Winston Open Steve Park press conference

STEVE PARK, NO. 30 AMERICA ONLINE CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: POLE WINNER'S PRESS CONFERENCE "I think everybody knows that the last seven days have just been unbelievable. Losing one job and then landing and then landing at RCR. It's a whole bunch...


"I think everybody knows that the last seven days have just been unbelievable. Losing one job and then landing and then landing at RCR. It's a whole bunch of mixed emotions. I think the main thing is, when I lost my job and then actually signed up with Richard (Childress), it was like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. Richard sat me down and said, 'You know what? We've got to have fun. This team is a team that's been struggling, and I can see that there not having fun going to the races.' I said, 'You know what? I'm not having fun.' The last few months have just been miserable. I think it showed in my attitude and I think it showed on the racetrack. I apologized to the media before because in California pretty much you could tell the frustration that I had. You've got the supposed confidence of your team behind you, and then two weeks later you get fired. I guess you're just judged by what you do on the racetrack and what you did last week. I'm just real thankful that Richard gave me the opportunity to go to his race team and work with Mike Beam, who's an awesome individual. Great crew chief. I've actually watched him win races with Bill Elliot and Ricky Craven. I wish I knew everybody's name on the team, but I've only been there seven days. I came on the radio and said, 'Hey Mike, great race car. Ron, who tunes the engines, Spinney who builds the engines. I just can't remember everybody.' But they understand. They all 'high-fived' me on pit row. They were like, 'If you run like that, you don't need to know our names.' But we're having fun, that's the main thing. That's the thing I was kind of shooting for. I love to race. I like to be with a team that likes to have you there. I like to be with an organization that also enjoys having you there. We work 38 weeks a year and have no time off, so with the competition we survive with, you got to have fun doing it. You're racing with family, you're racing with friends for quite a long time, so you really got to enjoy what you're doing. We're enjoying today quite a bit. I mean, the most fun I've had in over a year is the last seven days. Not even up to today, but even prior to today. The joy that I'm feeling is just a continuation of the way I felt this week. Again, I just want to thank Richard Childress who just gave me a great opportunity. I think we all know what kind of race team he has, and the race cars he has. Getting an opportunity to work with Mike Beam, who's a great guy. We broke the ice in Kentucky and tested out there so that we could come here and not be headed in two different directions. We think very much the same. What he likes on his race cars, I like. And plus all the guys on the team. And they have a great sponsor with America Online and they're here this weekend. The one guy who kind of heads up things for America Online, Richard, actually was with the Burger King sponsorship back in '97 when I ran that car. So just a lot of really good positive things that are going on, and I'm just proud to be where I am today."

WITH ALL OF THE RUMORS GOING AROUND, WERE YOU STILL SURPRISED TO BE RELEASED? "Yea, I sure was. It's hard to describe when you're being pat on the back and saying we're having a tough year. We're not the only people having a tough year. You feel like you got this confidence in your team, and they pat you on the back and they're telling you your ride is secure, and let's just keep working and we've got a lot left in the year to try and straighten things out. And then in a short period of time I got fired. It kind of blindsided me. It caught me off guard, but things happen for a reason. If they would've waited a month, this opportunity with Richard Childress wouldn't have been available. I just want to thank God for the opportunity that was available. Timing is everything, I'm a true believer in that. I'm just really glad that I landed on my feet at RCR with America Online. We've got a great race team. We're just one qualifying lap old, so we've got a lot left for the rest of this year."

IF THIS HAD HAPPENED A WEEK AGO, WOULD YOU HAVE HAD THE SAME CONFIDENCE GOING INTO TOMORROW'S RACE? "I haven't lacked confidence in myself. The old question, 'Is Steve Park healed from his injury?' It sells a lot of newspapers, I can tell you that. But I know myself. I can only judge myself for how I feel, and I've felt great for the last 10 months. It's one of those things where, and it's what's frustrating, you feel capable of running in the front and you're not. So then you have to ask yourself, 'Why not?' If you don't question yourself, then you question your race team. And then they're sitting there and they're questioning you, and everybody's pointing fingers here and there. It's just a situation where we had a huge loyalty to each other, so we might've let that sit in the way, and a change of scenery is actually good. It wasn't a heated argument. They decided that a change was in order for them, we talked about it, and I kind of agreed. I said, 'You know what? We're just not getting it done together as a team, so maybe a change is good.' So both of us (Park and Jeff Green) were sitting there without a job. What's funny about that is, I think I was out of work for about 14 hours. Then the opportunity came at RCR. As much as it looks like a swap, it wasn't a swap. Jeff Green got let go, and a couple of days later I got let go. Then I got called by RCR, and it was just one of those things where it wasn't like a collaboration of DEI and RCR talking, it was just a situation where DEI needed a driver and Jeff Green was available, and RCR needed a driver and I was available. When RCR called me, they said 'I hear you're on the hot seat, what's going on over there?' I said I just got fired yesterday, and they said well come up here and let's talk. It reminded me so much of Dale Earnhardt. Dale never asked you to do something, he told you. And Richard was the same way. He said 'Come up here and have dinner tomorrow night.' It wasn't like, 'Hey, you think you might want to come up here?' It was just, 'Yes sir.' Just like it was with Dale. Dale was just very stern and to the point, and he knew what he wanted, just like Richard does. I'm just real thankful. It didn't take me a half hour to sit down with him and listen to the forward thinking that he had with the AOL team, what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be. I said, 'You know what? Sign me up man, I'm ready to go.' Again, I'm just real thankful. I thank my blessings that timing is everything and that the door was open when I was available. To work with Mike Beam and have AOL as a sponsor is just unbelievable. They have a lot of things going on, sponsor-wise, that's going to help promote Steve Park. There's just a lot of exciting things that are happening."

YOU KIND OF INSINUATED THAT YOU WERE NOT INTEGRATED INTO MAKING DECISIONS AT DEI LIKE YOU MIGHT HAVE WANTED - DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE MORE AN INTEGRAL PART WITH RCR AND IS THAT WHY IT'S BETTER? "I'm not a very smart person, I just know that I got fired from my last job. I'm real happy to be integrated in RCR. It's just so nice to be able to work with Mike Beam and the entire crew. It's like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders. It's great to work with Mike and the whole bunch of guys that we have. All these guys want to do is win races, just like myself. The main thing is we need to run good, but we need to have fun doing it, and we're having a bunch of fun. The most fun I've had has been the last seven days, even before we came here. I give the input, Mike's capable of fixing the car, and we're capable of going fast like we did today. I can't thank Richard enough for choosing me. He had a whole bunch of people to choose from, and I'm thankful he chose me. I definitely don't want to let him down."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup