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Winston Cup Series

Saturday, January 19

Park vows to return from injury

Associated Press

Steve Park
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- His speech was measured and his eye glasses were new. His desire to race was as strong as ever.

Steve Park, seriously injured in a wreck last year, is certain he'll drive again.

He just doesn't know when.

"I'm here to say I'm getting back into a race car, thanks for coming out and I'll see you later," Park said Saturday before anyone could even ask him about his health.

The 34-year-old Park has avoided all official NASCAR events since he bruised his brain in a September crash at Darlington Raceway. But he attended Saturday's annual Winston Cup preview, using the time to give a status report on his rehabilitation, which has been slowed by double vision.

He recently began wearing glasses to help, but until his sight is back to normal, Park can't say when he'll race again.

"The glasses have helped, up close it is good but far away it's just a little foggy," Park said. "So to answer all questions of when I am getting back in the car, it will be a matter of just waiting for the vision to clear up."

The most frustrating thing to Park, a driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc., is that he has no idea when that will be.

So he's taken to avoiding the NASCAR scene. By staying away, the pain of seeing Kenny Wallace driving Park's Chevrolet isn't as great.

"It's hard to sit out and not do what you love to do and watch someone else get in your car," Park said. "And no doctor can put their finger tip on when I'll heal, so I just have to wait."

Park was injured during a September Busch race when his car darted down the track during a caution period and into the path of Larry Foyt's car.

Foyt, accelerating to move up to the head of the line of lapped cars on the inside lane, couldn't avoid hitting Park's car square on the driver's side.

Park had to be cut from the car and was in the hospital for two days. He's spent the four months since trying to get back into a race.

"I'll be back. It might be Daytona, which is a month away, but it might be two months away, so who knows?" he said. "I'm going to wait until I heal up, because I could win when I was there and I want to come back and win."

Park actually was behind a wheel recently. He ran some laps in a Legends car at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., this month under the supervision of crew chief Paul Andrews to test his focus and depth perception.

After running laps not much slower than what other drivers turned under race conditions, he earned another test in a DEI car. Park wouldn't say where or when that session will be.

In the meantime, Wallace is scheduled to drive the No. 1 for DEI until Park is able to return. Wallace is planning to go to the season-opening Daytona 500, but that could change if Park is suddenly cleared to race again.

Park will need more than a doctor's OK to get into a race. He figures he'll also have to get on a track with teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip before DEI clears him.

"To come back, you have to run fast laps, you have to prove to doctors and your crew chief you are capable of winning and you have to prove to yourself and other competitors that you are not going to put yourself or anybody else in danger," he said.


  • NASCAR president Mike Helton and driver Tony Stewart were among those bidding in Saturday's auction. Helton walked away with a cowboy hat signed by several country singers, while Stewart bowed out when bidding on a hand-carved wooden replica of the late Dale Earnhardt's car reached $1,050.

  • The Winston Cup preview, in its 13th year, is the single largest charity event in North Carolina. The event has raised $2.2 million in its first 12 years.

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