STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Marlin, a 43-year-old Franklin, Tenn., native, has 514 career starts on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit with 10 poles and six career victories. He finished third in the 1995 ...
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Marlin, a 43-year-old Franklin, Tenn., native, has 514 career starts on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit with 10 poles and six career victories. He finished third in the 1995 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings (NWCS) and won his second straight Daytona 500 that season. He's currently fifth in the NWCS after 11 of 36 events in 2001 with three top-five and six top-10 finishes behind the wheel of the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge Intrepid R/T. Marlin and company completed a two-day test session at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Tuesday in preparation for the May 19 running of The Winston under the lights. Marlin did a little moonlighting on Tuesday. He assumed the crew chief role for his 20-year-old son, Steadman. Steadman was testing a NASCAR Busch Grand National car, hoping to qualify for his second Busch race this season on May 26 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"Steadman ran the ARCA race in Nashville and ran real good. This is an older Busch car, and he came just to get seat time really. He's going to run ARCA at Charlotte, too. I was off the weekend of the Nashville race. I was out of town when he was practicing the first day, but he didn't hit anything and got a lot of seat time. He finished 13th in the ARCA race, but they penalized him at the end. He could run as fast as Schrader and those guys, within a tenth on the first set of tires. Then he had a pit stop and got on a bad set of tires. He was running 11th and they penalized him with three to go for jumping a start. He finished 22nd in the Busch race, two laps down. That was pretty good to start with. He's got to get meaner and a little more focused. He started when he was about 16, and he knows how to work on the car. He's been working on the cars since he started driving. I made him do it. If you're going to drive, you've got to learn to do it all. I'm not much on this crew chief deal. I just don't like doing it. When you can't get the car fixed it's aggravating. I don't mind messing with the chassis.
"We're testing two of our Winston Cup Dodges here. We've run 105 just about everywhere, Texas, California, Vegas, Atlanta, Darlington. The other one is a brand new car. I'm going to use 105 in the 600 I think. I want my money piece in the 600. We'll probably run the new car in The Winston. "We weren't as good at California (ninth) as we needed to be and at Richmond (11th) we were the best Dodge but we weren't as good as we needed to be. They beat us on new tires at Richmond, but once 40 laps got there we were even. The last run, I think we were about a tenth better, but we just couldn't get going on new tires.
"We tested mostly chassis stuff at Charlotte. All we did on Monday was long runs. We didn't do any qualifying stuff. We've got one car we're working on qualifying and the other race stuff. It's got so crazy here, something you think that doesn't have a prayer will end up working. You've got to try it all.
"I think we'll be OK with the Dodge at Charlotte. I think the heavy motor hurt us on the short tracks. You've got a lot of high weight sitting there, and it hurts you a lot. The motor ran good at Richmond. We've had a good motor all year. Look at California, and Rusty had 721 (hp) on the chassis dyno and the 28 had 712. Gordon had 705 and we had 700. It looks like the Fords have got us a little bit on power, but our guys will just have to work a little harder and find a little more.
"Charlotte would be a great place to win the first race for Dodge. I really like it here, and I always run good here. I just don't qualify good, but I always race good. Hopefully we'll race good this time, too."
TONY GLOVER (Team Manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) "We're working on race stuff, trying to find a setup that's going to be competitive in the afternoon and also be good for the night racing. We worked on long runs and mainly worked on stuff for the Coca-Cola 600. That's a real important race to us, and we're trying to get it tuned in for that. We tested two cars and Sterling was pleased with both of them. We tried to get both of them about equal, and that way it won't matter which one we bring back for The Winston. We'll have a pair of good cars. You don't count on your Winston car for the 600, but if you've got two of them that are alike, you've got your option and it doesn't matter.
