Park Fights For 12th at Atlanta
Steve Park drove his No. 62 Orleans Dodge to an impressive 12th-place finish in the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway March 13 after starting 27th, being penalized during a pit stop and getting collected in a late-race accident.
Park advanced 17 positions moving into the top 10 before Lap 30 of the EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200. He continued to move forward reaching fifth place just after the halfway mark.
“We worked from 27th to a top five and then had to go to the back again when we got the penalty for a crew member being over the wall too early,” Park said. “That was a shame. I think we must have passed the most trucks all day. The Orleans Dodge was handling well. We had a great truck all day.”
During the team’s second pit stop, which came on Lap 86 when Joey Clanton hit the wall, Park entered the pits in fifth but was sent to the back of the longest line by NASCAR for a crew member being over the wall too early.
“It was a legitimate penalty,” said Johnny Allen, the team’s crew chief. “The jackman slipped and was over the wall too early. It was a deal that cost us pretty big.”
But Park never fell farther than 12th position and rallied to seventh with five laps to go. With two laps remaining, Robert Huffman, driver of the No. 12, hit the wall coming off of Turn 4 and slid down the track into Park. The truck received minimal damage, and, after two pit stops for repairs, Park was still on the lead lap.
“We got run into by the 12 truck there at the end,” Park said. “I guess we put ourselves in a position to get wrecked.
“These guys race hard. It was a green-white-checkered finish. These guys are racing for the win, and that is what makes NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing so entertaining for the fans. They stand on their feet in the stands the last five laps just like we do in the trucks.”
Brian Finneran, a wide receiver for the Atlanta Flacons, and George Layne, a fullback for the Falcons, were guests of Orleans Racing and served as honorary pit crew members.
“This was fantastic,” said Finneran, who was attending his first race. “Thank you to the Orleans Racing team for having me here. We had a great vantage point from on top of the pit box. Everyone was really nice. That first time when the trucks came around Turn 4, it was just awesome. I am a race fan now, very much so.”
Layne said: “This was my first time in the pits. I had a blast. Everyone showed us respect, and we have respect for everything these guys do. It was great to get to see the behind-the-scenes action.”
Bobby Hamilton won the 130-lap race, which included four cautions and 11 lead changes. Four drivers were transported to nearby hospitals: Tina Gordon, Rick Crawford, Hank Park Jr. and Joey Clanton.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the drivers who were transported today,” said Park. “I haven’t heard the report on their conditions, but we are thinking about them.”
The next race for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is the Kroger 250 at April 17 at Martinsville Speedway.