STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Despite a 19th-place finish on Sunday at Bristol, Sterling Marlin retained a 99-point advantage over second-place in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings after 6 of 36 events. He went...
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Despite a 19th-place finish on Sunday at Bristol, Sterling Marlin retained a 99-point advantage over second-place in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings after 6 of 36 events. He went into Bristol leading rookie Ryan Newman by 99 points. Now he leads Matt Kenseth by the same margin heading to Texas next week. Prior to Sunday when Marlin cut a tire under green while running in the top five, he had scored eight straight top 10 finishes. He's the only driver to have been ranked in the top 10 in the series standings since the 2001 Daytona 500, his first race in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T owned by Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates. The 44-year-old Tennessee native has led the standings since his runner-up finish at Rockingham on Feb. 24. He has two victories this season and has helped Dodge take a 42-40 advantage over Ford in the manufacturers standings. Marlin has an average finish of 6.67 this season.
"We've got a good race team put together here. A good bunch of guys work on our car and it's just a total package that's come together. We've got it hooked up pretty good. It's a long season. If you look back last year, we finished the season out with three straight top fives and the momentum just carried over. We were one of the last cars to get on the Dodge deal last season. At the start of the season we probably had 10 cars built between both teams. This year we've got 34 cars. Ernie Elliott and his boys were way behind on the motors last year. They ran good, but we just didn't have a lot of parts and pieces. They got the motor shop done about mid year and about August things started clicking.
"It's not all me. It takes all the guys working together and getting along together. It's not only me. Week in and week out we feel like we've got as good a chance as anybody to win the race. It's a credit to the guys who work on this team. I haven't changed driving styles in two or three years. If you've got the equipment you can do it.
"We went to Dodge. Andy Graves came over and we carried our cars to the wind tunnel and it was terrible. The motors weren't where they needed to be. We were just down. Chip came in and bought the team from Felix, we switched to Dodge and Ernie is doing the motors. We've got our own fab shop. It's a complete turnaround in one year.
"I saw what Dodge did with the truck program and how serious they were about racing. Chip has some good credentials coming in, and Dodge wanted to be with him. It's worked out good for us.
"I've been around a long time and you've got an idea of how you want the car to drive. Chip doesn't tell us what to do. He just makes sure we've got the good equipment and turns us loose with it. If we're not winning or running up front, he wants to know why and what we need to fix. He calls me every week and asks what we can do to get better. In this business, you get on top and think you're going to rest awhile, well, you can't rest. They're going to run over you if you do that.
"Stuff from the Indy car side is not going to work over here. Chassis is totally different. The main thing is the good equipment, good parts and pieces.
"I wish we could have started this about 10 years ago, but I'm just glad to be driving for them now. I think any time you drive a race car you learn something. It's one of them deals where you're never through learning. The chassis deal has changed from five years ago or three years ago. You say there's no way it will work, but it does.
"I've been around for a long time, and I don't too excited about nothing. I go wild about UT football, but that's about it. I've just got better stuff to work with now. If you've got good equipment, you're going to look good. If you've got so-so equipment, you're going to run 15th and not so good you're going to be about 25th. You might learn something week to week and race to race, but you've just got to stay on your game and know the feel you want in the car. I was aggravated before because I knew I could do it if I had equal stuff. It's up to us. We've got the right pieces, we've got to get the right springs and shocks. Then we can go.
"My driving is the same. With Lee McCall (crew chief) and Tony Glover (team manager), I've been in this situation before and came in and told the crew chief I needed 100 more pounds of right front. He'd say no you don't. It's my butt sitting in the car, and I pretty much know what it needs. Those two guys, Lee and Tony, bam, they'll change it, no question. We were at Vegas and were a little off. We came in Sunday morning, talked it over and changed some things. All of us agreed and we had a great race car. It takes everybody. It ain't me. It takes everybody.
"You can do better. When you run 30 or 40 laps, you've got to study 'em. A lot of guys don't even look at the tire sheets. You've got to look at the air pressure, camber, you can't quit. You've got to keep thinking. The whole sport has got more technical. You've got to stay on the top of your game. The view is a whole lot better at the front than it is at 25th.
"I'm going to Vegas two days this week for Coors, then we're going to test at Fontana for two days of testing and I'll get home Friday morning. I don't know what I'll do then.
"I love Texas and I love being down there. When they first built Atlanta, I hated it because it was a one groove, high speed track. You couldn't pass. That's what I see at Texas. It's real fast, and I don't see how it's going to be a two-groove track. I hope it is. They've done a super job paving it and hopefully it'll work out to a two-groove deal.
"Guys race you hard sometimes, but they'll get out of your way if you treat them right. I think turn about is fair play. If they've got a better car than me, I'm not going to hold them up and race 'em. Guys remember that. Guys remember who races 'em hard. When the shoe's on the other foot, it's going to be that way. Earnhardt wouldn't do it (give guys a lap back). You've just got to race 'em again, so I don't usually let anyone get a lap back. Ganassi said not to give 'em a lap back because you'll just have to race 'em again. It's harder to race now. The competition is so much better. You need every advantage you can get."