Steve Park hadn’t climbed behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car since 2003.
Back then, NASCAR’s premier division was named “Winston”. There was no Chase. George W. Bush was still serving his first term as President. Gas was still being sold at a reasonable price. Baseball’s steroid era was little more than a thought.
Fast-forward to 2010, where there is now a Chase for the Sprint Cup, America is an Obama-nation, gas is more expensive than a Tiffany’s chandelier, and steroids rule baseball.
And Steve Park is driving again.
Park, whose career was marred by horrifying accidents, climbed behind the wheel of a NASCAR Car of Tomorrow for the first time ever. Driving in underfunded equipment for Tommy Baldwin Racing, it was up to Park to put the fear of the past, and unknown, behind him.
And he had to do it at the track that took his former car owner’s life.
So on Saturday night, Steve Park just went out there and drove.
Sporting a wicked orange paint job as a tribute to the late Richie Evans, Park stayed out of trouble all night. He ran competitive laps, and stayed with the draft throughout the race.
And at one point, Steve Park even led a lap.
Park would vie for a top 10 finish, and wound up 13th. Sure, he had some help from a 21-car melee with 12 laps to go. But Park maneuvered around it; something even defending race winner Tony Stewart, and four-time defending Cup champ Jimmie Johnson couldn’t do.
The sheer fact that Park showed up to compete shows that the guy can still get the job done. Some may not call it the race of his life. But I would, simply because of everything he had to overcome: The fear, the inexperience, the underfunded equipment, the mayhem.
In spite of all that, Park led laps and finished 13th.
Steve Park can still get it done.