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Two years after head injuries, Park restarts career in truck

Two years ago Steve Park suffered severe head injuries that left him with blurred vision and slurred speech and eventually cost him his ride. He is now trying to jump-start his career in the Truck Series.

By LARRY WOODY
Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Two years ago Steve Park suffered severe head injuries in a horrendous crash at Darlington, S.C.

Park survived.

His big-league racing career didn't.

Plagued by blurred vision and slurred speech, the 37-year-old driver found himself under a microscope that magnified every mistake he made.

The driver who at one time was on a fast track to NASCAR stardom suddenly found himself in a freefall. He eventually lost his Winston Cup ride with Dale Earnhardt Inc., and now he is starting over in NASCAR's third-tier Craftsman Truck Series.

''The only way to change people's opinion about you is to run good,'' Park said as he prepared for today's truck series qualifying that will set the field for Friday's season-opener here at Daytona International Speedway.

''I've never doubted myself, but I realize that a lot of other people have.''

At one point a frustrated Park lashed out at the media, whom he blamed for dwelling on his physical condition and fostering doubt in the minds of team owners and his fellow drivers.

''Some day when I come back I'm going to paper my walls with all the negative stories that have been written about me,'' he said.

Ricky Craven, who was temporarily sidelined by a similar head injury, empathizes with Park.

''People look at you differently when you come back,'' said Craven, who eventually revived his career. ''You know they're wondering if you really should be out there. It's a tough thing to go through.''

Park got his second chance when Brendan Gaughan abandoned his truck ride to join Penske Racing in the Nextel Cup Series. Gaughan won a series-high six races with the truck team last season and made a strong run at the championship.

''This is a first-class team and I know that we have a shot at winning,'' Park said. ''I want to look at the positive side now. What's happened in the past, happened, and I can't change it. I have to move on.''

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