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Blk3GM's Dale Earnhardt Site


Park strengthens hold on Cup ride
July 26, 1999 - By Mike Mulhern, JOURNAL REPORTER

LONG POND, Pa. - Ty Norris, who heads Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s racing operations, insists any questions about Steve Park's future are misdirected -- and Park's strong run in yesterday's Pennsylvania 500 would seem to back that up.

Park led late for six laps and finished eighth in his best run since Charlotte.

Although he has only 41 tour starts under his belt, Park has been under a lot of pressure because he's in such a high-profile ride.

''We had such a good month at Charlotte, and things were looking great, and then we go to Sonoma and flip a car over, and it looked like it was just downhill from there,'' Park said. ''We've got a great race team here and we need to perform. That's what we did today. We had about an 18th-place car, but Paul Andrews and the guys had good pit stops and called a good race and got us a good finish. It's great to be competitive. It's great to run up front with those guys.

''We've only been around a year-and-a-half, and this team has only been around a year-and-a-half, but this team has a Dale Earnhardt label. Me and Dale talk all the time, and this team is just starting to get to the point where we can run like this week-in, week-out. We just need to run consistently in the top 10, and not have a good run and then a bad run. When we can do that, we can start looking toward a top five and a win. And I think that's right around the corner.''

Park -- with Paul Andrews as crew chief, Steve Hmiel as technical advisor and Earnhardt as the deep-pockets backer -- has an enviable Winston Cup ride, even with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as his new Winston Cup teammate, with all the hoopla baggage that it entails. So the question is how long a learning curve will Park be allowed? Last season and already twice this season, there have been reports that Park has been told to step it up, the latest coming in the wake of Park's crash at Indianapolis while testing for the Brickyard 400.

''It sounds like a broken record,'' Norris said. ''Nobody has laid down any kind of time period for Steve Park. Nobody.

''There are 48 teams here and 44 are frustrated, and we have to throw ourselves into that category from our performances. But the easiest thing in the world to do is to look at the driver. But we are looking at the organization. That's why we keep trying to improve the personnel, to help the organization get stronger, because we have to be able to give Steve the best race cars and the best engines and the best people available. Until we do that, you can't judge him.

''The only thing we want to see is consistency in everything. And there are a number of things that have happened this year that have nothing to do with the driver. We've had parts break, engines break, things happened that had nothing to do with who was sitting in the car, whether it was Dale Earnhardt in there or Steve Park. That's why we have to make the organization stronger.

''A lot of people want to look at this deal because it's a high-profile organization and cast stones at it, but we are only 18 months old. We've only been in our shop a year and two or three months. We just opened it up to the public two months ago. We're not Hendrick Motorsports, and we're not Roush Racing and we're not Joe Gibbs Racing, because we haven't been around 10, 12 or 15 years. We are not an extension of Richard Childress Racing. We're on our own. So let the organization mature a little bit before we start casting stones at any part of it.''

Yet there is such pressure to perform that newcomers aren't given much time to get up to speed.

''I remember when we finished sixth at Michigan they were all saying Steve Park was showing what he could do, and that was just a month ago,'' Norris said. ''But I guess you're only as good as your last race, and the last two or three races we haven't been that good.''

What happened at Indianapolis? ''We got loose coming off the corner, spun out and hit both sides in the wall, outside and inside,'' Norris said.

So no ultimatums have been issued? ''We have meetings every week,'' Norris said. ''It's not like it's new. We have meetings with the driver, we have meetings with the motor guys, we have managers meetings, we have fab shop meetings every morning at 7:30. If we sit down and talk and issues come up, that's not like we called some special wake-up meeting.''

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Blk3GM's Dale Earnhardt Site was born on July 26, 1998 and is owned and maintained by Gary Harris.  This site is a tribute to "NASCAR's Greatest Driver" and his up and coming son.  We are not affiliated with any official Team, Sponsors, Media Group or NASCAR.  This site is solely for entertainment purposes.  Information and statistic's on this site have been collected from various NASCAR related sites on the internet, from Winston Cup Scene, Newspapers, Television and our personal experience at Winston Cup and Busch Grand National races.  All statistics are believed to be accurate at the time they are updated but cannot be guaranteed.
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