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Park's truck team racing to make up for lost time

Driver hired by Orleans Racing in January

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Driver Steve Park was close to signing with a NASCAR Busch Series team when he was asked in early January to join the Las Vegas-based Orleans Racing team in the Craftsman Truck Series.

The team was in a pinch to find a replacement for Brendan Gaughan once he officially moved up to the Nextel Cup Series.

After Park was hired, it took awhile to find a crew chief to replace Shane Wilson, who also left for the Cup series and the Penske Jasper Team that hired Gaughan.

Orleans Racing hired Johnny Allen to replace Wilson, but he didn't join the team until Jan. 22 at a test session in Talladega, Ala.

The late hirings impacted the team, which will start 22nd in tonight's Florida Dodge Dealers 250, which begins at 5 p.m. (PST) and will air live on Speed Channel (Digital 329).

Last year, with Gaughan driving the No. 62 Dodge, the team started 11th and finished 10th in the truck race.

After Park was released by Dale Earnhardt Inc. midway through the year in the Cup series, he joined Richard Childress Racing and won the pole for the Cup race at Daytona in July, but fell to a 34th-place finish. Park's best finish in 11 Cup races at Daytona is 20th in 2001 driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

"We are trying to catch up," Park said of his team. "Admittedly we're behind the eight ball and we're fortunate that we have three weeks off before we go to race at Atlanta. That will help us get caught up."

Park expects his experience at Daytona International Speedway in the Cup series to pay off more in the race than in qualifying.

"I've never raced a truck at Daytona before, but the car experience I have will help us get to the front and draft well," he said. "Things will be different, but we tested here and tested in Talladega, so I'm used to how the trucks drive. But it's a lot different from a car.

"I'm going to be learning as the race goes on. I want to learn quickly so I can put the Orleans Dodge in a position to win the race. I've got a lot going on. I have to adjust to how the trucks draft and adjust to the different guys out there that I haven't raced with before."

Although the garage area for the trucks is removed from where Park set up a year ago while with Dale Earnhardt Inc., a team he was with for six years, he said he is happy where he is.

"I've had more fun in the last two months than I'd had in the last two years," Park said. "It's a lot easier to wake up in the morning and know that if the cards are played right and the stars line up that we're going to win the race. I have the confidence in myself and the confidence in this team to be able to do that."

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