"I think The Winston is a pretty cool race. It's a shootout. It's definitely an exciting event for the fans. It gives the fans something to cheer about. I like the format. I like to see them reverse the field and have a little shootout. It's a pretty challenging deal. It's a non-points race. You try to win every event, but anything that's a non-points race, it seems like everybody goes all out. It doesn't matter if you run second or third in a deal like that because no points are awarded for it. Everybody goes all out and that makes it a pretty good race.
"So far this year the Dodges have seemed to be a little more competitive on the bigger tracks than the shorter tracks. I think Charlotte will be a place we run good. It seems like we need a track where we can keep our momentum up. Charlotte is a track where if you get your car handling well you can keep up your momentum and have good corner speed. Hopefully it'll be a good track for not only the Coors Light Dodge team but also the Cingular Dodge team (with Ganassi's rookie driver Jason Leffler) and all the other Dodge teams, too. I'd like to see the Dodges do well here.
"Dodge hasn't won yet and that's obviously reason for concern. If you don't win every week, you need to be concerned. I know our team felt like we had our work cut out for us coming into a new program with a new engine and an all-new body. We knew it was going to be a struggle, but I think some Dodges have been in contention to win this year. We've had opportunity to be in the hunt for three or four races. We just haven't been able to finish the job yet. I think we'll get one before long.
"We want to finish in the points as best as we can. I think that's everybody's main goal when they start the season. It's like your report card. At the end of the year, basically wherever you are in points is how you're graded for that year. Right now, we're focused on trying to win some races. Maybe if we can win some races down the line the points will fall where they need to.
"So far, a lot of the good guys haven't had any DNFs. We've already an engine failure and a crash, and we've had a couple of races where we had a really good car and didn't get a good finish. We're still in the hunt. If we can keep our car running the way it's been running the first part of the year and improve on it every week. We've got to get up there and race Gordon and Jarrett and those guys every week. Sterling has done it before, and I know he can do it again.
"I think it's a neat deal (Tony Stewart driving for Chip Ganassi in the Indianapolis 500). I don't know a whole lot about it. I think it just developed the last few days. I know Chip is a very competitive person and he's going to run the Indy 500 for one reason only and that's to try to win the race. I think he made a good choice. I'm sure Chip will make both races and if they've got one in between he might stop off if he can and watch it, too."
CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Atwood, a 20-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native, scored his best finish of the season last Saturday night at Richmond. He finished 12th and tightened the Raybestos rookie of the year points race. Atwood, who has been the top rookie twice this season, ranks fourth in the six-driver race. He trails leader Kevin Harvick by 28 points after 11 of 36 events. Atwood is 35th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings.
"We started 42nd and ended up 12th at Richmond, so that was pretty decent. We were excited about it. We were hoping for a better run than that, but we'll take it. We're getting better, but we've got to capitalize on the cars we've got. We should have had three top 10s in a row at Talladega, Texas and Richmond and the only time we capitalized on it was at Richmond. We've got to get better at making the car good the whole race and we'll be OK.
"We've got two races in a row here, so we're just working on Charlotte stuff in general, making the car fast. I've never raced 600 miles. The longest I've ever been is 500, so hopefully I'll be OK. Everybody else seems to do it OK, so I guess I'll be fine.
"This is the first time I've ever been in The Winston Open, but I'd like to win it. I know Ray (car owner Evernham) is real good at Charlotte. I've never been that good here in the Busch car. We're going to come here and try to win the Open and try to get in The Winston. I haven't been real bad here, but it hasn't been one of my good tracks. Ray says he's got good setups here and the 24 car always ran good here, so I've got that to look forward to. I don't know what to expect in the 600, so we'll play it by ear and do the best we can.
"I think anything's possible. It's going to take a little while before we can win consistently. We could hit the setup right somewhere and win a race our rookie year. Before we can really start winning consistently, it's going to take a couple of years.
"I like the night racing a lot. It's a little more exciting, plus it's not as hot. I like it a lot better. We had a pretty good test and learned a lot of stuff. We'll learn more next week and try to put it all together for the 600. I'm looking forward to my first 600-miler."