Remembering a True Legend

| May 29, 2001

“Emotions were all over the place,” said the 33-year-old Park “We were so excited to win that race for Dale, and we feel like maybe it started the healing process. Hopefully, by winning, it will start to lift the spirits of all the people at DEI.”

The race was delayed by a day due to heavy rain at Rockingham, but Park looked strong from flag to flag. When he crossed the finish line, Park waved a Dale Earnhardt cap out of his car window and was congratulated by DEI teammate Michael Waltrip, who won the season opening Daytona 500 moments after Earnhardt’s fatal crash.

“We know that Dale’s proud of us,” Park said. “Physically, he’s not here to enjoy it, but spiritually he’s looking down on us. I think Teresa (Earnhardt) and Dale Jr. are carrying on the vision Dale had of winning races.”

Park owes his Winston Cup career to Earnhardt, who plucked the Islip, N.Y., native out of the northeast short track scene and brought him into his racing empire.

Park won his first modified race in 1988 and finished as runner-up in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified standings in 1995 and 1996.

Park, named one of the 50 Greatest Modified Series Drivers of all time, continued to race on short tracks and the Busch North Series before being called up by Earnhardt to drive his AC Delco Chevrolet in 1997.
That year Park won Rookie of the Year honors in BGN and started to make a name for himself in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He hooked up with Earnhardt for 17 races in 1998 and continues to be a regular in racing’s biggest league.

“It was nothing short of incredible to work with Dale,” Park said. “I’m racing in the northeast on short tracks, and then Dale comes along and gives me this opportunity. He helped me fulfill my dream.

“He was not only my boss, but we had become good friends. I think the fact that we grew close on a personal level makes all this hurt so much.”

Although their fallen comrade was on the minds of most competitors at Rockingham, Park said the race helped everyone move forward. He also said Earnhardt’s death didn’t change the way drivers approached their jobs.

“I think if you watched the race it didn’t look like Bobby or myself eased up at all,” Park said. “We’re doing what we’re paid to do. We’re well aware that this isn’t the safest thing in the world to do, but we have some of the best safety equipment in the world, and NASCAR does a great job of making this as safe as possible.”

Park admits Earnhardt will never be far from his thoughts.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be able to step into Dale’s role,” he said. “I can’t picture anyone filling those shoes. We have a lot of guys who are helping NASCAR grow, but Dale can’t be replaced, and we’ll always remember him and miss him.”

Remembering a True Legend

| May 29, 2001

“Emotions were all over the place,” said the 33-year-old Park “We were so excited to win that race for Dale, and we feel like maybe it started the healing process. Hopefully, by winning, it will start to lift the spirits of all the people at DEI.”

The race was delayed by a day due to heavy rain at Rockingham, but Park looked strong from flag to flag. When he crossed the finish line, Park waved a Dale Earnhardt cap out of his car window and was congratulated by DEI teammate Michael Waltrip, who won the season opening Daytona 500 moments after Earnhardt’s fatal crash.

“We know that Dale’s proud of us,” Park said. “Physically, he’s not here to enjoy it, but spiritually he’s looking down on us. I think Teresa (Earnhardt) and Dale Jr. are carrying on the vision Dale had of winning races.”

Park owes his Winston Cup career to Earnhardt, who plucked the Islip, N.Y., native out of the northeast short track scene and brought him into his racing empire.

Park won his first modified race in 1988 and finished as runner-up in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified standings in 1995 and 1996.

Park, named one of the 50 Greatest Modified Series Drivers of all time, continued to race on short tracks and the Busch North Series before being called up by Earnhardt to drive his AC Delco Chevrolet in 1997.
That year Park won Rookie of the Year honors in BGN and started to make a name for himself in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He hooked up with Earnhardt for 17 races in 1998 and continues to be a regular in racing’s biggest league.

“It was nothing short of incredible to work with Dale,” Park said. “I’m racing in the northeast on short tracks, and then Dale comes along and gives me this opportunity. He helped me fulfill my dream.

“He was not only my boss, but we had become good friends. I think the fact that we grew close on a personal level makes all this hurt so much.”

Although their fallen comrade was on the minds of most competitors at Rockingham, Park said the race helped everyone move forward. He also said Earnhardt’s death didn’t change the way drivers approached their jobs.

“I think if you watched the race it didn’t look like Bobby or myself eased up at all,” Park said. “We’re doing what we’re paid to do. We’re well aware that this isn’t the safest thing in the world to do, but we have some of the best safety equipment in the world, and NASCAR does a great job of making this as safe as possible.”

Park admits Earnhardt will never be far from his thoughts.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be able to step into Dale’s role,” he said. “I can’t picture anyone filling those shoes. We have a lot of guys who are helping NASCAR grow, but Dale can’t be replaced, and we’ll always remember him and miss him.”

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