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Blk3GM's Winston Cup News

Park feels pain of disappointment
June 2, 1999 By Marty Smith, NASCAR Online

When Steve Park shattered his right femur in a crash during practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway last season, he was certain he'd reached the low-point of his racing career.
Sunday night, however, his assumption was disproved as he learned that emotional scars can hurt worse than physical scars. Sunday night, he drove to the apex of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series emotional roller coaster, only to finish with the disappointment of what might have been.

Park, driver of the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, was enjoying the finest outing of his brief series career when, on lap-240, he got loose coming out of Turn 4 and tapped Jeremy Mayfield. Although the bump was slight, it was enough to send Park careening into the outside retaining wall, ending the best-ever run for the Islip, N.Y., native.

"Breaking my leg was easy compared to crashing out of a race I thought we were going to finish in the top-5 and had a shot at trying to win," Park said. "It's just disappointment, but I've got a smile on my face because at least we were running good. It showed everybody that this team is capable of running up front, and that's what we needed to do for a long time.

"Jeremy (Mayfield) gave me room to get by on the inside. I got by on the inside and took the middle lane. I was coming on the bottom and somebody was pitting and got in some speedy dry and slid back out on the racetrack. It squeezed me up into Jeremy and got the car pulled around. We were just racing hard and got squeezed between two lapped cars.

"It's a position you don't put yourself in, and I didn't think I was putting myself in it until the lapped car came off the apron and I don't think that's something you can predict. We're going to shake this monkey off our back and go back to work and try to get this Pennzoil team the due credit it deserves. We'll go next week and try to run out front again."

A major factor in Park's ability to roar to the front Sunday was the expertise of new crew chief Paul Andrews. Ironically, Andrews directed Mayfield and the No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford team last season and in the early stages of this season, but left Penske-Kranefuss Racing earlier this month. In only a week at Dale Earnhardt Inc., Andrews has given the No. 1 team a much-needed boost of confidence.

"Paul Andrews came to our team with a wealth of experience and I love working with the guy," Park said. "They guy is awesome. We seemed to hit it off right off the bat. I'm ecstatic with the opportunity to work with a guy like Paul Andrews. You talk about chemistry -- me and Paul have some chemistry going right now."

Do they ever. On Wednesday, Park qualified 5th, which other than a 3rd-place qualifying effort at Texas, was his best time trial run of the year. Despite earning just his second top-5 start of the season, Park still began the race deep in the shadow of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who cranked the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet for his much-anticipated NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut three spots back in 8th.

However, it wasn't long before all eyes were on Park, who had weaved his way to the front and eventually pulled away from the field in dominating fashion. Then, just when it appeared he would be a front-runner for the duration of the race, tragedy struck, and the most promising night of his life ended much too abruptly.

"It was the run of our lives, the best run this team has had in a long time," Park said. "I've said we we're going to run this team around, and tonight we showed we're going to be able to be a contender in Winston Cup. Beyond all the disappointment and the addition of Paul Andrews and al the work Steve Hmiel has done on the car and motors, this is just the tip of the iceberg."

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