Bristol: Sterling Marlin preview

Marlin Ready to Leave 'Qualify First' Mindset Behind BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 21, 2007)-- Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway is the last of five races where guaranteed starting spots are based on 2006 owner points. And while...

Marlin Ready to Leave 'Qualify First' Mindset Behind

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 21, 2007)-- Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway is the last of five races where guaranteed starting spots are based on 2006 owner points.

And while Marlin has racedhis way into the first four events on qualifying speed, the Waste Management driverbelieves it will be a breath of fresh air to be able to focus on the most important thing when his team gets to the track each week--the race.

Marlin's No. 14 team finished 36th in the final owner point standings last season, 74 points out of the coveted top 35. If Marlin remains in the top 35 following Sunday's Food City 500, he will head to Martinsville Speedway the following week with his first automatic berth since Texas Motor Speedway last November.

"This weekend is pretty big for us," said Marlin, who is 29th in the current owner standings. "It will be such a relief to leave the 'qualify first' mindset behind."

"But first things first," he continued. "We have to go to Bristol, qualify up front and stay out of trouble to put ourselves in that position."

Marlin's 24th-place finish in last weekend's Cup event at Atlanta Motor Speedway marked the first time in nine events that histeam didn't suffer frombad fortune--whether it be a mechanical failure or getting caught up in an accident.

It's having aclean racethat Marlin says can help him secure that top-35 spot.

"We've had strong runs this year but still aren't where we deserve to be in points," explained Marlin. "We not only need to have a clean race on Sunday, but we need to secure aresult that can keep us where we need to be in points."

In addition to the added pressure of his current points position, Marlin will face another challenge in this weekend's 500-lap event: it will be the debut for the Nextel Cup Series' Car of Tomorrow.

"It's a whole new ballgame," said Marlin. "I guess to a certain extent we're leveling the playing field out with these new cars because they're new for everyone. But for the same reason, I'm not sure what to expect."

"We tested here a couple of weeks ago and figured some stuff out that should help us this weekend," Marlin continued. "It will be interesting to see how things shake out when so many cars get out there on such a small track with no real experience."

But for now, Marlin's number one priority is Friday's qualifying session--and hopefully, he says, for the last time.

"I'm hopeful this will be the last time I'll have to worry about qualifying first," said Marlin. "Everyone in the garage is here to win the race--to try to put that in the back of your head for a day--it's just not natural."

Last spring at Bristol Motor Speedway

Marlin started 35th and overcame an early spin on the half-mile track to finish 17th. The incident occurred on Lap 126 of 500 when the No. 40 machine of David Stremme got into the back of Marlin coming off Turn 4.

-credit: gr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Sterling Marlin , David Stremme