Daytona 500: Marlin - Dodge interview

Veteran Driver Looks for Renaissance Year with New Ginn Racing Team DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb.9, 2007) - After 30 years on the NASCAR Cup circuit, two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin knows that things won't always be easy. So after a ...

Veteran Driver Looks for Renaissance Year with New Ginn Racing Team

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb.9, 2007) - After 30 years on the NASCAR Cup circuit, two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin knows that things won't always be easy. So after a disappointing 2006 season with his No. 14 team, Marlin is looking for revitalization in 2007.

And what better place to begin his latest journey than the famed 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway and the season-opening Daytona 500.

One of only three drivers with back-to-back Daytona 500 wins,Marlin has collected 11 top-10 finishes inr4 starts in NASCAR's biggest race.

Now, with Panasonic joining forces with Waste Management, his first full season with crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe, and with the addition of Mark Martin to the Ginn Racing driver lineup, Marlin talks about his expectations for 2007 and predicts an exciting year for the growing organization.

Q. There has been a lot of growth at Ginn Racing in the last six months. Talk about the changes and what it means to you as a driver.

Marlin: When Bobby (Ginn) purchased the team last year it was like he lifted a cloud that had been hanging over the organization. He came in and talked about the future and his five-year plan about becoming a successful team and really brought some excitement and confidence to everyone at the shop.

It's amazing to have seen the amount of expansion that's taken place in such a short amount of time. Ginn Racing went from 60 to 160 people very quickly and I think we're going to be a force to be reckoned with each and every week.

Q. Last year didn't produce the kind of results that you'd hoped for in your inaugural season with Ginn Racing. What are you looking to achieve on the Nextel Cup circuit in 2007?

Marlin: We didn't get the results we hoped for last year for sure, but I think we made a lot of progress in our performances, especially toward the end of the season. The last few races after Slugger came on board, things really improved throughout race weekend and on the track on Sundays. We got caught up in a wreck something like seven of the last 10 races and we lost an engine in Homestead (Fla.), so luck had a lot to do with why improved results didn't match our improved performances.

This season our goal is to be competitive each week and consistently run in the top 10. We have to be fast on pit road and eliminate any problems we have control over, so that when we face a situation we don't have control of, we're in the best situation to handle it. I think if a team can find a way to do that then eventually they'll put themselves in a position to win a race, which we'd obviously love to do.

Q. What are your thoughts on heading to Daytona without an automatic berth into the Daytona 500?

Marlin: Unfortunately we weren't able to finish in the top-35 in owner points last year and that's really put us behind the eight ball for the first several races of the season. We have to come out of the box strong during the Daytona qualifying session and the Twin 150 races and be sure we secure a spot so we can show off this Waste Management/Panasonic Chevrolet.

I think we have every reason to believe that we can make the race--we have good cars by themselves and also in traffic. So between the Budweiser Pole day and the Twin races, I think we have what it takes to get it done.

But it's definitely a little nerve wracking to not know that you'll be there for sure come race day. A lot of things can happen between now and next Sunday so we just have to take our time and not get ahead of ourselves and do the best we can.

Q. Having said that, Daytona International Speedway is your favorite track. Do you think your Waste Management/Panasonic team is capable of going to victory lane on Feb. 18?

Marlin: Absolutely. The entire 14 team has been working feverishly in the off season to get things ready for Speedweeks. Ginn Racing always has strong cars at superspeedways and, looking at the performances of the teams at Daytona testing, I don't expect to see anything different this year. I think I've got as good a chance as anyone when that green flag falls.

Winning my third Daytona 500 would be an amazing feat and it'd be neat to give Bobby (Ginn) his first NASCAR win.

Q. The start of this year's Daytona 500 will mark your 712th Nextel Cup start. What are your thoughts on that?

Marlin: It's pretty neat. That's a whole lot of races and I feel lucky to have been doing this for such a long time. It's a strange feeling to look at some of the guys out there competing with me every week and know that I've been racing since before they were born.

I think I'm lucky to have seen this sport from where it came from and have also gotten to see where it's gone. The transition over the years has been amazing and I'm honored to have been a part of it.

Q. Mark Martin will share the No. 01 ride with Regan Smith this year. What are your thoughts on being Mark's teammate?

Marlin: Mark's a heck of a racecar driver and I think the whole organization is excited to have him on our team. He's won a lot of races at every level in NASCAR and I think his experience, success, and ideas will help get this team to the next level.

Regan is getting a once in a lifetime opportunity to have Mark coach him. It's a great idea to have them work together this year and help Regan develop into a top driver. He has a lot of talent and it will be fun to watch how he grows with the help of Mark and Ryan (Pemberton, 01 crew chief).

Q. Ginn Racing has an aggressive driver development program this year with Jesus Hernandez and Kraig Kinser returning to the team and Ricky Carmichael joining the organization. What are your thoughts on those young drivers?

Marlin: Jesus and Kraig have done a great job for Ginn Racing since they've become a part of the team. Jesus had several wins last season in the Dodge Weekly Series and Kraig had some terrific runs in the Truck Series. I think they'll continue to learn and drive some Truck and Busch races this year. Ginn Racing is giving them a good opportunity to get some excellent experience.

Ricky coming to the team is a pretty big deal. He's the best-of-the-best where he comes from and he's won everything there is to win in motocross. He's a heck of an athlete and from what I've seen and heard from the testing he's done for us so far, he's doing a great job transitioning to stock cars.

Ginn Racing is about growth and the future, so I think bringing these young guys in and putting them behind a wheel is not only a great opportunity for them, but also for the team to cultivate some young talent.

Q. What do you think about the Car of Tomorrow?

Marlin: I haven't formed a solid opinion one way or another yet. I've only been in one a couple of times, and I wasn't the biggest fan. But when NASCAR changed the points system and added the Chase for the Nextel Cup, a lot of drivers weren't fans of it either. But soon enough people changed their minds and now I don't think people can imagine the sport without it.

So we'll see. No one is really going to know how the car will handle out in a big pack of cars until we get out there and try it in race conditions. Then I can form a fair opinion.

Q. What are your thoughts about Slugger?

Marlin: So far, Slugger and I have really hit it off. He brings a lot of experience to the team and with him, Ryan (Pemberton, 01 crew chief) and Peter (Sospenzo, 13 crew chief) working together--that's a pretty good lineup of leaders.

Our performances improved drastically toward the end of last year and a lot of that had to do with bringing Slugger on board. Our communication improved and, most importantly, our confidence. Slugger has what it takes to win races, so I'm excited about our first full season together.

Q. Outside of racing what do you enjoy doing?

Marlin: Just hanging out really. We've got a good bit of land back home and we're developing some so I spend a lot of time clearing property. Working--that's what I enjoy doing. That and spending time with my family.

Q. Were you excited to see your good friend and former Tennessee Volunteer quarterback Peyton Manning win his first Super Bowl?

Marlin: Oh, yea. He's one of the greats when it comes to quarterbacks and he deserved to win that. I didn't want to see him go down in history as a great quarterback that could never get the championship, so I was really proud of him, as I know everyone in Vols country was.

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Sterling Marlin , Regan Smith , Kraig Kinser , Jesus Hernandez , Mark Martin