NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Steve Park became acquainted with his new No. 30 America Online (AOL) Richard Childress Racing (RCR) Team during an abbreviated one-day test at Kentucky Speedway.

Not quite one week after being released from Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) in favor of Jeff Green and hired by RCR, Park turned his focus toward preparing for The Winston this Saturday in Charlotte.

"I don't think I saw it (the DEI release) coming, but everybody else did," Park said. "The media really had its finger on things that were going on.

"Even though you had the support of your team, or you thought you did from a management standpoint, to think that you're in a stable environment and have it blow up…I think things happen for a reason," he said.

Park, the former pilot of the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, will enter the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte 33rd in the series points standings after posting a season-best 10th-place finish at Las Vegas. Park started on the pole in California and delivered a 40th -place finish after being involved in an accident just past the halfway mark of the race. He earned a 16th place finish at Atlanta, but finished 20th or worse in his other nine starts with DEI.

"One door closed behind me and the opportunity came up with Richard (Childress). I'm just extremely happy he considered me," Park said. "To work on Dale's (Earnhardt, Sr.) team for the last five or six years and to end up going to where Dale called home, I have to pinch myself sometimes. I had a great opportunity and I've gone to a great opportunity."

He said the initial goal is drive consistent races and move his new team up in the standings.

"We want to work real hard together and turn this AOL team around," Park said. "We're 33rd in the points right now. We just have to be consistent week in and week out and be a contender. I'm not going to sit here and say we need to win. If we can just contend for top-10s and top-fives, the wins will come."

Park also is dedicating time to re-establishing communication with Crew Chief Mike Beam.

"Really that's one of the reasons we're here (Kentucky Speedway). I've known Mike Beam for quite a long time and have had a chance to work with him," Park said. "You can tell by us loading up early, things are going good. Our communication is where it needs to be. Mike always seems like he's one step ahead of me."

With a successful Kentucky test behind him, Park said he is looking forward to his first race in the AOL Chevrolet in The Winston Open.

"It feels great to be in The Winston and be in it with a car and team that are capable of winning the race. You go from one extreme to the other, that's just the way this sport is sometimes," Park said.

"Just having the opportunity to come here (Kentucky Speedway), sort things out and work with the new team for the first time was valuable. We'll go to The Winston and race when the points aren't involved and then go into the (Coca-Cola) 600. We should be well-rounded by that time."

Other drivers making Winston Cup Series research and development runs at Kentucky Speedway included Scott Wimmer in the Bill Davis Racing R&D No. 23 Dodge, Eric McClure in the No. 4 Kodak R&D machine, Damon Lusk in the Ultra Motorsports No. 7 Sirius Dodge and Hank Parker, Jr., in the No. 91 Evernham Motorsports R&D Dodge.

~ Kentucky Speedway ~