DEI puts it all together
Jason Mitchell - RacingOne.com
(January 3, 2001)
Park: "Dale has stuck with me,
and that means a great deal."
In all aspects of NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition,
the name of the game is capitalizing on the mistakes of others. That includes the hiring
of new team members that maybe someone else let go or chose not to pick up.
In this sport, it can literally be the difference in winning and losing.
One strong case in point is Dale Earnhardt not as a seven-time Winston Cup
championship driver but in the acquisitions hes made as a team owner at
NASCARs top level.
Two of the key changes that have propelled the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team towards the top
have been the addition of Paul Andrews and Steve Hmiel, both veteran Winston Cup crew
chiefs who found a home at DEI after being fired from the teams of Jeremy Mayfield and
If there has been one winner in the whole scenario it would have to be DEI driver Steve
Park. Park took full advantage of the addition of the veterans and even grabbed his first
tour victory at Watkins Glen in 2000. He also rolled to a career-best 11th in the final
Andrews is the crew chief for Parks No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, while Hmiel serves as
technical director of Earnhardts operation that also fields cars for Dale Earnhardt
Jr. and Michael Waltrip.
It means winning races, Park says of his team owners decision to hire
veteran team personnel as they become available. If I had to put my finger on the
one thing that has made us what we are today, Id have to say Paul Andrews is that
thing. Dale has given us the ingredients to run good and win races. Its like
anything else, you can have all the best ingredients in the world, but if you dont
have a cook that knows how to put them together, its not going to turn out just
Before Paul came on board as the crew chief for me, I didnt know him from a
hole in the ground. But right off the bat we just hit it off.
You hear people talk about it, and sometimes it can make you sick, but now in racing
these days everybody has the money and resources so it becomes a matter of getting the
right people. Right now, Paul and me seem to be clicking. Were on the same page and
communicating real well.
While often overlooked, Park explains the behind-the-scenes work of Hmiel on the
aerodynamic front has also played a major factor in him being able to pull off the best
year of his short career in Winston Cup.
Steve has done a great job, and he always gets forgotten because hes on the
technical side, Park says of Hmiel, who had served as crew chief for Martin in five
of his six years with Roush Racing. Steve is the guy thats going to the wind
tunnel every week and keeping the technical side of our team intact. Steve is giving us
great cars, so all we have to do once we get to the track is fine-tune them a little bit.
I can boldly say that if I win a lot of races and a championship, its going to be
with Paul Andrews here at Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Andrews wont come straight out and say it, but prodded enough he admits to some
satisfaction in the fact that Parks team ended up 11th in the 2000 Winston Cup
standings while his former team with Mayfield was 24th.
So was this the dismissal of two experienced veterans just a bad mistake on
the part of their former bosses?
Id like to think so, says Andrews, the 1992 Winston Cup Series
championship crew chief for the late Alan Kulwicki. But thats because Im
part of the situation. Steve Hmiel and I are both people who have been in this sport for a
long period of time, and weve seen and done a lot. Theres a lot of experience,
and sometimes that experience can be hard to beat.
I feel like thats just another team out there. If I try to thrive and focus on
beating that one team, Im going to be beating myself. So I try and not look at it
that way. I didnt like what happened there at that particular time, but thats
in the past and its time to move on. Im focusing on our situation and our
According to Park, the goals for 2001 are to keep improving with each race and find a
little more consistency.
Setting new goals is something Park cherishes, as he says before last year and his first
Winston Cup win, his career path was not so certain.
I sat at last years Media Tour and pretty much told everybody my future was in
jeopardy because I was in the last year of my contract, Park says of the annual
meet-and-greet between drivers and motorsports media held each January by Lowes
Motor Speedway. I just needed to do what I was paid to do, and that was to run as
good as we could and try to win. I really thought anything other than meeting the goals we
set for last year to win our first race and get a pole would have been a
disappointment. We lived up to those goals with two poles and our first win, plus we just
barely missed out on making the Top 10 in points.
Everybody laughed at me and looked at me like I had two heads when I said those were
lofty goals for our team at the beginning of last year. We were able to back that up with
some good performances on the track. So going into this year, were just looking to
improve. We found out how much fun it was last year and we want to win more. Wed
like to be a multiple winner this year, but the main goal is finishing in the Top 10 in
points and as close to the Top 5 as we can. The only way were going to do that is
being very consistent and trying to win some races.
Andrews says while Parks breakout performance may have surprised some people, he
knew it was only a matter of time.
Steve proved a lot, but he was ready to prove it, Andrews says. It wasnt
that he didnt have anything to prove the year before, but things just hadnt
come together for him before then. Steve didnt do anything any different than what
hed done in the past he just had more experience and kept getting smarter.
Im really looking forward to next year, Andrews says. Were
all fired up and he is too, and weve got our expectations and hopes up pretty high.
We feel like were going to achieve a lot of the goals we have set for this year.
For Park, there will be a next year with the No. 1 DEI team thanks to Earnhardt resigning
him to a multiyear deal that runs through the end of the 2003 season.
I have roots that run deep here, Park says. Ive been with Dale
since 1996 and I started driving in the Busch Series for him in 1997. Then in 1998 we went
Winston Cup racing together, so weve spent almost five years together. Im
comfortable with the fact that Ive been with the same company for all those years
and not had to bounce around to find the right combination I needed to win.
Dale Earnhardt has proven time and time again that hes a winner. Even though
we struggled a little bit in the past, he never lost that confidence in me in driving one
of his cars and that we could be a successful team. I believe that showed early last
season when we resigned for another three years together, before we won our first race at
It showed the commitment I had to Dale Earnhardt and the commitment Dale had to me.
T h e E a r n h a r d t C o n n
e c t i o n
Home Page | Contact Us