Indianapolis was not new to Steve Park.
“I’d gone to the ‘500’ a couple times,” he said. “Growing up in the (NASCAR) Modified series, I had the opportunity to run Raceway Park. At one time, I was growing up in open-wheel racing, but my career development went more toward NASCAR.”
But the Indianapolis Motor Speedway eventually came into view for Park.
“Indianapolis came at a time when NASCAR stepped on hallowed ground,” he said. “Growing up in stock car racing, it’s something you can’t really see.”
Park had an enviable record in the Brickyard 400. He made six starts and led 39 laps in 2001. In his last five starts, he finished on the lead lap four times.
“We had a chance to win that race,” Park said of his 2001 effort. “We led in the late stages, but we lost the lead on a pit stop. We finished seventh. It was a new team with Earnhardt and Pennzoil.”
He said Indy was different.
“Every time we had the opportunity to go to Indy, either to watch the ‘500’ or drive in the ‘400,’ you’d walk into Gasoline Alley and the hair would stick up on the back of your neck,” he said. “The biggest thing you have at Indy is the number of grandstands both inside and outside.
“The first time I got a glimpse of it, you’re going down that long straightaway and you notice the wall of people on both sides. You’d never think a stock car would be natural around Indy, but it was. Being a four-corner racetrack instead of a two-corner racetrack, you work twice as hard for a day’s pay. It’s a very technical racetrack, especially in a heavy stock car. If you lose momentum in one of the corners, it takes a lap or so to get it back.”
He comes back to Indy when he can.
“You might see me there this year,” he said. “Our plans aren’t set yet.”
Park suffered serious injuries in an accident at Darlington Raceway but came back to win a NASCAR truck race at Fontana.
“It’s difficult to come back from any injury,” Park said. ”You’re put out for six months, then get back involved.”
“My heart’s in modifieds, and that’s why I go back to them when I do. I’m still actively involved. We won a race at Daytona in February in modifieds, so we’re still out there winning races. I run part-time here and there.”
Park, 46, lives in Mooresville, N.C., and is actively involved in two ventures.
“Outside of racing, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in commercial real estate,” he said. “I’m also involved with the Shore Corporation, which manufactures biodegradable cleaners for everything imaginable.”
He and his wife, Jessica, have a 3 ½-year-old son, Jayden.
“Maybe he’ll be at the Brickyard in 15 years or so,” Park said.
But before Jayden does, his dad is likely to jump into a modified once in a while.