Dodge teleconference - Steve Park
STEVE PARK (No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge Ram)
NOTE: Fresh off a season-best third-place finish on Saturday night in the Las Vegas 350 NASCAR Craftsman Series Truck race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Steve Park and the No. 62 Orleans Racing Team enter this weekend's American Racing Wheels 200 at California Speedway ranked 10th in the Series Standings. With six races remaining in 2004, the race is also heating up for the manufacturers' championship. Dodge continues to lead with a 119-117 advantage over Chevrolet.
"It's been an up and down season. We started off slow. Really getting started so late getting the people in place was a priority for us to get the Orleans team where it needed to be and that was up front and winning races. Three-quarters of the way through the season, we feel like we're getting on top of that. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're definitely moving in the right direction. To come off a third-place finish with our Dodge Ram in Vegas showed an improvement, not only to the race fans but to us that we're moving in the right direction."
HOW DO YOU STAY POSITIVE HEADING TO THE NEXT EVENT?
"We stay energized knowing behind the scenes we're making improvements we need to move forward and make our Dodge Ram a truck that can compete week in and week out and run for wins. We feel we're doing that. The main thing for us we want to do is be consistent, on a bad day finish 10th and on a good day win races. We're creeping up on that. We're not there just yet from a personnel standpoint and a performance standpoint, but there's light at the end of the tunnel and we know we can do that. This whole Dodge Orleans Race Team is a great race team. With Brendan moving on so late in the winter, it gave us a short time to put things together the way they need to be and over the course of the first part of the year we were still putting people in place, and stuff teams do really the previous seasons and during the winter time we were doing while we were racing the first half of the season. We're just looking forward to the last half of the season and be a team that can win races and run up front. I have no doubt that even with six races left we're going to win a race before the season's out."
COMMENT ON UPCOMING TEST
"We're actually testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway because the team is really located about a minute away from the speedway in the industrial park in front of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We're only allowed to test at a place like Las Vegas after we've competed on it. We have some improvements we want to make, not only to the truck we had Saturday night but to the truck we want to shake down for California, and this is a good place to do it."
WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK FOR CALIFORNIA RACE?
"We're real positive about it. Unless we learn something different in the test, we plan on taking the same truck we ran Saturday night. The guys spent all day yesterday really helping get the truck turned around so we can load it back up and take it to California."
COMMENT ON MANUFACTURERS RACE IN TRUCK SERIES
"This is my first year in the Craftsman Truck Series behind the wheel of a Dodge and I'm excited about it. I think it's one of the trucks to beat. We lack in performance from our standpoint, not from our truck's standpoint. We feel we have the best truck to race with. Here at Orleans Racing they only want the best, and they chose Dodge years ago to win six races with Brendan last year. We want to continue that success and before the year's out get in victory lane, not only once but multiple times."
COMMENT ON HAVING BRENDAN GAUGHAN WITH YOU AT THE TRUCK RACES?
"Unfortunately he can't be at all the races, but the races we run in conjunction with the Nextel Cup cars, he's always there and his enthusiasm helps lift the spirits of the whole entire team. How do you keep your spirits up when you have a bad day? Brendan is a good solution to the question. His enthusiasm spreads throughout the whole team."
DO YOU WATCH CUP RACES WISHING YOU WERE BACK IN THAT SERIES?
"That's a good question. Actually, no I don't. The fact is I spent numerous years in the Nextel Cup Series and you know you miss something once you're apart from it. I don't miss it at all. It's one of those situations where the last two years in Nextel Cup were years that really wore me just from not running good. I made a conscious decision to get back to being involved in something I can run up front and win races with. The Craftsman Truck Series and the Dodge we race week in and week out can do that. I'm actually in the best mood I've been in in two years. I feel confident week in and week out that we're going to be a truck that can contend for the win, and I haven't had that feeling the last two years. It's also nice to race on a Friday or Saturday and have Sunday off to spend with your friends and family."
DO YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE CUP DRIVERS OR CREW MEMBERS?
"Yeah, I sure do. It's hard to be friends in any series you're involved in because it's hard to play golf with a guy one day and then want to beat them on the track on Sundays. I never really had a lot of driver friends in the Cup series, but I have some friends that work on crews and we have been friends of mine for some time, and we still stay in touch."
COMMENT ON QUALITY OF RACING IN TRUCK SERIES
"When I thought about going into the Busch Series or Truck Series, one of my main concerns was getting involved in a series where the racing was competitive week in and week out. The truck series gained a lot of attention last year. Then looking at the beginning of this year with Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague coming back, and I just heard yesterday that Ron Hornaday might be coming back. By far, just the veterans with Bobby Hamilton and Ted Musgrave, guys that I used to race with and now race with again, and then the rookies with a huge amount of talent like Carl Edwards who is finishing out this year in the trucks and then moving on to Nextel Cup. By far, it exceeds all expectations of the competition level, and this year I think the competition in trucks is even far greater than it was last year. With the manufacturers support through the whole series and the way everybody has stepped up, we still feel our Dodge Ram is the truck to beat week in and week out, and we're real thankful for their help in the Craftsman Truck Series."
ARE THE VETERANS VALUED MORE IN THE TRUCK SERIES?
"I think from the fans standpoint I think it helps draw some fans to the truck series. This is my first year, but I can only gauge by what people say, and they enjoy the veterans, very talented rookies and the racing is side by side, there's a green-white-checkered finish and the races are two hours long on a Friday or Saturday instead of four hours long on Sunday. I enjoy the fact we can race on Friday or Saturday and have Sunday off to be with your friends and family. I think other people feel the same way. They have the Chase for the Championship right now in the Nextel Cup Series, and I think that's helping draw fans more to those last 10 races. By far, being involved in both, truck series racing is here to stay and the competition and racing exceeds all expectations I had for it."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE CUP SERIES?
"To tell you the truth, I'm like one of those old school guys. I've been watching Nextel Cup racing since I was about 10 years old. It always seemed like it rewarded the guy who was most consistent throughout the whole year. I know if I was involved in it and I had a 400-point lead going into the last 10 races, I'd feel pretty good about it, but I wouldn't feel good about it being erased and going back to a five-point spread between the top 10 guys. You spend most of the year being consistent, winning races and getting the advantage by accumulating all the points and I just don't see the fairness in it having the whole season erased for the last 10 races. That's just my own opinion. I know that from a TV and fans' standpoint, it helps draw attention to the Nextel Cup Series. We're hoping it makes the fan base even larger and makes those last 10 races even more entertaining. It's going to be interesting. Sometimes change is good. I think people are objective to change right off the bat, but I think if you look back on it after two or three years of executing this thing we might all look back on it and say it was a great idea."
COMMENT ON POINTS' RACE IN CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES
"It's tightened up. Bobby Hamilton has really stepped up to the plate, and he can consistently run up front with his Dodge Ram week in and week out. I've known Bobby for a number of years, and he puts a big effort into making his Dodge Ram capable of winning every week. It's going to come down to the wire, but he's up to the task. We've just moved into the top 10. We're closing that gap up to the top five. We're probably out of a shot to win the championship, but we're going to work hard and move up as close as we can get to the top five before the year is out."