In 2001, Steve Park seemed on his way to having a banner year. Then in September, a bizarre accident put him on the sidelines. Heading into the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Park had scored his second career victory; and on the strength of four straight top-10 finishes, he was 10th in points. In the NASCAR Busch Series race at Darlington, he suffered head injuries in that crash that put him out of the No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet for the rest of the season. Before the wreck, Park had five top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 24 starts and had won $2,385,971. He wound up 32nd in the Winston Cup standings after missing the last 12 races of the season. In the Busch Series, he had five top-10s in only seven starts. He had a breakout season in 2000 in the No. 1 Chevrolets, scoring his first Winston Cup victory and his best finish in the point standings, 11th. Park, whose five-year Winston Cup career continues to be marked with jagged peaks and valleys, first broke into Victory Lane at his home track, Watkins Glen International, in August 2000.
His career had been interrupted previously by serious injuries suffered at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1998. The East Northport, N.Y., native had continued to cement his relationship with former champion crew chief Paul Andrews. Park, whose father and uncle, Bob and Bill, were successful Modified racers in the Northeast, moved to the Winston Cup Series after winning rookie of the year honors in the Busch Series in 1997, scoring victories at Nashville, Michigan and Richmond. He finished third in the Busch standings that season, the only full year he competed there, along with running five Winston Cup races. He finished second in the Featherlite Modified Series in 1996, when he was named the series' most popular driver. In 1995, he finished second in the Modified standings and was the series' Bud Pole champion. He has also won races in the Busch North Series. He got the late Earnhardt's attention with his performance in a Modified and a Craftsman truck at Watkins Glen in 1996.
2000 -- 2 Poles, Won his 1st Winston Cup Victory (Watkins' Glen), Finished 11th in Winston Cup points.
1999 -- Finished sixth at Michigan in June and led 84 laps at Charlotte in May.
1998 -- Overcame broken right femur, left collarbone, and right shoulder blade suffered in a March 6 accident at Atlanta that caused Park to miss 15 races. Finished 11th at Dover and Michigan.
1997 -- Won the Busch Series Rookie of the Year Award; earned victories at Nashville, Michigan and Richmond. Finished third in points. Named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top-ten drivers to watch for 1997.
1996 -- Finished second in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Championship. New Smyrna IMCA Modified Champion. In the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1996, Park posted a top-five, a top-ten and two top-fifteen finishes in his four starts and captured the pole for the truck race at Watkins Glen and the outside pole for the Jiffy Lube race in New Hampshire. Qualified Joe Nemechek’s truck on the pole at the Watkins Glen race in only his second career start. Named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top-ten drivers to watch for 1997.
1995 -- Finished second in the NASCAR Featherlite Tour Championship. Voted most popular driver on the modified tour. Posted 17 wins in 152 starts in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour. Recorded 41 top-five finishes, 26 top-tens and 24 poles in the ultra-competitive open-wheel series.
1995 and 1996 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Most Popular Driver.
1995 and 1996 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Pole Champion.
1991 and 1992 New Smyrna Speedway World Series Champion.
Steve Park Pictures