NASCAR: Steve Park Tests At Greenville Speedway
25 June 1998(Charlotte) -- #1 Pennzoil Monte Carlo driver Steve Park returned to a race car on Monday only 109 days after suffering a broken right femur, a broken left collarbone, a broken right shoulder blade and two chipped teeth in a severe crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 6. Park, Pennzoil Crew Chief Philippe Lopez and a few crewmen from his Dale Earnhardt Inc. team spent several hours at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway running about 200 laps on the flat half-mile track in 95-degree heat. Park will test the Pennzoil Monte Carlo at Indianapolis on July 13,14 & 15 with his return to Winston Cup racing expected at the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 1. Darrell Waltrip, who is substituting for Park, plans to return to the #17 car at the Brickyard.
"This is the best therapy any doctor could order for me. Ever since I hit the wall at Atlanta my goal has been to get back in the Pennzoil Monte Carlo and today we did just that. All we tried to do today was knock the rust off I'm pretty happy to find I really didn't have that much rust. It took about two or three laps before I felt like I had never been out of the car. It was a hot day on a short track, just as I like it. Our next step is to test at Indianapolis. That's going to be a lot more intense. That's one of the biggest races of the year and it's important that I'm in top shape when I get there because I know there are going to be a lot of cars trying to make the race. I'd like to come back before the Brickyard, but that is something we are still trying to figure out right now. No matter where I come back, it's going to be great to be back in a Winston Cup car. I can't describe how tough it is to watch these races. I hope I never have to sit out again in my life. I think when I return we can be pretty competitive.
"I'm looking forward to getting back in the rookie race also. Kenny (Irwin), Kevin (LePage) and Jerry (Nadeau) have all done pretty well this year, but I think we have something for them. I know we are kind of behind the eight-ball having missed so many races, but that makes it all the more fun to try to get in there and win. Really though, what I want is just to race again. I'm not worrying about getting hurt again. I guess if there is a concern about coming back it's that I'm too aggressive. I know that I can't make up for missed races by racing extra hard. I plan to come back and learn as much as I can, because you know I'm still a rookie. All those other guys have had three months of experience while I've been watching. Earnhardt told me before Daytona to use my noggin and that's probably what he's going to say when I start racing again."
Crew Chief Philippe Lopez:
"Steve is definitely in shape. His rehabilitation must have gone very well because he outlasted the crew in the heat. At the end of the day, the crew was worn out and he wasn't. As far as competitive times, by the third lap he was right there. A test like this, after being out for 109 days, is as much for Steve's confidence and mental reassurance that he is back. We know his leg is OK and the rest of his body is OK, but you never really know if a driver is back until he gets in the car and hauls it down in the first corner at speed. I think it's safe to say Steve is back."