We were topping 100 mph in a street legal Monte Carlo, hugging the bottom of the turns at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Steve Park drove with one hand on the wheel and his right arm resting on the console. He might as well have been driving to the grocery store.
"You feel that?" Park said to me as the car dipped in the final turn. "That's the bump you always hear drivers talking about at this track."
I didn't have much to say back. It reminded me of times in high school, when your buddy suddenly hits the gas to test his car's limits. You just sit there, try to act casual and unconcerned, and hope he doesn't catch you glancing at the speedometer out of the corner of your eye.
On the straightaways I did manage to tell Park that we needed to get him on the cover of Stock Car Racing. I had actually done some sketches of how he might pose for a photo shoot. I was just waiting for the right opportunity. Park drove the car onto pit road and the ride, all part of a Chevrolet media event last year, was over. Park shook my hand and reminded me about the cover.
Then, last September, I was at Darlington. I had just finished a radio show when I heard that Park had been hurt in a freak accident during the Busch Series race. I walked to the backstretch, leaned against the pit wall and watched as crews pulled Park from his race car. Some held blue tarps to shield the scene. I couldn't move.
Comebacks always make for interesting stories: people so stubborn that injuries, and a doctor's prognosis, can't stand in their way. We've seen such stories play out many times in racing, with triumphal and tragic results, for guys like Ernie Irvan, Neil Bonnett, and Ricky Craven.
Now it was Steve Park's turn. For six months he would struggle, first with simple motor skills like balancing his body, later with his speech. He faced doubts, but they couldn't overshadow his determination to return to a race car.
Park would be on the cover of Stock Car Racing. He would tell his story. He would show what it takes to reach down inside and find the strength to beat the odds, drawing on silly motivation, like Park did with a rope-jumping dog, or praying daily to someone capable of granting any miracle.
Regardless of his performance, regardless of who he drives for, Park serves as another example of the human spirit. We all hope to never face a similar setback in life, but if we do, it's good to hear a story like the one told by Steve Park. Then you know what inspiration sounds like.
Thanks For Your ThoughtsWe appreciate the many readers who took the time to complete the recent reader's survey. As was the case the last time we conducted such a survey just over a year ago, we're not out to reinvent the wheel. Instead we're looking for tweaks that could make Stock Car Racing better for you.
One mission of the magazine is to help those fans who may want to go from the stands to the track and see what it's like behind the wheel. We want to show you how to go racing and provide you with information that will help your performance once you get started. For example, in this issue we're starting a series of articles on building a Mini Stock. You'll learn from our experiences-and our mistakes-as we put the pieces together. Later in the year, you'll find a story giving some of the options available for fans who want to race.
Many of you like our Winston Cup coverage, and that will continue. At the same time, we'll shine the spotlight on the people who are the backbone of the sport, the ones who race locally on dirt or asphalt, or on a smaller touring series. The bottom line is there's always room for improvement, and we appreciate your thoughts. The suggestion box remains open, so feel free to write to: Stock Car Racing, 5555 Concord Parkway South, Suite 330, Concord, NC 28027; or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org