Interview With Steve
Steve Park was announced today as the driver of the No. 62 Dodge Ram in the Craftsman Truck Series. Park answered questions from the media in a teleconference phone call.
How Did This Deal Come About?
"Really, it just came about over the winter time. I got a chance to talk to Shane Wilson, the former crew chief for Orleans Racing, and Steve Hibbard in general conversation. They were looking for somebody to come onboard after Brendan left to go to the Penske-Jasper Motorsports team. I showed a big interest in that. We just kind of moved forward, and I got a chance to meet Mr. Gaughan and display the kind of pleasure that I had in wanting to be there. After the last year-and-a-half of kind of dismal displays on the racetrack in the Nextel Cup Series I was looking forward to getting involved with a winning race team. Orleans Racing has shown that in the past. With Brendan Gaughan moving on, it gave me the opportunity to vie for that position and, fortunately, get that position filled. I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to getting back involved in a team that's capable of winning races.
Have You Ever Driven A Dodge?
"My affiliation with Dodge actually goes a long way. The first truck I ever ran back in '95 or '96 was with Walker Evans and the Dodge people too. I'm looking forward to getting reunited with them and getting the chance to show what we can do. Our main goal is to continue the winning tradition that the Orleans Racing team has and shoot for a championship. We feel that with the team and with the experience that I have that we can move forward with that and continue to win races and go for that ever important championship.
Why This Team?
"It's impressive. Mr. Gaughan has amassed an unbelievable truck team out on the West Coast. It's located right at the mouth of Las Vegas speedway in the Industrial Park. It's just an incredible truck team. Especially impressive was Kevin Kroyer's engine shop across the street, which builds the engines for the race team. Just to see the commitment that they have made to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with their Dodge Rams impressed me. It impressed me a bunch. Having the engine shop across the street with Kevin Kroyer, it just shows the excellence that they strive for. I was really impressed getting the opportunity to meet the people that they have on board. I can almost see why they've been successful in the past. We want to continue that tradition of success that they've had at Orleans Racing."
Will You Move To Las Vegas?
"I haven't relocated to Las Vegas. That's a big step towards finding crewmembers and stuff like that. A lot of people who are there have relocated. I'm still based in North Carolina and plan to remain in North Carolina and make the frequent long trips to the West Coast. It's one of those deals where they've proven in the past that they can win races from the West Coast. We're going to prove this season that we can continue to win races even though the driver is based on the East Coast. Our main goal is just to continue the tradition of winning races. I've spent the last week out there in Las Vegas, and I probably have had more fun in the last week than I've had in the whole year. Getting back to enjoying what you do - winning races with a team that wants you to be there - is something I've been looking forward to too. It's just been a year of ups and downs in the Nextel Cup Series, and I'm just looking forward to more positive things in the future with the Orleans Racing team. Again, our main focus is trying to run for wins and a championship in a Dodge truck, and that's what our plan is right now. We have no future plans other than really focusing on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
What Kind Of Adjustments Will You Have To Make?
"I've raced trucks in the early stages of my career. I think the main adjustment is going to be with the different people and the different drivers out there. We've seen in the past the Bobby Hamiltons and Ted Musgraves, who I used to race with in Cup, are now racing trucks. Mike Skinner now is racing a truck. I think that transition is going to be easier. It's just a matter of getting used to a new family, and I'm looking forward to it.
Is This A Step Down?
"You always look to the future, but the main thing now is that it's not a step back. I hate for people to look at that. This is a step forward to me. To be involved in racing like I have been since I was 10 years old. I'm just used to running good and winning races. I really just want to get back to that. We've proved in Cup that we can win races, but we just haven't been as fortunate in the last year and a half and haven't been with organizations that have given us the equipment to prove ourselves. To just struggle along and wake up on Sunday and know that if everything goes right you'll be a top-15 team is not why I race. The main reason why I race is to be competitive and win races. We can do that with Dodge and the Orleans Racing Team and with Kevin Kroyer building the engines. Brendan has proved that in the past. My main focus is getting back to winning races and enjoying myself. Where that takes you in the future, who knows? There's no set plan other than trying to win a championship in the trucks and going from there.
Have You Met Your New Teammate?
"I got to meet Scott Lynch, and he's a great young man and does a great job for Dodge. He's obviously won the Winston West championship. I'm looking forward to working with him. I talked with him the other day, and we kind of laughed back and forth. He's a great young driver. I told him, 'If you've got any questions, don't hesitate to ask me,' because I know if I have questions I'll probably ask him. I think our relationship is developing into one where we can learn from each other. I can give him some insight on what to expect at a young age, and how to move up and develop into a Nextel Cup driver. I'm looking forward to that. You can call it a mentorship, but I think I'm just looking forward to having a new friend that's involved in racing just like I am. I'm looking forward to my future not only for myself but for him too.
Will The Transition Be Easy?
"I don't think it's an easy step (from Cup to Truck) any way you look at it. They're totally different when it comes to bodies. I just think the power to weight ratio with the trucks are similar to the Cup cars and the Busch cars. It's not a step either way from a Cup car to a Truck, or from a Busch car to a Truck or vice versa. I just think having the key ingredients of a team that's capable of running up front is going to help bridge that gap between Busch or Cup or Truck. Orleans Racing in the past has shown that they can pretty much develop a truck and build a truck to run up front and win races. I'm looking forward to just being involved in that. Like I've said in the past, I can't emphasize enough that I spent the last week out there and between Mr. Gaughan and his family and the commitment that he's made to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series along with Dodge and Kevin Kroyer building engines, they have a first rate team that there's no doubt that they deserve a championship. We're hoping that we can move towards winning races and giving them a championship.
How Long Is This Deal For?
"This is basically a single year deal. One thing that I've learned too is that in the Truck Series it's not as big, corporate America as maybe the Nextel Cup Series. So, from a formality standpoint we've got a four-page contract that really is small in comparison. I told Mr. Gaughan when we talked that he's a guy that if he shook my hand and we made a deal, that'd be good enough for me. If it's one year or if it's 10 years, whatever his commitment is to me and my commitment is to him, we can just shake on it and go ahead and win races.
On Racing For A West Coast Team
"I think at first I (had reservations on driving for a Las Vegas-based team). But I think at first, everybody does. Until you come out there and spend some time and see the resources they have and the commitment they have to excellence they have all of the ingredients to be successful. They've been successful in the past. It bridges that gap of East Coast to West Coast quite shortly, just in being out there and seeing the commitment they have to racing. The logistics of it, being able to run a race team from the West Coast and do it successfully like they've done in the past, just really shows the commitment they have to running in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and doing it from the West Coast. I applaud them for that.
What Were You Looking For?
"I looked at the Busch Series and Truck Series, and I just think that the competitiveness in the Truck Series is one that we've really seen develop in the past year. With the resurgence of the guys that were in the Nextel Cup series coming on over to the Truck Series is just going to make it even greater. With other manufacturers coming into the Truck Series you're going to see all manufacturers kind of step up. You can pretty much mark my words on this: you'll see the Truck Series get more limelight, I think, this year than they have in the past. It's a series that's definitely moving up the level of the Nextel Cup and Busch Series, and from by far I think it's going to be the best series, from a racing standpoint, that you'll see this year.
How This Came About?
"I looked hard for a ride in Busch and Truck. There were opportunities in the Nextel Cup Series too, but an opportunity is not always a good opportunity. The way I looked at it was, you can be involved in a Nextel Cup series team where the best they can run is 20th, and I've been there and done that. That doesn't give me any enjoyment to be a part of that. There were high-level Busch teams that were available out there, and just watching the Truck Series over the last year has just excited me in the fact that when I had a choice of where I wanted to go, the Truck Series was a viable option. To have the option of going to work for Orleans Racing - where Brendan Gaughan has shown in the past that that team is capable of winning races and running for a championship - that was where I wanted to be. Once that option became open that was exactly where I wanted to be. I was very fortunate to get the chance to speak with Mr. Gaughan and Brendan and Agnes Ferretti and get the chance to speak to Shane Wilson and Steve Hibbard, to get the opportunity to be able to go there. That was my first option. That's where I wanted to be, and I was just very fortunate to be able to have that come together.
Will You Be Happy To Race In The Truck Series?
"You speak of the top level as Nextel Cup, and I've already been there and done that. Again, my main focus is being in the position to win races and winning a championship. You let the chips fall where you may. Mr. Gaughan and I have talked, and he said he hopes this helps propel me back to the Nextel Cup Series. But, if it's a one-year deal or a ten-year deal, if we're winning races and championships, then that's what I want to be a part of. That's what I want to be a part of. Our main focus is winning races and going for a championship. We have a lot of support from Dodge, which we appreciate. I'm looking forward to that. We'll let the chips fall where they may and see what happens in the future. But the future for us right now is winning races and racing for a championship.
Will This Be More Fun?
"You hit the nail on the head. (The Truck Series) is like racing used to be. It's gotten so aero-equal with the common templates and everything else. People complain about racetracks having single file racing. But, it's not so much the racetracks. The cars can only line up and run as fast as they can in single file. There are some tracks where, from an aero standpoint, it's hard for them to run double file. You'll watch the same track with a truck race that'll run three-wide. It's not the racetrack. I think it's just the aero-equal part of it that's making Busch racing and Nextel Cup racing very hard to pass. You've seen it come down to fuel mileage and people staying out to get that advantage of being out front and getting all the air that they can on the nose of the car because of all of the equality of the race cars. Truck racing is like racing used to be. You just get out there and race. You see the guys rub a little bit and run three-wide, and I'm looking forward to that.
Will You Run The Bud Shootout?
"We are pursuing (the Bud Shootout), and we want to make sure that when we do it, we do it in a Dodge. We have the support of Dodge, and that means a lot to me. We've been talking to numerous teams that might be able to field a car for us in the Bud Shootout. Even though we haven't heard a lot of things, things are not out the perspective of getting a chance to race in the Bud Shootout. We've focused so hard on putting this deal together that it has taken a back seat, but we have been working hard on putting a deal together for that too. It wouldn't surprise me if I'm in a Dodge for the Bud Shootout, and I'm kind of looking forward to that too.
How Will This Be Different?
"I think it's going to be a learning experience from the fact that the way the races are run is different. The length of the races is different. The strategy is different. The allowance of tires is different. It's going to be a learning experience, but it'll be one that I've gone through in the past and I'm looking forward to in the future. I guess it's going to be a learning experience from all of those aspects along with the other drivers that I have or haven't raced with. But we're hoping we can bridge that gap in a short amount of time and just fit right in. I'm looking forward to it. From the aspect of becoming a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver and getting used to be a new family I'll be a part of, it'll be a challenge that I'm up for and I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to just getting back to racing like it used to be. Racing three-wide and door handle to door handle is something that I'm looking forward to.
What Do You Still Have To Prove?
"I've raced since I was 10 years old, and I was fortunate enough to win in pretty much everything I sat it, including Nextel Cup races. It's not like I need to prove something, because we've pretty much won races from Busch right on up to Nextel Cup. I'd rather win races and be in a position to run good than I would be to run good and finish 15th. It's a situation where it's hard to get out of bed on Sunday mornings when you know that if all the stars line up you know that your best effort is going to be a 15th place effort. That's not why we all race. There are some guys that race and are happy with mediocrity, and I'm not. I race to win, and I'm looking forward to getting back with that. That's why we've taken a step to being involved with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series because the Orleans Racing Dodge has shown in the past with Kevin Kroyer's power that they're capable of winning races. The only thing they've been short of is winning the championship, and that's what we want to shoot for.
What Will You Miss Most About Cup Racing?
"The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series used to go to a roadcourse. I sat on the pole, I think, in Joe Nemechek's truck up at Watkins Glen and to be honest I'm going to miss that. We have a lot of other challenges in front of us, and again I think you won't miss it as much when you've got your arms held high in victory lane at an oval track. It's one of those things that you'll miss a little bit, but we'll have to overcome that."