Winston Cup News
Park feels pain of
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
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
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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