Sterling Marlin won tonight's NEXTEL Open race and will transfer into the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge Event. It is Marlin's fourth "Open" career victory. "It was pretty wild," said Marlin. "I knew if it stayed green I had it. They started...
Sterling Marlin won tonight's NEXTEL Open race and will transfer into the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge Event. It is Marlin's fourth "Open" career victory.
"It was pretty wild," said Marlin. "I knew if it stayed green I had it. They started racing hard (Jamie McMurray and Jeremy Mayfield) and I just snuck on by.
"Hopefully we can put that little Coors Light Dodge in victory lane and win a million dollars."
The NEXTEL Open started off with a bang. Literally. The field had not even gone 100 yards on the first lap, when the No. 41 Dodge of Casey Mears failed to get up to speed due to transmission issues. That set off a chain reaction behind Mears. The miscalculation by Mears proved costly.
"The transmission blew up," explained Mears. "I went from second to third, got to third for a split second and then it just blew apart. As soon as the car stopped I couldn't even get out of gear. It was all jammed together. I feel bad for everybody. We had a mechanical failure and it took out half the field."
All in all 11 cars were involved in the melee. NASCAR red-flagged the event, but allowed teams to work on their wrecked race cars under those conditions -- something NASCAR does not allow during a normal points event.
"I am not even sure I got past the start finish line," said Rudd. "It's disappointing."
The other drivers involved in the incident were Scott Riggs, Kerry Earnhardt, Brendan Gaughan, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, Jeremy Mayfield, Jeff Burton, Carl Long, Morgan Shepard, Kyle Petty and Jimmy Spencer.
"That was the shortest race I have ever been in," said Spencer. "I don't think we even went a thousand feet."
After twenty minutes under red flag for repairs, NASCAR restarted the event. The Open was scheduled to be broken into two segments, the first consisting of 20 laps which the No. 42 Dodge of Jamie McMurray dominated.
A yellow flag between segments one and two gave teams the option to pit before the second, 10-lap, race to the green. Sterling Marlin beat McMurray out of the pits to lead the field to the restart on the final ten.
Marlin, in the No. 40 Dodge, grabbed an impressive half-second lead over the second place car of McMurray, but a lap five single-car wreck by the No. 72 of Kirk Shelmerdine bunched the racers back together.
Caution laps are not counted during The NEXTEL Open, so the race was restarted with five laps left to be completed. McMurray quickly moved around Marlin and took the lead. The No. 19 Dodge of Jeremy Mayfield also managed to outmaneuver Marlin and grab second.
Mayfield breathed down the bumper of McMurray with two laps to go, and finally got impatient as the two slammed sheet metal door-to-door on the white flag lap. During the confrontation between McMurray and Mayfield, Marlin got around both cars and garnered the win.
"The first run was good, but we got really loose in the end," commented McMurray.
Jeremy Mayfield. Jamie McMurray, Jeff Green and Scott Wimmer rounded out the top five.
Earnhardt, who led the fan vote to transfer into the All-Star challenge, was ruled ineligible to transfer to the All-Star race. Event rules state that the driver to make the show from the fan vote must be on the lead lap to meet the criteria to make the race.
Earnhardt had suffered considerable damage to the No. 33 Chevy and finally blew the engine with five laps left in the event.
Ken Schrader had the next-highest fan vote and transfers into the event.