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Las Vegas: Steve Park - NASCAR spotlight

Steve Park focuses on top 10 in title race and defending team's LVMS win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 22, 2004) -- Steve Park has two things on his mind this week when the No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge becomes the home team at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Park, 15th in his only NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series appearance at the 1.5-mile superspeedway, continues to battle for a top-10 position in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.

Park, ranked 11th, trails two time Las Vegas winner Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) by 64 points entering Saturday's Las Vegas 350.

Just as important to Park, however, is performing on a par with the team's former driver Brendan Gaughan. And that won't be an easy task. All Gaughan did in 2003 was win the Bud Pole and the Las Vegas 350. Gaughan led 106 of 146 laps -- the most ever by a series winner at the track.

"The Las Vegas race has significance because it is the home of Orleans Racing," said Park of his team, whose shops are located on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway property. "I know how much it means to the team and the guys being home. It really isn't a hometown race for me ... but the guys keep me pumped up.

"Their enthusiasm rubs off on me."

Park, a New Yorker, doesn't really need that additional motivation to finish off the 2004 season with a flourish. It hasn't been the best of years for Orleans Racing, although Park did enjoy a stretch in mid-summer in which he posted four finishes of 10th or better in the span of five races.

The team's best performances, a pair of fourths, came back-to-back at The Milwaukee Mile and Kansas Speedway. Park led 18 laps of last week's event at New Hampshire International Speedway before finishing 14th.

"We have struggled this season but it isn't over," said Park, who twice has finished fourth at LVMS, in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the NASCAR Busch Series. "We want to break into the top 10 and we are very close. It would be great to get our first win of the season at Las Vegas but right now I'm more concerned with getting that win.

"I will be very disappointed if we do not win this season."

Orleans Racing, as it did a year ago, will field a second truck for defending NASCAR Grand National, West Series champion Scott Lynch (No. 61 Orleans Dodge). Lynch finished 12th at LVMS in 2003.

Lynch is coming off a victory in Sunday's NASCAR West Series stop in Roseburg, Ore.

"It's a great opportunity to be Steve Park's teammate," said the 24-year-old Burley, Idaho native. "He has so much more experience than I can ever imagine. To be able to communicate with him is a big advantage. I think for someone at my level and so young, it is important to learn as much as you can."
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