Park posts 12th place finish
and moves DEI team to 24th in Points Steve Park was among the fastest in pre-race
practice but had to take a provisional starting position, 39th. Although disappointed with
his qualifying effort Park moved steadily through the field finishing 12th, his fouth
consecutive top-fifteen finish.
August 16, 1999 Race Report -- by Tracy Schlientz, Steve Park's Official Web Site
Despite a gloomy start to this weekend's activities, Sunday was bright and sunny -- filled
with hope for the Pennzoil Team. Steve clearly had a much stronger car than his
provisional starting position showed. His practice times were consistently fast, and his
experience here would give them the advantage. Crew Chief Paul Andrews visited victory
lane here with Geoffrey Bodine in 1995, only adding more promise for a successful run at
Patience and perseverance were the key to Park's success, and both were evident from the
drop of the green flag. He quickly climbed through the pack, picking up 7 positions in the
first 6 laps. When the first full course caution came out on lap 14, he had moved into
28th place. The yellow flag flew when local favorite Brett Bodine's car stopped on the
track after experiencing transmission problems.
The stage was set for varying pit strategies. Several teams decided to pit early, but
Steve remained on the track along with the race leaders. When racing resumed 2 laps later,
he was in 23rd place.
Steve continued his forward move through the field, moving up a position before an
altercation on lap 17 threatened to take him out of the race. Dale Earnhardt and Mike
Skinner made contact, sending Skinner spinning right in front of Park. Earnhardt and John
Andretti made contact trying to avoid Skinner, sending Earnhardt off course. All the cars
turned around, avoiding a full course caution. More importantly, Steve was able to avoid
contact with anyone, breaking into the top-20 by lap 18.
Park was in 18th place when the yellow flag came out for the 2nd time, just 2 laps later.
Ernie Irvan spun in the inner loop, ended up in the gravel surrounding it. The leaders
made their first round of pit stops under the caution, but lost several track positions
behind those who had pitted earlier. Park restarted the race in 31st on lap 22.
The third caution came out just 6 laps later, but Steve had already broken into the
top-30. Jeff Burton spun into the Styrofoam lining the track in turn 11, leaving debris
scattered across the track. Park picked up 11 positions after several teams made pit
stops. Racing resumed on lap 31, with Steve in 18th place. So far pit strategy was working
for the Pennzoil crew instead of against them.
Only 3 laps were run under green before the yellow flag flew again, with Park gaining
another spot. David Murray's car deposited oil on the track during the previous lap,
forcing the 4th full course caution. A few of the drivers made stops during the caution.
When racing resumed on lap 37, Steve was in the top-15 for the first time of the day.
Road racing specialist Boris Said quickly passed Steve on the restart, moving up quickly
with fresher tires. Steve lost another position to Mark Martin by lap 41, but just 4 laps
later Sterling Marlin was stuck in the gravel surrounding the inner loop, bringing out the
5th caution of the race.
The leaders did not pit during the caution, choosing instead to come in later under green
to push back their fuel window. Contrary to oval tracks, a driver looses fewer positions
under a green flag pit stop than during a yellow flag stop. Steve restarted the race on
lap 48 in 18th, but moved up quickly. By the time the first of those drivers pitted on lap
53, Park was in the top-15 once again.
Steve came down pit road on lap 54, confident that it would be the team's last stop of the
race. He dropped to 26th place upon returning to the track, having to wait until the
drivers in front of him eventually made their stops. Rich Bickle spun in the inner loop,
getting stuck in the gravel like others earlier in the race. The yellow flag flew for the
sixth time of the day. The final scheduled stops were made under the caution on lap 70,
and when racing resumed on lap 71 Park was once again in 15th.
Terry Labonte and Jeff Burton both passed Steve within the first few laps after the
restart, and the three drivers hooked up nose to tail behind Mike Skinner for several
laps. Steve moved up to 16th place on lap 29 when Jimmy Spencer got off course. Spencer
was able to keep forward momentum as he slid through the gravel, and get back onto the
track without the need for a full course caution. The following lap Ricky Rudd radioed
that he was stuck in 2nd gear, dropping significantly off the pace. Rudds team
discovered a small rock had the linkage jammed, however Rudd's misfortune moved Steve back
into the top-15.
Caution was out again for the seventh and final time just 5 laps later. Johnny Benson got
loose driving through the esses, eventually crashing into the surrounding guard rails. The
Cherrios car was quickly hauled away, setting up a green, white, checkered flag finish.
With only 2 laps to go on the final restart, racing became a scramble to the front. Steve
passed Jeff Burton on the restart to pick up one position going into the final lap. Two
drivers found themselves off course and into the gravel during the last lap. In addition,
several drivers made contact with the Styrofoam lining turn 11, causing a huge scramble
for the checkered flag. Steve came through clean, finishing the race in 12th.
Park moved up an impressive 27 positions from his starting position, climbing higher
through the field than any other driver. The team moves up 2 spots into 24th this week,
proving once again just how strong this team is. With less than 100 points separating them
from the top-20, expect a jump upward next week if the team turns a good finish.
"This place is so tough to pass on and as far back as we were starting it would have
been tough to move up much higher," said Park as he celebrated with the crew.
"This place is a real easy place to get over-eager and go off course. So every time
you made a pass today you had to make sure not to spin or get off course because if you
did that you'd end up about 30th."
"This was a tough weekend on Friday and Saturday but we made it all worthwhile on
Sunday," said crew chief Paul Andrews over the radio. "This was a good finish
The team carries the momentum of 4 straight top-15 finishes heading into next weekend's
race. Previous to this weekend's finish of 12th, Park recorded a 15th-place finish at
Indianapolis, an 8th-place finish at Pocono, and a 12th place finish at New Hampshire.
Winston Cup makes its return to Michigan Speedway, where Steve recorded his career best
finish earlier in the season.
"I think you are starting to see some consistency and that is what racing is all
about," said Park. "We aren't satisfied, but I think you are going to see better
and better finishes throughout the year."
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