we need to win.’ Now we’ve won. It’s not from a lack of effort and a lack of work and a lack of broken bones. We’ve pretty much given it blood, sweat and tires to get here. “I was driving so damn hard off this last corner than I hit the rev chip before I hit the start-finish line, and it kind of caught me by surprise also. Usually you shift right after the start-finish line before you hit the rev limiter. I was just so excited that Mark was still behind me and I had a little bit of a leeway on him, I forgot to shift. The motor jumped up on the rev limiter and thanks to our engine shop, we’ve got great engines and it didn’t hurt it. I went through this last corner so fast, instead of hitting the rev chip after the start-finish line, it hit it about 20 feet before. I had my hand out the window and looked down and forget to shift and grabbed that last gear. From an excitement standpoint, I guess we made the only mistake we made all day. It didn’t hurt us at all. “I’ll hitchhike home if I have to. I’m sure there’s a lot of New Yorkers that wouldn’t mind giving me a ride home and having me stay at their house tonight. These guys are going through tech and they’re going to tear the engine apart. I’m sure we’re going to be here awhile. I want to ride home with the guys that put me where I am right now and put me where I am today. We’re not allowed to drink on our team plane, so we might drink some of those Budweisers off Dale Jr.’s team for a little while. I’m sure we’ll get a good night’s sleep and have a good part tomorrow (Monday). “We ran so good at Sonoma, other than breaking down, we thought we had a pretty good car. We went to Kershaw, S.C., to test, just to shake this car down for Watkins Glen to make sure we didn’t have any leaks or transmission problems. You probably think we should have come up here and tested and then come back and win, but we’re real happy with the car. The guys that built this car and designed it just for the road courses. I’ve been real pleased with it from the first time it came out. I took the last brand new car I had and flipped it over at Sonoma, so I was surprised they built me another brand new one. It just shows the dedication they have and how much they really trust in my abilities to get to victory lane. “It feels great to be a part of that elite group that have won their first races on a road course. This is a tough place to win at. If you’re not a road course expert, it makes it tough to come to a place that’s got all the corners, all the shifting, guys with a lack of experience tend to make more mistakes than guys with a lot of experience. Young guys like myself, we tend to overdrive our cars week in and week out and wear our stuff out so we don’t have nothing at the end. It’s amazing to me with the lack of experience I have here in a Winston Cup car, that we were able to come here and win, but this is also one of the places I have the most experience on a lot of the tracks we go to because of the modifieds, the Busch, the Busch South, the trucks and now Winston Cup. This isn’t a strange race track like a lot of the other ones to me that I’ve only raced on three or four times. I’ve raced a lot of races here, so I feel comfortable. First out on the race track, I put down some good laps, so I think that’s what made it happen. “I came up here a lot with my dad and other family members to sit around and watch the races. The Bud At The Glen, which was the previous, was something that if you weren’t here to watch it you were watching it at home on TV. It was always an exciting race. Now with it being sponsored by Global Crossing, it’s just amazing. I know what it looks like by watching it on TV. That camera shot from down there coming off that last corner while that guy is waving that checkered flag. I can’t wait to get home and watch a rerun of that. It just hasn’t sunk in yet. I know exactly what it looks like. I’ve seen Geoffrey Bodine do it before and Tim Richmond and Bill Elliott and Ricky Rudd. Just when the cars come off that last corner and off that hump with the checkered flag waving, it’s something from a driver’s perspective that looks way different than it looks like on TV. I’m looking forward to seeing it. “I was .38 of a second in the lead and not .38 behind. I knew it was going to be close. Mark had a great race car. He ran me down in a couple of corners and I’d pull away from him in another couple of corners. I knew if I could just keep him behind me by a car length and if he didn’t have an opportunity to out brake me in the last corner that we’d have a good shot at the victory. “The man (Dale Earnhardt, car owner) said, ‘you’re the man.’ I told him, I said, ‘I told you I could win.’ He said, ‘man, I never doubted it.’ “When I first started driving for him in the Busch Series I’d get so down on myself, and he said, ‘man, you can win at this.’ Through all the tough times, he just never lost confidence in my abilities to win races. He said when we get all the pieces in the right places, you’re going to win. I said, ‘man, I told you we were going to win.’ And he said, ‘man, I never doubted you.’ “We’re elated. We’ve all had a lot of pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself to win. Pennzoil has never been to victory lane in a Winston Cup race in I don’t know how many years. We’ve been telling Pennzoil the same thing. We’ve sat in meetings and when we haven’t been consistently running well we’ve been telling them to stick with us. Today, it all paid off. “Me and him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) have been good friends the last three or four years. I helped him in the Busch Series and now he helps me and I help him. Any time we’ve got a problem, we talk together. Being friends really makes that two-car team work the way it needs to work. He just came over and congratulated me. He said, ‘man it’s been a long time coming. Congratulations.’ “It’s a big weight lifted off my shoulders. I was looking at the program for Watkins Glen, and it had all the drivers and it had a list of all their stats. Throughout their career they had 10 top fives and 20 top 10s and no wins. I went down the win column, and you couldn’t count on two hands the number of people who have won Winston Cup races. You go down that win column, it’s a pretty shallow group of people who have been able to notch a win in this series. I was looking at my stats, whatever it was, three top fives and five top 10s and a goose egg in the win column. I’m sitting there thinking I’m kind of in the same group as a lot of these guys, but I’m not in that elite group of winners. Now when you pick up the program next week, it’ll have that 1 in the win column. I think that just takes a lot of pressure off of me. Now that we’ve won our first race, we’ve got to go win our second. I sat and told a lot of people over the winter time that it would be a disappointing season if we didn’t win a race this year. That was one of the goals we had set. We came close to it at the end of last year. We came out of the gates fourth at Atlanta at the beginning of the year. We’ve had some strong runs. At least we’re able to meet one of our goals and that was to win this year. “After Ron Hornaday won his first race he did a wicked smoking burnout and ended up knocking the valve springs out of the motor. Dale sent out a memo on Monday morning that if you did a burnout after winning you were going to get fined. When I sat there maybe thinking about doing a burnout, I said, ‘man, I really don’t think he’d fine me, but I’m not going to take the chance.’ I really wanted to be different. You see these guys doing burnouts and stuff. That’s just not my style. I wanted to give something back to the fans in New York that have really given me the motivation and when I’m down have lifted me back up and have patted me on the back and told me I could win at this level. I wanted to give a little bit back to them without burning their eyes out with smoke. “I think with our first Winston Cup win, if I had done a burnout, he probably wouldn’t have levied the fine but in the Busch Series, we don’t build the Busch engines, so he’s got to pay to have them fixed. I talked to Ron Hornaday and asked him if he won another Busch race if he was going to do another burnout. He said, ‘hell yeah. I’ll just pay the bucks.’ “I’ve been watching him race for years. If I have a third of the career he’s had, I’ll be a true champion and a winner in Winston Cup. To have him as a car owner, it’s just been a blessing. It’s taken that learning curve and has shortened it so much by having him around and having his confidence on your side. If you don’t do something right or do something he don’t like, he’s on your butt, but it’s no different than what my dad did when I was young. If you do something right, you might get a half a grin, but if you do something wrong, he’s up on your back and you’re out baling hay in the hot sun and he’s making sure you didn’t do something right and you’re not going to do it again. I’ve got to thank him. We’ve had some tough times and through all those tough times he’s stood behind me and hasn’t lost his confidence in my abilities to drive a race car. I think that was proved when we signed to stay together for two more years, the confidence I had in him and his team, and the confidence he’s had in me. With Pennzoil sticking with us, it’s just all come together a few months ago, and look at the results. We’ve been able to put that behind us and go on and win our first race.”

DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “Steve (Park) and his team have been beat up a little bit, and I think that win will give Steve and everybody on his team a big boost. Since his injury, Steve has been down a little bit, and I told him if he’d just give it a little bit of time everything would begin to gel. They’ve been waiting patiently for something to happen, and it sure happened Sunday at Watkins Glen. That was a big one. They say it’s easier to win after you’ve won the first one, and I sure hope it works that way for Steve. We’ve won three and haven’t done squat after that. We’ve been struggling, but we’ll just keep on racing and see what happens. Steve and his team won’t be just a flash in the pan. They’re a second or third-year team, and they’ve been patient. It was great to see him win. Maybe it’ll be our turn at Michigan. “Kerry (Earnhardt) is going to try to run his first Winston Cup race up there at Michigan, and I think he’s ready. He ain’t over excited about it or anything. I think he’s excited about it, but I don’t think he’ll psyche himself out so much that he’ll screw it up or something. I haven’t had a chance to talk with him about it much, but I’m sure we’ll talk when we get to the track. Kerry and I lived together for five years, so it’s not like we haven’t had our conversations about racing and just about everything else for that matter.”

KERRY EARNHARDT (No. 71 Realtree Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Earnhardt, a 30-year-old driver from Mooresville, N.C., will attempt to make his first NASCAR Winston Cup start on Sunday at Michigan Speedway in the Pepsi 400 presented by Meijer. He’ll be driving a Dale Earnhardt Inc., Monte Carlo that’s been loaned to Dave Marcis. Earnhardt has four ARCA starts with the Monte Carlo this season and has finished first, second, second and third with it. Tim Weiss, Earnhardt’s ARCA crew chief, and Marcis will call the shots in the pits for Kerry Earnhardt on Sunday. “We tested for the Winston Cup race at Michigan, and we ran some consistent lap times that would have put us in the top 10 in qualifying for the first race there this year,” Kerry Earnhardt said. “I was pretty pleased with the test, and I feel pretty good about the whole deal. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this car. ARCA races are pretty competitive, but I know it’s going to be even more competitive in Winston Cup. It’s more competitive in Winston Cup than any other series out there, but I’m really not going to put any pressure on myself. “I’d like to go out there and qualify in the first round. Anything above that is a bonus. I’d like to finish the race, and it’d be great if we could finish it on the lead lap. That’s what we’re going to try to accomplish. I’ve been working with the guys in the shop on the car a lot, and that helps my confidence level with the car. I know it’s been put together the right way. “We won with this car at Pocono in the first ARCA race this season and finished second with it there the second time around. I finished second with it at Charlotte and third with it at Michigan. I was leading the race at Michigan and ended up hitting the wall. That was the first time I’d led a race, and I was watching my mirror instead of the race track. I haven’t seen that mirror again since then. I don’t think I’ll make that same mistake again. Michigan is a pretty easy track, I think, to try to make your first Winston Cup start. It’s wide and forgiving and allows some room for mistakes. “I went to DEI today for lunch, and it was sure great to see Steve Park in victory lane yesterday. Everybody is pumped up at DEI. I was sure happy for Steve. He’s been needing that for a long time. I’m sure he had been feeling some pressure to win, but I’m really not expecting to feel any pressure at Michigan to make the field or do well in the race if I do make it. I’m going to do the best I can do, and that’s all I can do. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything. If you put pressure on yourself, then I think you tend to overdrive the car. “We’re just going to go up there and try to get some experience. I really don’t know where we’ll go from there as far as next season goes. We’ll know more after we see what happens at Michigan. We’re going to run eight ARCA races this season, and we’ve already run five. We finished last at Daytona and wrecked the car. We struggled there. We were learning each other and trying to put everything together. I think by the time we got to Charlotte, we had figured out a lot of things. “My wife, Rene, and my three kids (Bobby 13, Jeffrey 11 and Blade 8) are going up to Michigan with me this weekend. They’re all excited about it. My wife has been very supportive with my racing. I stay pretty busy with it. Sometimes I work seven days a week, and I couldn’t do it without her being supportive. We’ll just wait and see what happens. I’d really like to go up there and do well, but like I said, all you can do is the best you can do and hope that’s good enough.”

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Steve Park , Mike Skinner , Geoffrey Bodine , Ken Schrader , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Dave Marcis , Kerry Earnhardt , Richard Petty , Benny Parsons , Bobby Allison , Donnie Allison , Greg Sacks , Buddy Baker , Charlie Glotzbach , Harry Gant , Cale Yarborough , Tim Richmond , David Pearson