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BEAVER FALLS, N.Y. – Veteran Steve Park showed he hasn’t forgotten his way to Victory Lane, leading the final five laps Saturday evening at Adirondack International Speedway en route to the win in The Edge Hotel 150 presented by Casella Waste Systems.
It was Park’s first NASCAR Camping World Series East victory in 13 years. He won twice in 1996, with the latter coming at the now closed Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway on July 1. Since, he has collected wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Series Truck Series. He has also won on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“I’m just real happy,” Park said. “These guys on the Waste Management Recycle America car are working real hard. We’ve got a little shop in Vermont. These guys build good race cars and we bring good cars to the track week in and week out. And we’re just starting to show toward the end of the year here what this team is capable of doing.”
The win was also the first for Park’s crew chief, Sam Caron.
The 41-year-old Park, from East Northport, N.Y., was making his 34th start in the NASCAR Camping World Series East. He is in his second full season since returning to the series last year. He had previously won at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“I have good luck in New York,” Park said. “I’m proud to be from New York and come to a place like Adirondack and see the people and how much they really contribute to this local short track racing. In order for a place like this to survive, it’s all about the race fan, and I think they saw a good race today.”
Park appeared on the verge of the win in the NASCAR Camping World Series previous race, July 11 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, only to lose the lead late to teenage rookie Ryan Truex.
This time, it was Park who got the jump on race leader Jody Lavender on the race’s final restart and led the rest of the way. Truex got by Lavender in the closing laps to grab second. Jesus Hernandez and defending race winner Matt Kobyluck rounded out the top five.
“With all this young talent in this series, it’s amazing just to run with these guys and see how hard they run,” Park said. “I’ve been racing a long time, and I tell you what: From the competition on the short tracks, all the way up to Sprint Cup, and back to the tracks like here at Adirondack, it’s obvious NASCAR has a lot of talent in all the series and I think it showed today with all these guys running up front. It makes me work hard.”
“I wanted to win, it didn’t happen,” Truex said, “but there’s nobody I’d rather lose to than Steve Park.”
With the win, Park locked up a secured spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. The prestigious postseason race is scheduled for Jan. 29-30, 2010 at the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.).
Eddie MacDonald won his first career Coors Light Pole Award and led a race-high 101 laps. However, he got shuffled back late in the race and finished 10th. Brett Moffitt, who qualified second, was also a contender much of the day before slipping back to eighth.
On the opposite end, Park and Truex qualified seventh and ninth respectively, and steadily worked their way through the field.
“This is really a unique race track,” said Truex of the half-mile oval. “I’ve never been to anything like it. When we got into the race, I was trying to be as patient as I could, just driving my own race and not trying to worry about anybody else. If somebody slipped up, I’d get under them, but I wouldn’t force the issue. I was just trying to save my race car until the end.”
Truex was up to second, but skated high on the Lap 132 restart and lost two spots. Moffitt, who was running fourth behind Truex, got caught up behind Truex and dropped back to ninth. Truex and MacDonald battled door to door for second, and Park made a three-wide pass on Lap 135 to take the spot away.
Lavender drove his way up from 11th starting spot to take the lead from MacDonald on Lap 107. He looked to be in line for the win until two cautions in the final 25 laps for single car spins brought the field back together.
“I definitely didn’t want to see those last cautions,” Lavender said. “My car just wasn’t real good on restarts. It slid around real bad. After four or five laps, we could get it going there. That last one with inside five laps to go, I kind of knew we might be in trouble.”
On the final restart, Park was able to make it stick on the inside and pull off the pass for the lead. Truex got by Lavender on the inside on Lap 147 to take away second.
Park said it took most of the first practice session to get the car to where he needed it.
“In the race, we were good; I was just trying to be patient,” Park said. “There’s usually a late race caution, and you need a car and tires to race with. And sure enough, there was. We were coming on strong.
“I told my spotter to tell me when there are 10 laps to go and I’d evaluate where I am and what everybody else is doing and try to make a run to the front. We had the car and the tires to do that.”
It left Lavender, a veteran racer, still looking for his first win in his second season running in the series.
“We got up and led some laps,” Lavender said. “Unfortunately at the end, these guys were just a little bit better than us. But we’ll take it. It keeps us right in the hunt for the points battle, so we’re looking forward to these next couple races.”
While Lavender moved up to second in points, Truex was able to stretch his lead to 26 with three races remaining. MacDonald dropped back to third, 35 back of Truex. Defending series champion Matt Kobyluck and Park round out the top five. The top six drivers – from Truex back to rookie Brett Moffitt – are seperated by just 100 points.
The NASCAR Camping World Series East returns to action Saturday, Aug. 15 at Lime Rock Park, the 1.53-mile road course in Lakeville, Conn.