Park confident for Virginia short-track truck race
Las Vegas-based Orleans Racing was not known for its prowess on short tracks during the past two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series seasons.
Steve Park, who replaced Brendan Gaughan as driver of the team's No. 62 Dodge truck in January, is confident that will change this season because of the experience he gained driving on short tracks during his six-year NASCAR Nextel Cup career.
Park will get his first opportunity to test that theory when the Truck Series visits the half-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Saturday's Kroger 250. To prepare for the first short-track race of the season, Park tested a new Dodge truck two weeks ago at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Although The Bullring is a 3/8-mile oval, Park said he was able to replicate the line he will drive this weekend at Martinsville.
"It was the first time I practiced at The Bullring and it's different than Martinsville -- even though it's a short track," Park said. "What I tried to do was mimic the line around The Bullring like you'd run at Martinsville so it would make our test more valid.
"You might be able to go faster running the track the way it's set up, but it's not going to help you at Martinsville. We ran a simulated Martinsville-type line and then worked around that with the setup. The test went pretty good."
Although he raced at Martinsville 11 times in the Cup Series, Park was not sure whether what he learned in the Cup cars would work in the truck.
"We didn't know how that would translate to a truck, so with The Bullring test we tried it and some things worked good and some things didn't work good," he said. "Again, it was one of those learning curves which I think is going to help us when we get to Martinsville."
It also should help the Orleans team throughout the season on the shorter tracks, Park said. Gaughan and Orleans Racing won eight races the past two seasons -- all of them on tracks 1 mile in length and longer.
"Martinsville is the shortest track that we go to and if we can conquer that place, it'll make us look forward to going to a lot of the places that we go to, like Ohio, which is another half-mile racetrack," Park said. "Our main focus is to get our short track program up to where it needs to be.
"I think Brendan proved in the past that the mile-and-a-half tracks that we go to ... are probably their strong points so we're working hard on making the weaker points a little stronger. That's how you win a championship -- being consistent no matter what racetracks you go to."
Park sits 19th in the NCTS standings after two races but said he felt he had a truck that was capable of winning both races. Park has had two potential top-five finishes wiped out as a result of getting caught up in other drivers' spins.
For that reason alone, Park said the team welcomed the month long breaks between the season's first three races.
"Having to build new trucks and changing bodies over, it's been a nice break for the guys to get trucks ready," Park said. "But I'm so used to racing almost every week that it's kind of weird to race Daytona and then have a month off and then race Atlanta and now we have another month off.
"It's enabled the guys to get caught up and it's enabled me to have a little bit more of a life than I had beforehand -- it's just getting used to the process. I'm so used to racing every week that I feel like I'm missing something or I should be doing something. It's great because you can spend more time with your family and friends -- it's like getting a little bit of your life back that maybe you missed out on for the (past) eight or 10 years."