Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Steve Park

Stephen Park was born on August 23rd of 1967 in East Northport, New York to Dotti and Bob Park; Bob was a National Modified Championship contender in the mid 1900’s.

After tinkering with cars since he was 12, Open-Wheeled Modified owner Curt Chase noticed the multi-talented Park hanging out in the pits and asked if he wouldn't mind driving his car; of course he didn’t. Park drove the Curt Chase owned car for the whole 1992 season.

Park moved to TG Racing in 1993; that move paid off, he won four times in 1993 and 10 times in 1994 for that team.

In 1995, Park moved to Sheba Racing and posted seven victories.

In 1996 Steve was hired by Dale Earnhardt. At first, when Dale was calling Park, he would refuse to return his phone calls, thinking that his friends were pulling a prank on him. After asking his mom and finally being convinced that the actual Dale Earnhardt was calling him, Steve made one start in the #31 Busch (Nationwide) Series car in Charlotte in October that resulted in a 29th place finish. In the Modified Series, Steve posted five wins, and in the Busch North Series he competed in 11 races with two wins as a result. At Watkins Glen that year Joe Nemechek asked Steve to qualify his Craftsman (Camping World) Series Truck, all he had to do was get it in the field. Steve did that and much more by winning the pole for the race that more likely helped his career along tremendously.

In 1997 Steve was given a full-time ride in Earnhardt’s #3 AC-Delco Chevrolet in the Busch (Nationwide) Series; he boasted 3 wins and the rookie of the year title.

Steve came to the NASCAR Winston (Sprint) Cup Series full-time in 1998 as the driver for the newly formed #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet team of Dale Earnhardt Inc. When he moved to Concord so did his parents; his father Bob Park started working at Dale Earnhardt Inc. as a gear specialist and his mother Dotti Park moved Steve's Fan Club headquarters to Mooresville, N.C. When the season started Steve was competing for the Rookie of the Year honors with Kenny Irwin Jr. but only five races into the season Steve was in a major crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That race put him out of contention for the majority of the races that year.

Steve raced his first full NASCAR Winston (Sprint) Cup Series season in 2000. During the season Steve won at his home track of Watkins Glen International Raceway when he won the 2000 Global Crossing at The Glen.

In 2001, Park scored an emotional win for Dale Earnhardt Inc. by winning the Dura Lube 400 at North Carolina Speedway just one week after his boss and good friend Dale Earnhardt was killed in a bizarre crash the week before at Daytona International Raceway in the Daytona 500. The same season, while driving in the Busch (Nationwide) Series, Park was involved in a horrific crash at Darlington Raceway while driving the #31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet owned by Ted Marsh. Under the caution Steve removed his steering wheel to adjust it, causing him to turn hard left. By complete chance, lap down car Larry Foyt was speeding up to join the lap down line at the same time Park turned. Park was T-boned on the driver’s side by Foyt’s car. The rigorousness of the crash caused a massive head injury plus several broken ribs. Foyt said that the car was traveling "well over 100 miles per hour [at the time of the crash]”. Park was left with slurred speech as a result of the accident and some have theorized that he never fully recovered from his injuries.

Park returned to race six times in the 2002 Winston (Sprint) Cup season and had many accidents; at Pocono Raceway Park moved over to dodge the merging Rusty Wallace when he hit teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and spun into the infield guardrail; he barrel rolled multiple times which caused NASCAR to issue a very lengthy Red flag to repair the broken, highway-like barrier.

During the 2003 NASCAR Winston (Sprint) Cup Series, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. let Park go midway into the season, and he was traded to Richard Childress Racing for Jeff Green, who took over the #1 Chevrolet car from Park with Park taking over the #30 AOL Chevrolet for Childress. A few days later, he won the pole for the Winston All Star Open, but at the start of the race he jumped the start and had to start from the rear. He never made it to the next round to the actual million dollar race. His best finish at RCR was a 5th place finish at Michigan that June. After the season was over, Park announced he would not return to the #30 AOL Chevy and would join the Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series the following season. He joined Las Vegas-owned team Orleans Racing to pilot the #62 Dodge, vacated by Brendan Gaughan.

Steve never won a race in 2004, he finished 9th in the Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series driver points, and was voted the Most Popular Driver.

In 2005 Park won the Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series American Racing Wheels 200, the second race of the season at California Speedway, and became the tenth driver to win a race in all three of NASCAR's top racing series. Park and the #62 team was struggling and in October, right before the truck race in Martinsville, Steve Park and Orleans Racing parted ways due to Dodge pulling support and money to many truck teams.

Park drove Ted Marsh’s #31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet in six NASCAR Busch (Nationwide) Series events in 2006.

In 2008 Park signed with NDS Motorsports to drive the #35 Waste Management Recycle America Chevrolet Monte Carlo in all 13 of the NASCAR Camping World East Series events. He finished 9th in the standings with a best finish of 2nd at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In late 2008, Steve Park married his longtime girlfriend, Jessica Skarpalezos at Sea Island, Georgia.

In 2009 Park returned to race in the #35 Waste Management Recycle America Chevy Monte Carlo in the NASCAR Camping World East Series. On August 1, 2009 Steve won the Edge Hotel 150 at Adirondack International Speedway. It was Steve's first NASCAR Camping World East Series win since July 1, 1996 at Nazareth Speedway. Total Steve finished 5th in the point standings. On August 12, 2009, Park announced on his website (Steve-Park.com) that he and his wife Jessica, were expecting their first child.

In 2010 Park yet again returned to race in the #35 Waste Management Recycle America Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the NASCAR Camping World East Series. On January 2, 2010, Park announced on his website that his son Jayden Robert Park was born.

When not at the track, Park enjoys riding motorcycles, boating, golfing, and spending time with Jayden, his son.