April 21, 1999 Short Track Wars Put On Hold At
Text Courtesy Champion Sports Group (Country.com)
Steve Park knows the most important factor in going to the front of the pack on the
2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway (AL) is a good drafting partner. It doesn't matter if
it's the same driver who you just went to war with at Bristol and Martinsville in the last
two races on the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule. Those short track races allow drivers to
beat and bang as well as let off a little steam on fellow competitors. The 190-mph speeds
of Talladega, however, allow none of that. According to the driver of the #1 Dale
Earnhardt, Inc. Chevy, finding a partner to draft with during the race is the key to
"The schedule maker must be laughing right now," said Park, who missed the first
race at Talladega a year ago due to injuries suffered earlier in the season at Atlanta.
"We just spent two weekends at Bristol and Martinsville where you are beating,
banging, routing and gouging each other on the short tracks. Then they put us at Talladega
where we need a drafting partner more than anything else. So now I'm supposed to rely on a
guy who I have been mad at for two weeks to help me in the race."
While beating and banging are the rule on the bullrings of NASCAR, that kind of driving
doesn't fly at tracks like Talladega and Daytona. With the field bunched in a 190 miles
per hour fighter formation, just the slightest tap can spell disaster. It's what the
drivers call "The Big Wreck."
"At Bristol and Martinsville you can kind of give a love tap to someone who is in
your way or someone who you're mad at," stated Park. "At Talladega, if you do
that you are going to cause a heck of a big wreck and probably wipe out most of the field.
That's a driver's biggest nightmare. At Talladega you will hook up with your worst enemy
if it makes you faster."
While many drivers compare picking a drafting partner at Talladega with a chess game, Park
likes to use a different game as a reference point. "Remember when you were a kid and
you played musical chairs?" quizzed Park. "The object of that game was that you
always wanted to be by a chair when the music stops. That's just like Talladega. You keep
going round and round just waiting for the wreck to happen, and when it does, you hope you
can find a safe place."
Park also has his theory on "The Big Wreck" as well. "I guess the big wreck
at Talladega is inevitable. There's no strategy in missing it. Some years it starts with
the leaders, and sometimes it starts back in the pack. Leading a race is always great but
at Talladega, you need to lead the race just as a matter of survival."