Park awaits career restart
By GODWIN KELLY
Last update: 07 February 2004
DAYTONA BEACH -- Steve Park is anxious to start a new phase of his racing career, driving Michael Gaughan's No. 62 Craftsman Truck Series Dodge.
After six years in Winston Cup racing, Park said he is excited about his prospects at Daytona International Speedway for 2004.
"Knowing that if we play our cards right, and we work hard, we have a shot of winning the race," Park said.
He hasn't had that feeling about Daytona for a long time. At Dale Earnhardt Inc., driving the No. 1 Chevy, he was overshadowed by teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip, who has two Daytona 500 victories in the last three years.
"I know Junior and Michael look forward to coming down here," Park said. "When I was part of their team, it was like 'Man, we are going to work our butts off to finish 15th.'
"Meanwhile, my teammates were racing for the win. I could never figure out why, and it made it very difficult to come here."
Park, who recently moved here after building a house, was released by DEI last May and finished the season with Richard Childress Racing. He scored two victories at the Cup level, both in the DEI No. 1 Chevy.
The No. 1 team is now a shell of itself. John Andretti will drive the car in the Daytona 500, then it will be used for research and development.
"I want to look at the positive things now," Park said. "I look forward to racing with the No. 62 team. What's happened in the past, happened."
Park said DEI changed dramatically after the death of founder Dale Earnhardt, who was killed after crashing on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
"When Dale Earnhardt passed away, it took a lot out of me and I'm sure it took a lot out of them, too," Park said. "The main thing now is look to the future and being with a race team that can win races."
Park replaces Brendan Gaughan, who has moved on to Penske Racing.
Gaughan won a series-leading six races in 2003. He said Park has the ability to achieve the same performance level.
"Steve has been racing a long time," Gaughan said. "He's had some problems in the recent past that everybody is blowing out of proportion.
"We had a lot of people call us and told us that a lot of things that happened to Steve were not his fault."
Park, 37, said he can't wait for next week's Florida Dodge Dealers 250.
"You put Steve Park in the top-five in the last laps, you better hold on," he said. "There won't be a person in the grandstands sitting down. They finished three-wide last year. We'll finish five-wide this time."