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Park gears up for truck racing

By Shannon Rose
Sentinel Staff Writer
February 13, 2004
DAYTONA BEACH -- Lessons learned on the racetrack have helped Steve Park make the transition from a one-time budding NASCAR Winston Cup star into a new start in the Craftsman Truck Series.

"You always look to the future, but the main thing now is that it's not a step back," Park said. "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."

When Park starts on the 11th row for tonight's Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona International Speedway, it will be without any chip on his shoulder or any regrets.

Park's career has had its ups and downs. He endured two major recoveries from racing accidents. He came back stronger from the first one in 1998. The second one, in 2001, was the beginning of the end of his tenure with Dale Earnhardt Inc., which fired him last May.

While getting to the Winston Cup was his racing dream, Park isn't bitter about leaving the series. He looks at is as an opportunity to go back to doing what always mattered the most -- winning.

"It's not like I need to prove something because we've pretty much won races from Busch right on up to Nextel Cup," Park said. "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."

Park spent six years in the "majors," with two wins and a career-best 15th-place finish in the points race in 1999. But after a head injury in 2001, Park's success disappeared.

Now, he hopes to regain his consistency. He is with a team that is capable of winning races every week. The No. 62 Dodge, owned by Michael Gaughan, won six races last season.

Park replaced Brendan Gaughan, who finished fourth in the Truck Series last year. Gaughan is now driving for Penske Racing in Nextel Cup.

Park acknowledged that there is a transition period in running the trucks -- he has run four races -- but he certainly doesn't feel like a rookie.

"We need time to jell, but we have a great race team," Park said.

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