Stephen Park (born August 23, 1967)1 is a professional race car driver. He won races in NASCAR's two top Northeast touring series (Modified and K&N East) and all three national divisions (Camping World Truck, Nationwide, Sprint Cup).
Park began racing not in an entry-level class, but in NASCAR Modifieds on Long Island as the son of longtime National Modified Championship contender Bob Park. After establishing himself in weekly Modified racing at Riverhead Raceway, he advanced to the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series. He won several races and became a championship contender before moving on to the Busch Series.
Steve Park was first hired by seven time Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt in 1996. Initially, Park refused to return Dale's phone messages, who was calling with interest to hire Park, thinking his friends were pranking him. After finally being convinced that the real Dale Earnhardt was calling him, Park made one start in the #31 Busch Series car in Charlotte in October that resulted in a 29th place finish. Park was then given a full-time ride in Dale's #3 AC-Delco car for the 1997 Busch Series season where he posted 3 wins and walked away with Rookie of the Year honors.
Park came to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series as the driver for the #14 Burger King team of Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) in 1997. He attempted eight races in this car, qualifying for four of them. He also ran a race in the #40 Coors Light car at Martinsville Speedway for Felix Sabates. In the 1998 season, Park switched to the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet for DEI and drove the first two races, but he failed to qualify at the third race of the year at Las Vegas. During practice for the fourth event of the year at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Park suffered a tire failure and had three hard hits before his car came to rest. He sustained a broken leg, broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade, and two chipped front teeth.2 Park returned later in the year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ran the rest of the year. He posted a best finish of 11th at Michigan and Dover.3
In 1999, his first of only two full Sprint Cup seasons, Park finished 30 of 34 races. He went out with handling problems at Daytona and Charlotte, an engine failure at the other Daytona race, and a crash at Sears Point. In the Sears Point crash, Park spun around in turn two and backed into an embankment, thrusting his car up into the air and over onto the top of a tire barrier. Park posted a best finish of sixth in the Kmart 400 at Michigan and finished 14th in the point standings.4
In 2001, Park's year began with a frightening note in the Daytona 500, as his car was one of eighteen that were demolished in a pileup on lap 173 that also sent Tony Stewart flipping through the air. Park had led for several laps right before the crash. Although he was uninjured, Park pounded the roof of his car after climbing out. The crash would be overshadowed by Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash on the last lap.
The following week, Park scored an emotional win for DEI by winning the Dura Lube 400 at North Carolina Speedway. The same season, driving in the Busch Series, Park was involved in a crash at Darlington Raceway while driving the #31 Whelen Chevrolet owned by Ted Marsh.5 Under caution and still driving on the track, Park's steering wheel came off, causing him to yank a 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.5 Park was T-boned on the driver's side upon collision with Foyt's car.5 The severity of the crash caused a massive brain injury as well as several broken ribs. Foyt said that the car was traveling "well over 100 miles per hour." Park was left with noticeably slurred speech as a result of the accident and some have theorized that he never fully recovered from his injuries.
Park missed the first four races in 2002, but he returned to race at the fifth race of the year at Darlington. He had many accidents, however. The largest incident was a flip at Pocono Raceway when he spun into and was turned by teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and hit the infield barrier with tremendous velocity, flipping over.6 The race had a 65-minute red flag to repair the old-fashioned guardrail highway barrier that Park hit.6 The barriers were replaced afterwards.
During the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. let Park go midway into the season, and he was effectively "traded" to Richard Childress Racing for Jeff Green, who took over the #1 car from Park with Park taking over the #30 AOL car 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. His best finish at RCR was a 5th place finish at Michigan that June, as he fought then teammate Robby Gordon for that position.
At the end of the 2003 season, Park announced he would not return to the #30 AOL car and would join the Craftsman Truck Series the following season. He joined Las Vegas-owned team Orleans Racing and piloted the #62 truck, vacated by Brendan Gaughan who was offered a ride in the #77 Kodak Nextel Cup car for Penske Racing. Although Park never won a race in 2004, he finished 9th in CTS driver points, and was voted Most Popular Driver by his peers.
In 2005 Park won the Craftsman 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 (one of seven drivers to accomplish the feat in the 2005 season alone). However, Park and the team struggled the rest of the season, 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.
In 2008 Park signed with NDS Motorsports and drove the #35 Waste Management Recycle America Monte Carlo in all 13 of the NASCAR Camping World East Series events. He finished 9th in the standings with his best finish being second place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
In 2009 Park returned to race in the #35 Waste Management Recycle America Monte Carlo in the NASCAR Camping World East Series. He finished 5th in the point standings. Park made a single start in the KOMA UNWIND CHEVY for Corrie Stott Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, starting 31st and finishing 25th.7 On August 1, 2009, he won the Edge Hotel 150 at Adirondack International Speedway. It was his first NASCAR Camping World East Series win since July 1, 1996 at Nazareth Speedway.8 On August 12, 2009, Park announced on his website Steve-Park.com that he and his wife are expecting their first child.
In 2010 Park returned to race in the #35 Waste Management Recycle America Monte Carlo in the NASCAR Camping World East Series. Park also drove the numbers 46 and 41 Vandyk Baler Corp/ Bollegraaf Toyotas in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Eddie Sharp Racing in 2010 for three races (two in the 41 and one in the 46), with a best finish of 18th at Chicagoland Speedway.
Park returned to the Sprint Cup Series in July 2010, driving the #36 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. In his first Sprint Cup Series race in several years, Park started the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona from the 39th position, as qualifying was rained out. He went on to finish 13th and led one lap. Park's fan-sponsored car was painted to honor Richie Evans, a nine-time NASCAR Modified champion who was killed in a racing accident shortly after winning his final championship in 1985.
Park ran one race for Tommy Baldwin Racing at Talladega, however he retired from the race after completing only four laps. He also attempted the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway later that year, but he failed to qualify. The fan-sponsored New Hampshire car was intended to honor six-time Modified Series champion owner Len Boehler.9 He also ran two races on the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour, finishing fifth at Connecticut's Thompson Speedway and twelfth at Charlotte.
In October 2012, Park spoke to ESPN in support of IMPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) and other neurological testing for drivers in the wake of his former teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. being sidelined after sustaining a concussion at Talladega. Park himself was a victim of crashes that took him out of action.
Park entered a NASCAR Whelen Modified Series race during Speedweeks at Daytona. The race was run as part of the inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach to open Daytona's new backstretch .4 mile short-oval configuration.
On the final lap Park was pushed from behind by Eric Goodale into race leader Mike Stefanik and inadvertently wound up winning the race. It was Park's first modified racing victory since 1996.
In late 2008, Steve Park was married to longtime girlfriend, Jessica Skarpalezos at Sea Island, Georgia. On January 2, 2010, Park announced on his website the birth of his son Jayden Robert Park.
- Steve Park Career Statistics
- Steve Park Career History
- Steve Park 1998 Winston Cup Statistics
- Steve Park 1999 Winston Cup Statistics
- Thomas, Stephen (September 1, 2001). "Park hospitalized". CNN/Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Caldwell, Dave (July 29, 2002). "AUTO RACING; Crash Overshadows Elliott's Triumph". The New York Times.
- "Park's NASCAR Truck Series results". NASCAR. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
- Christley, Jason (August 2, 2009). "Park Drives Back To Victory Lane". NASCAR. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Steve Park 2011 Sprint Cup Statistics