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NASCAR BGN Detroit Gasket 200 Preview: #3, Steve Park

14 August 1997

 #3 Steve Park, ACDelco Chevrolet Monte Carlo
 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division
 Detroit Gasket 200 Advance
 Michigan Speedway

BROOKLYN, MI - NASCAR Busch Grand National rookie points leader Steve Park 
has developed an appreciation for collectibles.

The 29-year-old driver from East Northport, N.Y. doesn't dabble with coins, 
stamps or butterflies. Instead, he likes to collect top-five finishes in his 
No. 3 ACDelco Monte Carlo owned by Teresa Earnhardt.

And in his spare time, which Park has learned can be a very precious 
commodity, he collects Planet Hollywood caps. Park hasn't bothered to write 
movie-stars-turned restaurant owners Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Sylvester 
Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger for the coveted caps. Instead, he acquiring 
them on his own, with a little help from his friends.

"I'm starting a Planet Hollywood cap collection form every city we go to," 
Park said. "I've got about seven so far."

It would take 63 for a complete set, and many of the restaurants aren't in 
the United States. That's OK. Park doesn't have a lot of time for 
non-racing-related travel abroad right now, but he's willing to accept 

"I've got a friend going to London, and he's going to get me one over there," 
Park said. "I tried to talk one out of a race fan an an autograph session the 
other day.

"I was going to trade him Steve Park shirts, hats and autographs for his cap 
from London Planet Hollywood, but he wouldn't budge. He didn't want to take 
it off his head."

Although Park enjoys collecting the caps, he's more focused on acquiring 
additional top-five Busch Series finishes. His next chance will come on 
Saturday in the Detroit Gasket 200 at Michigan Speedway.

The series newcomer already has tied David Green's 1991 record of six 
top-five finishes by a rookie in a season. With 10 races remaining on the '97 
Busch schedule, Park and his ACDelco teammates should rewrite the Busch 
Series record book.

Only 17 points out of third place in the overall Busch standings, Park is 
running away with the rookie title. He has a victory and 11 other top-10 
finishes in 20 starts. The ACDelco team tested recently at Michigan, but Park 
admits he doesn't remember too much about it. 

"I was sick as a dog," Park said. "I had a case of pneumonia. The day after 
we got back from Michigan I went to the doctor. He put me in the hospital and 
put me on intravenous antibiotics and fluids. He wanted to get it knocked out 
of me before we got on the road again.

"You don't get enough sleep sometimes and you get yourself run down. You've 
got to make sure you eat right and take good care of yourself so that kind of 
stuff doesn't happen."

Park says he fit as a fiddle now and anxious to get back behind the wheel of 
the No. 3 ACDelco Monte Carlo after an off week from Busch competition. He's 
never competed at Michigan but likes the idea of racing tow or three-wide at 
Roger Penske's two-mile oval in the Irish Hills of Michigan.

"We had a good test, but we weren't the fastest car," Park said. "All I 
remember is just wanting to get out of that hot race car and go home and lay 
down. Still, I think we learned enough at the test to go back and be pretty 

"We tested with two complete different types of race cars with Dale 
(Earnhardt) Jr.'s and mine. We went back home and decided we needed to cut 
the bodies completely off the cars and start from scratch. The guys at the 
fab shop did a great job with that.

"It took them a little longer than they thought it would, but it's probably 
one of the best bodies we've got in the shop right now. It's something 
they've taken a lot of pride in.

"We took an educated guess. Of the two cars, we needed a little bit of each 
car combined into one. We took one of the cars we tested with and cut it 
apart and adjusted it to what we thought we needed. It's a combination of 
speedway car and a short track car.

"We came up with an intermediate car to run because Michigan falls between a 
speedway and an intermediate track. Michigan is like a small Talladega where 
you just have to lift a little bit. You can almost run the place wide open."

If Park and company manage to run wide open all day, he could break the 
top-five record and make up those 17 points needed to overtake Phil Parsons 
for the No. 3 spot in the standings. 

"It's been a short-term realistic goal (third place in Busch standings)," 
Park said. "When we were about 140 points out of third, we felt if we could 
keep up our consistency that we could catch third.

"Todd Bodine and Randy LaJoie have sort of run away from the rest of us. Our 
next goal was to hunt down some points and get third and then go for second. 
We're on target.

"We're no really point racing. We're just trying to be top-five racers and 
knock off another win. We've been eating up the points trying to get in the 
top-three. It's going to be tough to catch Bodine and LaJoie, but Bodine had 
a little trouble at Indy. If we can get LaJoie to have a little bad luck and 
not be so consistent, maybe we can gain some on him. Maybe we have all our 
bad luck out of the way and we can have a good stretch run and give Bodine 
and LaJoie a run for their money."

Park would also like to win a pole before the season ends, or perhaps even 
before he turns the big Three Oh.

"I won 10 poles in 1995 and seven last year," Park said. "Now we can't seem 
to get one, but I'd trade the poles in for top-five finishes. 

"We've had a couple of opportunities to get poles. I think a lot of it is 
concentrating on our race setup instead of our qualifying setup. Now that 
we're getting consistent with our race setups and finishes, we're going to 
work a little more on qualifying. Maybe we can get a pole before the season 

"And yeah, I've got a birthday coming up at the end of the month (Aug. 23). 
It's a big one. Thirty sounds old, and I'm feeling old, too, with all these 
races we're running.

"I ran 104 races last year. We're up to 23 and I feel like I've run about 75 
or 80. It goes back to traveling, not being at home, living in motels, living 
out of a suitcase. If you add testing, it's a full-time deal.

"I used to work a full-time job and ran 104 races. I figured once I did this 
full time that I'd have more free time. You could make a good living in the 
Northeast racing in the summer, but had to do something to get through the 
winter. That's why you had to have some type of employment.

"I figured I'd have a lot of extra time on my hands, but I get days off like 
Tuesday and Wednesday. You don't get weekends off, but it's been great. I 
love it. I love the sport. I think if I didn't love it like I do, it would 
make it a lot harder, but I love seeing different parts of the country."

And collecting Planet Hollywood caps and top-five finishes on the Busch 
circuit in the No. 3 ACDelco Chevy along the way.

By Champion Sports Group