Steve Park wants to put hometown team in winner¿s circle

It may not be a homecoming for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Steve Park, but it is for his team. That gives him just one more reason to be excited about racing for the win at the Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 25.

Park drives The Orleans Hotel and Casino Dodge for Orleans Racing, a team whose shop is located just down the street from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And the first half of the Double Down in the Desert doubleheader is the biggest race on the Orleans team¿s calendar.

"The Las Vegas race has significance because it is the home of Orleans Racing," Park said. "I know how much it means to the team and the guys being home. It is their home track. The guys on the team keep me pumped up about the race since it is their hometown track. Their enthusiasm rubs off on me."

Park has had an up and down season since returning to the trucks after six years in the NASCAR Busch and Nextel Cup Series¿. He has three top-five finishes so far this season, including back-to-back fourth place finishes at Milwaukee and Kansas and a fifth place finish two weeks ago at Nashville. It is the first time since 1997 Park has been behind the wheel in the Craftsman Truck Series. That was the same year he began running in the Busch Series full time and was named the Busch Rookie of the Year.

Park¿s first time racing a truck at LVMS was in 1996 when he finished 15th. In 2003, he posted a 10th place finish driving in the Nextel Cup Series for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

"I love running Vegas," he said. "We had a good run in the Cup car there last year. I¿m looking forward to racing in the truck race there.

"I¿m also looking forward to spending the week after the race at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Vegas, and enjoying the town before we go over to the California race."

The Las Vegas 350 marks the seventh year all three of the major NASCAR racing series¿ have raced at LVMS. It¿s a city, and a race, Park believes is good for NASCAR and its fans.

"I think it is important for NASCAR to have the Las Vegas market on the schedule for all three major series," Park said. "I think the West Coast in general is important because the fans have been deprived of the sport for so long. It is a great market for the teams, drivers and fans. We all enjoy the trip to Las Vegas."

The Double Down in the Desert will be a first-of-its-kind event featuring a nighttime doubleheader involving the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Champ Car World Series. The Las Vegas 350 Truck race is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. The

Bridgestone 400 Presented by Corona Champ Car race will follow the Truck race.

Qualifying for the Trucks will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Champ Car qualifying is slated for 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24.