Controversial Call Relegates Marlin to 21st-Place Finish in Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 22. 2006) -- It was one of those roller-coaster days for Sterling Marlin, who finished 21st in Sunday's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
The Ginn Clubs & Resorts driver experienced a number of ups and downs during the 500-lap race, and in the end, it was a controversial call by NASCAR that the team felt cost them a better finish.
"We battled through plenty of adversity today," said crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe. "The result was definitely not indicative of how well this MB2 team performed."
After qualifying 22nd for the Nextel Cup event and ranking first and fourth respectively in Saturday's twin practice sessions, the No. 14 team felt it had a front-running car when the green flag fell for the 500-lap event.
Though he was involved in a Lap 3 incident that sent him to the back of the field, Marlin patiently worked his way to the front.
"We got stuck in the back early and then couldn't pick up any track position because of all the long green flag runs," explained Marlin. "But once we got our lap back with the Lucky Dog award, we were able to get back up there and race."
By lap 279 Marlin had made his way back into the top 20 and Labbe made a two-tire call on pit road to gain track position.
"We had to make something happen, so we took a chance," said Labbe. "Things worked out for us and we were looking at a top-10 finish. Then NASCAR made us come down pit road and that was the end."
As Marlin rounded the track under a caution period with fewer than 20 laps remaining, NASCAR informed the team there was something hanging from the back of the racecar and ordered Marlin to come down pit road and have the piece removed.
When Marlin arrived in the No. 14 pit stall, nothing was found on the rear bumper.
"The No. 78 car (Kenny Wallace) knocked off whatever was hanging on the back and we knew there was nothing there before they made us pit," explained Labbe. "But they said they told Kenny not to hit us and remove it so they made us both come in."
When Marlin returned to the .526-mile track he was 21st.
"It's a shame for this team," said Marlin, who was running 12th at the time of the penalty. "We had such a good run today and had an awesome race car. We drove from the back of the field to the front of the field and that's a credit to everyone on this team.
"I just wish we got the finish we deserved," continued Marlin. "Our performances have gotten better and better each week and eventually the results will show it."
The NEXTEL Cup Series will visit Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend for the Bass Pro Shops 500. The event will be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.