NASCAR WCUP: Steve Park Returns to Native New York
4 August 1998#1 Pennzoil Monte Carlo driver Steve Park returns to the road course of Watkins Glen International Raceway this weekend where the NASCAR fraternity took notice of the 30-year-old East Northport, N.Y. native in 1996.
Park's breakthrough moment came when Joe Nemechek asked the youngster to qualify his truck. Nemechek was in Bristol racing in a Winston Cup race. With instructions to "just get the car in the field" Park climbed into Nemecheck's truck and surprised everyone but himself by winning the pole. Park also won the pole for the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour the same day. He turned the truck over to Nemechek for the race; but Park gained the attention of several car owners like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress and others who talked with Park about driving for their organizations. Park later joined Dale Earnhardt Inc. winning three Busch races in 1997 as well as finishing third in points and claiming the rookie award. Park made his Winston Cup debut at Watkins Glen last year qualifying 12th and running in the top ten before an accident. Park finished 6th at Watkins Glen in a Busch Series race in 1997.
Last weekend, Park returned to the Pennzoil Monte Carlo in Indianapolis after missing 14 races due to a crash in Atlanta that broke his right femur, left collarbone and right shoulder blade. Park finished 35th at Indianapolis after a late-race accident, but he was as high as fifth-place and catching the leaders midway through the race.
"We ran well but unfortunately we didn't get the type of finish that we wanted. Before the race I told everyone that waiting to get back in the Pennzoil car was like waiting for Christmas. About 70 laps into the race I radioed them that this was better than Christmas."
Park On His 1996 Weekend at Watkins Glen:
"That was one of the best weekends of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had worked hard to get where I was, but that weekend sure helped me get to where I am now."
Watkins Glen Strategy
"You absolutely have to take care of the transmission and stay on course at Watkins Glen. That's hard to do. But, if you do that all day long you will finish in the top ten. Now, if you can do that and maintain track position then you have a shot to win. As soon as you can make it on gas and tires you'd like to pit even if it is under a green. It takes so long to get around that track that there is really no way you can lose a lap even pitting under green. If a yellow comes out and all the other guys have to pit then you move into the lead. That's what happened at Sonoma all day long and it's probably going to happen here at Watkins Glen also. You have to pit as soon as you think you can make it to the end.
"I love this place. It's in my homestate first of all. Second it's a beautiful track and third it's a road course and even though I don't come from a road racing background I have been to about five road racing schools and really enjoy it now."
Sunday, August 9, 1998 in Watkins Glen, NY for the Bud at the Glen
Track Length: 2.45 miles, 90 laps, 220.5 miles
TV: 1:00pm/et on ESPN
First Round Qualifying - 1 lap, Friday, August 7, 1998 at 2:00pm/et,
Happy Hour Practice, Saturday, August 8th, 2:15-3:15pm/et, TV-ESPN2
Live Radio Coverage by the Motor Racing Network