Steve Park Taking Car That Led
84 Laps at Charlotte to Indy; Says 1998 Indy Race Was the Most Emotional of his Racing
July 29, 1999
When #1 Pennzoil Monte Carlo driver Steve Park
walked from Gasoline Alley to the starting grid for the Brickyard 400 last year it was the
most emotional moment of his career. Five months earlier Park broke his right femur, left
collarbone and right shoulder blade in an accident at Atlanta. After missing 15 races he
made his comeback at Indianapolis running as high as fifth before a lap 148 crash dropped
him to 35th. Park might not have won the race that day but his victory over
career-threatening injuries was a triumph. Park proved he was healthy enough to race with
the leaders in 1998. In 1999, Park hopes to prove he's ready to beat the leaders. The
31-year-old East Northport, N.Y. native and his Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates tested on
July 19 & 20 at Indianapolis where he posted one of the quickest times but also
suffered a turn-two accident.
Steve Park Quotes:
Mystique of Indianapolis:
"I've always said racing is a high speed sport, but sometimes the fastest thing about
racing isn't the cars. It's how fast you can go from the top of the world to the bottom.
You can also go from the bottom to the top pretty fast as well. Indianapolis is great
place to do that. No matter who you are or what you have ever done behind a wheel, if you
win at Indy you are a hero. If there is a race left on our schedule that I had my choice
of winning it is Indy.
"I remember testing at Indy before the race last year and thinking that it didn't
look that big, but I guess that was because there weren't any fans in the stands. Then
during those first two days of qualifying there were a lot of people, but the effect still
wasn't there. On Saturday morning when the stands filled up and we took the lap around the
track in the pre-race ceremonies I just couldn't believe how many people were there. It
looked totally different. There were more people there that day than I've ever seen
anywhere in my whole life. With all the people there, I guess Indy is kind of like auto
racing's version of Woodstock. I have a greater appreciation of Indy than most I think
because I drove a lot of open-wheel cars when I was growing up. Everyone in NASCAR wants
to win Daytona and Indy sometime in their careers.
"Yes, I was a little nervous last year. I think it being my first race back, coupled
with it being my first time at Indy and Indy being Indy made that about the most emotional
moment I've ever had in 20 years of racing. Throw in the fact that Pennzoil, my sponsor,
is the race sponsor and it was a pretty nerve-wracking time. I thought I was physically
ready but you really don't know for sure until you race. We had a pretty good day. It
could have been a great day but there at the end we kind of got caught back in the field
after a pit stop and then got involved in that wreck. I was disappointed after the race,
but you know I was also pleased. I'd come back from a pretty serious injury a lot faster
than most people thought I would and that's a pretty good victory in and of itself."
Indy Test Last Month:
"We were pretty good. We took two cars and got the first car running pretty good and
I think we were about seventh. We took out the second car and were just trying some things
to go faster. We got in trouble in turn two and hit pretty hard. But, that will happen
when you are trying to go fast. We learned what we needed to learn and that was our goal.
We are taking the car that we raced at Charlotte where we led 84 laps. I hope we are as
good at Indy as we were at Charlotte. Some people say you have to lose a race before you
can win a race. I look at Charlotte as the race we lost. We were fast that night and just
got screwed up with some lap traffic. We learned a lesson that night. Now its time to win
"Sure we are disappointed where we are in points but we have had a fast car at some
places. I thought we would be a lot more consistent, but we have had a lot of change on
this team. We have changed crew chiefs, motor room personnel, pit crewmembers. All
searching for the right combination. I think we are on to something now. Paul Andrews is
our new crew chief and has really improved me as a driver. I know everyone gets tired of
hearing about communication but that's where the biggest improvement is. Paul and I seem
to communicate really well. This isn't like other forms of racing where you can get a
mechanical advantage. In NASCAR everyone has the same basic equipment, the key to success
is getting the people and not just the right people, but the right people who can
communicate with each other. There are guys who will be a perfect fit for one team and not
so well at another team. That's what makes this sport tough. It's finding not only the
best people at their jobs, but also the best people who can work with the others on the
Crew Chief Paul Andrews Says Secret To Indy is Short Track Car For Track's Four Flat Turns
And A Superspeedway Car For The Long Stretches
Paul Andrews Quotes:
"Indianapolis is almost like a big short track. It's flat with very little banking in
the corners. If you didn't have the little straightaway or short-chutes between the
corners then you would have a short track except that at Indy you are traveling virtually
200 mph approaching those corners. One of the biggest challenges presented by Indianapolis
is for our engine department. They have to have a motor that runs really good on the
bottom end and that runs on the top end so you can get down the straight-away as quick as
possible. For us as crew chiefs we have to have a car that has the aerodynamics of a short
track car so you can get through the corners but at the same time you need a sleek car
like we have a Daytona and Talladega so we can get down that straight-away. The trick is
getting both of those things right then it can be a lot of fun. Goodyear has the same
challenges that the teams do. They need to have a tire with a lot of grip but at the same
time it has to be tough enough to withstand the cornering speeds. Us crew chiefs and
chassis specialists like to put a lot of camber in the tire to make the cars turn better
and that can lead to tire problems sometimes. I think we saw some evidence of that at
Pocono last week. Goodyear does a good job so I think we will be OK."
Just Another Race?
"Indy is just another race, but it isn't. It's probably the second biggest race we go
to but it pays the same amount of points as any other race. We have to get out of there
with a top ten or top five finish. You want to win, but if you could go in there with a
guarantee of a top five finish then we would probably take it. But winning it would be
something you would never forget."
Pennzoil's Brickyard Story Ideas:
Steve Park: overcame broken leg in rookie season, drives for Dale Earnhardt Inc., New York
native, owns a modified car which his father Bob Park drives in the SMART series
Truck driver/gas man Troy Cole who retired after 25 years as a captain in the Charlotte
Fire Department. Cole can compare going over the pit wall in the middle of a race to going
into a burning house. Cole is also good at describing the life of a truck driver in
Winston Cup racing. He's an excellent interview. Pennzoil created a Troy Cole autograph
card that he has signed at tracks throughout the country. Cole is the only truck driver
with his own card.
Walt & Gary Smith (brothers) who own two Nautilus fitness centers in North Carolina.
They train driver Steve Park about three times a week as well as the Pennzoil pit crew.
The Smiths also coordinate the race day pit stops teaching technique to the 7-member crew.
Walt serves as the jackman and Gary as the tire carrier during each stop. Both have been
involved in NASCAR for several years.
Ty Norris, Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s Director of Motorsports, serves at the spotter on race
day helping driver Steve Park in and out of traffic. Norris is also a good interview on
the issues facing teams in the Winston Cup, Busch and Truck Series.
We have a 3-minute beta tape of Steve Park leading at tour of the new Dale Earnhardt Inc.
shop. The shop just opened to visitors in May and is one of the most technologically
advanced shops in Winston Cup racing. The tape contains several minutes of B-roll as well.
Engineer Dave Charpentier served on a submarine in the Navy and can compare the technology
used in the military to the technology on a Winston Cup car as well as the technology in a
Winston Cup shop.
Pennzoil's Motorsports Director is Joyce Caron Mercier is one of the few women overseeing
such an extensive program in all of auto racing.
Print graphics are available comparing the amount of miles each top series run during a
season as well as a graphic showing the role of each crewmember during a pit stop.
Steve Hmiel - long time Winston Cup crew chief who won dozens of races with Mark Martin.
Excellent interview on state of the sport, significance of Brickyard and comparing NASCAR
to other forms of race.
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.