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Park's Experience Pays Dividends


By CAP CAREY
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, AUGUST 2, 2009

NEW BREMEN The last time Steve Park won a NASCAR-sponsored race in New York State, he edged Mark Martin and Jeff Burton to claim a Winston Cup victory at Watkins Glen on Aug. 13, 2000.

Now a full time driver in NASCAR's Camping World East Series, the 41-year-old Park drew on all his past experience to capture the eighth Edge Hotel 150 at the Adirondack International Speedway Saturday night.

Park was never in the mix of names expected to win the race until the final 25 laps. He had the seventh best time in the first practice session and was only 12th in the second. He qualified seventh.

He had a brief stay in fifth place in the 18th and 19th laps of the race and never appeared in the top five again until he regained fifth position on lap 125.

But Park, who has two career wins at NASCAR's highest level, was not out of the picture early in Saturday's race because he did not have a good car. He knew he could not afford to waste his only set of tires by going out too hard, too soon.

"I was just being patient and letting my tires come in a little bit and trying not to wear them out," Park said. "I knew you need the tires at the end of the race, because there's usually a late-race caution. Sure enough there was and we were coming up strong.

"You want to go wide open all the time. With the experience I have, I knew I couldn't run wide open for the first 75 lapsandthe last 75. I wanted to run as hard as I could those last 75 laps."

Park had moved his way to second place behind Jody Lavender when Dustin Delaney spun out on turn four on lap 141, forcing the final caution of the race with only nine laps remaining.

Park moved to the lead on the restart on lap 146 and drove comfortably to his first win in the series since 1996, when it was known as the Busch North Series.

For Lavender, who had taken the lead and held it since lap 107, the late caution flag was not a welcome sight.

"I definitely didn't want to see that last caution," said Lavender, who wound up in third place behind Park and Ryan Truex. "My car just wasn't real good on the restarts. I kind of knew I might be in trouble."

Truex, like Park, was not exactly dazzling during practices, qualification or the early parts of the race.

Leading the series in points, the 17-year-old younger brother of Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr., appeared uncomfortable navigating the track.

"This is a really unique race track," said Truex. "I've never been to anything like it. My first practices weren't very good. I just went out and got laps and tried to learn the track. I got in the race and was trying to be as patient as I could. I was driving my own race, not worrying about anyone else. I wouldn't be forcing the issue. I was just trying to save my car for the end."

Truex qualified in 10th place and moved into fifth on the 46th lap. He stayed in fifth place until the 95th lap of the race, when he moved into fourth, where he remained until reaching third place on lap 106.

But Truex's patient move through the field impressed Park, and his second-place finish is the same spot his older brother, Martin, earned when he had his only race at the Adirondack International Speedway in 2003.

"It's a heck of a series and you get these young talented guys in here like Ryan Truex in these good cars and they are tough to beat," Park said. "I'm proud to win a race in the Camping World East Series. If you win a race in this series, you are doing something."

Truex said after the race that if he had to lose, he'd want to lose to a cup driver like Park.

"I used to be that guy," Park said of the youthful Truex. "I know what it's like to race with guys, like when he races with me. When I first started racing, any time I raced against somebody with a lot of experience, I learned from that. He's a quick learner."

 
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