Park Wins NASCAR BGN Series Autolite Platinum 250
6 September 1997RICHMOND, VA -- The #3 ACDelco team just 'hung' around to watch the truck race on Thursday night - but the information learned was invaluable. It was with what they saw a night earlier that helped them hit on a perfect setup that enabled them to outdrive the competition in the Autolite Platinum 250.
Park started the night on the outside of row one. The ACDelco Monte Carlo then ran in the top-five for the first half of the race. But Jeff Burton, in the Track Gear Ford, looked to be the man to beat. Burton started the race in the seventh position but blew by Park for the lead on lap 82 and soon built up leads that could be measured in seconds.
Any advantage Burton had would go away during a lap 173 pit stop that the leaders made when the caution flew for the #13 car of Ted Christopher. The changes that crew chief Tony Eury made were radical and would take a few laps to 'take'. "The car was tight when we started out," said Park. "We took a little out to loosen it up a bit. Then at the end (on lap 173) we took two rounds out. Those guys hit it on the numbers."
And 'on the numbers' it was as Park was able to pass Burton and go on to win the event by a healthy 1.432 second margin. This margin was built up during an eight lap 'shoot-out' though the only shooting was for positions 2 back.
Park talking about his crew said, "These guys haven't been in victory lane since Dale was in the car. In the beginning of the year we set some basic goals. First was to run in the top-fifteen; then the top-ten. Things just came together quicker than we could have dreamed they could have."
The victory, besides bringing $32,625 in winnings, etched the name Park as the winningest rookie driver in Busch series history. Park clinched Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors last week at Darlington.
Second place finisher Randy LaJoie talked about his reliable ride - Ellie May. "This is our favorite car," LaJoie stated. "This morning we weren't good. We were about 40th or something on the practice sheets. We changed some springs and got it dialed in. I wished we could have had a longer run to see if we could have run him (Park) down."
Jeff Burton was able to bring his once dominate car in third, Dick Trickle finished fourth and Buckshot Jones rounds out the top-five.
This weeks visitor to the woodshed is Joe Bessey. Bessey was called to the NASCAR trailer after he threw his helmet through the window of Dale Shaw's car. Shaw and Bessey tangled in turn one with Bessey getting the worst of the brief 'meeting'. As Bessey walked back to the pits, Shaw threw the helmet back out the window in about the same location he 'picked' it up.
The points are now solidly enough in Randy LaJoie's favor that he can almost take a weekend off and still hold the series lead. LaJoie, with 3,686 markers, leads Todd Bodine who has 3,507. Park is in third, Phil Parsons holds 4th and Elliott Sadler is fifth in the series chase.
The race took 2 hours 24 minutes 42 seconds to run and maintained an average average speed of 77.747 miles per hour. The caution flew a total of 10 times for 87 laps.
Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel