NOTE: Steve Park won his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at California Speedway tonight. The win makes him the 10th driver to claim a victory in each of the NASCAR Truck, Busch and Cup Series. Tonight’s race was the second consecutive 1-2 Dodge Ram finish this year.
STEVE PARK (No. 62 Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge Ram – IT MUST FEEL PRETTY GOOD TO GET YOUR FIRST CAREER NCTS VICTORY: It really does. You know what’s even bigger? I keep getting told that I’m on this short list of guys that have won in every series that NASCAR has from Busch to Nextel Cup to Craftsman Truck. (Park is the 10th driver to accomplish the feat.) So, that’s pretty exciting. That’s a short list. I’m just really happy about that. We worked really hard. We thought last year at the end of the year we’d win a race. I said I’d be disappointed if we didn’t. And we didn’t, and I was disappointed. But, the guys worked hard to get us a better truck, and it just paid off. We had a great truck in Daytona and we ended up dropping out with like 17 to go. We had a truck to run in the top five there. We came here and we just knew we’d practice in race trim. The truck was driving good. I had a little bit of a problem with a miss in the engine when I was in heavy traffic. There’s just so much drafting going on here that when the air was disturbed around the cowl on the truck it would develop a miss. I knew that if I could break out into a single car run or a single draft, I’d be okay. It just worked out that me and Mike Bliss at the end there just really kind of pulled out away from each other. I would catch him, and when I would get close I’d get a little bit of a miss. It just seems like the three laps that I’d use to gain maybe two trucks on him, I would lose one lap. I don’t know. I’m probably babbling on. I’m just excited. I couldn’t even tell you what the truck sounded like those last three laps. We were just trying really hard to win a race. I was trying to figure out how to get around Bliss, and the next thing I knew he pulled down, pulled off the racetrack. And I was like, for a second, ‘Where’s he going?’ And then I knew because my spotter was telling me there was like four to go. I’m like, ‘He must have got a flat, or run out of gas or something.’ I was just amazed that this happened to me. I telling somebody, this has happened to me one other time, in my rookie year I think at Michigan, driving Earnhardt’s Busch car. I was running, I think Spencer was second, I was third, and I just passed Spencer and Mark Martin was leading. They were counting the laps down. There were two to go and I came off turn four, trying to catch Mark, and the next thing he comes off turn four and he peels to the pits. I was driving, and I was like, to Tony Eury Sr., ‘Well, who’s leading the race now?’ And he says, ‘You are!’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’s pretty cool. The leader just pulled off and got out of the way!’ And that’s kind of what happened tonight. I was just surprised. You don’t think about gas mileage. We knew we were pushing the limit. We knew when we pitted and got tires that we would be okay on fuel. We had enough to a burn out and get to Victory Lane, so it paid off for us. We’ve seen Ryan Newman do it numerous times. It’s just nice that it happened to us tonight.
“I love California. I’m actually going on a nice motorcycle ride I’m looking forward to starting Sunday up to Carmel and San Francisco – the Pacific Coast Highway – if they’d blow that boulder out of the way, and if it doesn’t rain anymore. It’ll be a challenge. But, we’re open to challenges. We overcame one tonight, so we might have one more challenge. But, California Speedway is great. We’ve had some great runs here. We’ve sat on a pole here in a Cup race, and now we’ve won a truck race. I love coming here to race. Somebody asked me which track is my favorite track and I was like, ‘All of ‘em.’ I love racing everywhere. As long as I’m racing, I’m pretty happy. California is a great racetrack that you can run three-wide and the fastest guy wins. You can start in the back and work your way to the front. Track position doesn’t seem to be as key as it would be at a place like Martinsville. We just love coming here.”
WERE THERE TIMES THAT YOU WERE DRIVING THREE OR FOUR ABREAST HERE? “Yeah, there were a couple times... My truck didn’t like it. My truck was handling great, but my engine didn’t like it. I don’t know if it was a vent problem in the carburetor, or a cowl problem, but it’s something we need to work on. We’ve had issues in the past like this, and we thought we’d cured them, but it showed tonight that we didn’t. There were a couple of times that I dropped back on the restarts because my truck wouldn’t run, and I didn’t want to drop back. I was like, ‘Oh no, we’re in big trouble. We have a great handling truck, and now it won’t run.’ The next thing you know you get in line in the draft, go three-wide and the next thing you know it picks up a run. So I said, ‘Well, if I can keep myself in this type of position, I’ll be okay.’ And then right there at the end I was just trying to run down the Mike Bliss in the No. 16 truck and us pulling away, not really having an issue with people around us the Orleans Dodge ran great. I told my guys, ‘I think I had a HEMI. Sweeeeeeeet.’
ON RUNNING WITH TEAMMATE BRENDAN GAUGHAN IN THE FINAL LAPS…“Our spotters communicated and Brendan wanted to know which side I wanted, the outside or inside. And I said, ‘What I want you to do is run as fast as you can, because I can draft on you and it makes my truck that much faster. Then once I catch you, I’ll use the bottom.’ It just worked out. When I caught him, I went to the bottom and got passed him and didn’t want to run side-by-side because my truck obviously has a misfire. So, we talked to him, he tucked in behind me and gave me a push with the draft, and I knew that it was going to be tough for anybody to catch us. We actually, in the second to last lap, I went into turn one and either hit water or oil, and I was like, ‘Oh no, I’m getting a flat tire.’ And I got back down to the bottom again, and I felt it out in turns three and four. And I said, ‘Well, let me just nurse it one more lap if I’ve got a tire going down.’ And in the last lap I felt okay again. So, I think the line I was running was being so high, either picked up trash or somebody was leaking some oil. So we decided on the last lap that we would not do that, and get back down to the bottom again. So, it just worked out for us. It was an exciting race.”
DID YOU EVER DOUBT YOU COULD WIN RACES AGAIN? “From the time I came back I knew I could race and win races. It seemed like nobody else had confidence. I’m hoping this puts closure to it. It’s been a three-year book. It’s a story of winning races, getting hurt, losing your job, struggling back to winning races again. This is the closure of the chapter in that book. I wasn’t going to give up until I reached this level of winning races again. I got hurt winning races, and now I’m back to winning races again. I felt from the time I got back in the racecar with the right opportunity I could do that. I was never given the opportunity until Mr. Gaughan called last year and said ‘I want you to come and drive my truck.’ With Brendan winning six races, I said man. I had an opportunity in Busch that I was going to take, but this just felt right in my heart. It was something I wanted to do and we just struck up a deal. I felt like last year we could win a race and we struggled a little the first of the year. I said by the end of the year that we were going to win a race before the year was out, but we didn’t. The credit goes to the Orleans/Jasper team. These guys didn’t quit. It’s nice to go to work in the morning knowing you have the confidence of an owner and a sponsor and people around you that know you can get the job done and win races. I haven’t had that feeling the last couple of years and now I do. It’s not going to be our last time here. We’ll see you again.”
BRENDAN IS ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADERS. COMMENT ON HIS COMMITMENT TO THE TEAM. “Brendan and his dad are just awesome people. Them telling you that they believe in you and giving you everything to win races. That confidence in an owner and a friend like Brendan, knowing if you’re not winning races it’s easy to point a finger. That’s what’s been happening to me the last couple of years. If you don’t win a race it’s because you got hurt. They know if we don’t win a race it’s because we don’t have the right equipment or our truck isn’t right just yet. When we do get it right we’re sitting in victory lane. Their confidence never wavered. We never heard that. We never felt that. It was ‘we’re going to continue to work to give you everything we gave Brendan two years ago when he won six races.’ When he left, the team left with him. With him coming back, the team didn’t come back with him, which we hoped they would. We’re building his team where it needs to be. We’ve got confidence in the Orleans team and Jasper team where we can not only win races with our race team but with Brendan’s, too. It’s great to have a friend like that.”