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Steve Park Overcomes Penalty To Finish Seventh At Lime Rock

What could have been a bad day at the office for Steve Park, driver of the No. 35 Waste Management Recycle America Dodge in Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Series race at Lime Rock Park, turned into a good day as he wound up leading seven laps and finishing seventh at the end of the 82-lap race on the 1.53-mile road course in northwest Connecticut.

Park entered the race eleventh in the series standings with six top-ten finishes already under his belt. He hadn't raced at Lime Rock since 1996, but quickly took to the freshly repaved track's right and left turns with top-fifteen practice times. He didn't get a chance to qualify, though, as rain showed up late Friday afternoon and forced the cancellation of time trials.

Starting the race eleventh, Park rode in the top ten as the first nine laps went by caution-free. When yellow did fly and most of the field went to pit road for gas, Park didn't and improved to second place. The leader then pulled off to make his pit stop, handing Park the race lead. He took that lead through the ensuing restart but gave up that lead briefly while dealing with a lapped car. On lap 25, Park pulled onto pit road to make his gas stop just as caution was coming out. He wound up restarting at the tail of the field.

Following a 75-minute rain delay, Park and the other drivers were back at work with 31 laps remaining. After a brief caution and restart on lap 55, NASCAR officials determined that Park had not lined up correctly for that restart and either had to come down pit road or allow four cars to pass. This led to some frustration with the NDS Motorsports team but after Park let some cars by, the threat to bring him onto pit road was withdrawn and he was allowed to resume racing.

"We got messed up on one of the restarts where NASCAR wanted to penalize us and put us back two spots under green," Park explained. "We had to stay back and let four cars pass before we could work our way back up again. It was a call on their part that they had to make. I didn't approve of it, and I don't think the car behind me even wanted to have me behind him. But they wanted to penalize me so they did."

Now back in sixteenth with fourteen laps remaining, Park set his sights on the top ten and did not disappoint. Helping his cause was aggression on the part of other drivers who took themselves out of contention in the final laps.

"We got down to the last couple of laps and these guys wanted to stop racing and start wrecking," he said. "It must have been exciting for the fans but it's really not good racing. At the end of the race I saw two teammates take each other out, so nobody's safe."

Park made it through the final laps unscathed to finish seventh.

"We didn't need that penalty, but at least we could drive back up to where we were supposed to be by the end," he said. "All in all, we had a top ten finish and we wound up where we needed to be. We definitely had a top five car without that penalty."

The Camping World Series returns to short-track action this Saturday afternoon with a 150-lap event at Mansfield Motorsports Park in Ohio.

"I have a lot of friends out that way, up near Sandusky, and it's great to have a chance to race close to where they can see us," Park said. "Mansfield is a great short track and I think we can put a good show on there."

from EastSeries.com

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