Winston Teleconference with No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Marlin leads the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings by 132 points over Matt Kenseth after 11 of 36 races this season.
Winston Teleconference with No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Marlin leads the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings by 132 points over Matt Kenseth after 11 of 36 races this season. Marlin has led the standings since his second-place finish to Kenseth at Rockingham on Feb. 24, 2002. The 44-year-old driver from Columbia, Tenn., has two wins, four top fives and eight top 10s this season with no DNFs. He has 550 career starts with 10 career victories and 11 career poles.
"I haven't really planned much (for Mother's Day weekend). I've got an appearance in Jackson, Tenn., on Saturday and I'll pretty much take Sunday off. I'll catch up on all the stuff around the house. It's a never-ending deal. I felt like we'd be in real good shape (this season). With the momentum we closed up with last year, the last three races we had three top fives and two seconds. I felt like we could keep the momentum going through the winter and get started and have some good luck the first four races we'd be in good shape. We've had a good year going so far.
"Really before the season started last year, we'd done a lot of testing prior to the 2001 season. I felt like with the team they'd put together and the personnel and Ernie (Elliott) and them guys doing the motors, if we had some good luck we could wind up with a couple of wins and finish in the top five in the points. Sure enough that's what happened to us. Going into this year, I felt like we had a real good shot at winning the championship. It's a credit to all the guys at the shop and Chip (team owner Gannasi) and everybody for putting all the parts and pieces together.
"I'm just glad to be in a car that's real competitive week in and week out. When you've got that you can run up front. The young guys are really coming on good. Ryan Newman, I knew he was going to be good last year. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch and them guys are really going good. Us old guys are going to have to step it up a little bit, but we'll try to hold our own with them. I'm 44, so I still feel young. I'll take 'em on in football anytime.
"We're just trying to race week to week. We're going to Charlotte and we've got a chance to win a million bucks. We'll focus on winning the race, and if we can't win the race, we'll try to pull out a top five. If we can't get a top five, we'll shoot for a top 10. That's the approach I'm taking. You can't get to looking real far ahead. Talking to Lee McCall yesterday, the crew chief, our short track stuff hasn't been where we needed it. We've had some tough breaks on it, but I think we've got two tests left. We're going to try to go back to Richmond and Martinsville because toward the end of the year we need to pull out some top fives at those tracks.
"I was always interested in history in school. Where I live, a lot went on around my house and up in Franklin, Tenn., and down here in Pulaski, Tenn. They camped and fought along the main road down here (in Civil War). I went with a buddy of mine about 12 years ago to do some relic hunting and right off the bat found some bullets and stuff. It kind of intrigued me because it was something that's been in the ground 130 something years. You pick something up in your hand that's been in the ground that long, it's pretty neat that you're the first one to pick it up. I've been to Gettysburg and Chickamoga. There's not much battlefield left in Franklin, Tenn. Shiloh is not far from the house and I really haven't got time to go. Whenever I quit racing I'm going to try to check 'em all out. We took a trip six or seven years ago when we went to Gettysburg. You want to do a lot of things when the season starts and you never get to do it. I'd like to take off on Monday or Tuesday in the motorhome going up to Pocono and just stop at all the battlefields up through Virginia and up toward Pocono. Something always comes up and you've got to go do something. You can't really plan ahead.
"You kind of keep an eye on all of 'em. Roush has really turned his teams around this year. I heard they've found a lot more horsepower. All the Roush cars are running good. Matt is an excellent driver and Kurt Busch. You can't count out Tony Stewart. It seems like their season starts late in the year or at Richmond. Ricky Rudd was running good and he got wrecked Sunday. You've got to keep an eye on all them guys. If we can come back and be leading the points when we go back to Richmond in the fall, I think we've got a good shot at it. We try to go at it week in and week out and try to win the race. If we're leading in September, we've got a good shot at 'em. I think we're going to sell all his stuff (son Steadman). He wants to concentrate on his Busch stuff. It'll save be a thousand dollars a week, so I'm all for it.
"Before Chip came along, Felix sat down with me in March or April of 2000 and he was talking about maybe selling out and getting out of racing. Within a week or two, I was going to start looking for another ride. All of a sudden, boom, here comes Chip along and he gets details worked out with Felix in a couple of weeks and the rest is the best year and a half I've ever had in racing, so Chip was a racer and that's all he thinks about. That's what it takes to make all this work.
"I've been doing this since I was 15 years old. When we do get a week off, I about go nuts. You want to go somewhere or do something. It doesn't bother me a bit. It's probably hard on the crew guys, but it's no big deal for me to go every week to a race track. This weekend, I may go to Nashville and watch Steadman run. It's something I've always done and you never get tired of it, at least I don't. When the off season gets here, it's like we need to go test or go do something after four or five days at home. I'm pretty much always ready to go. Me and her (mother Eula Faye) were best buddies. We lost her in '88, but she was always behind me in whatever I did. I remember in football, she was always fussing. You could hear her in the stands yelling for me to pull my socks up. She wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer or something, but she saw I was determined enough to be a race car driver. When she saw that she was behind me 100 percent.
"I don't think so (drive differently when racing for points). It may be a deal where you could make it three deep if you had a fast car. Enough sense creeps in to hold up a lap and let 'em get straightened out and then pass 'em. That may come with experience. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I saw some stuff at Richmond Sunday that was kinda uncalled for. If they'd just wait a lap and let everybody get organized and straightened out and then pass, but you've got to driver smart, but you've got to drive hard, too. Just like at California, we qualified way back but we knew we had a fast car. We adjusted on it and came from 25th to second. We had a top three-car and then we got stuck in the fence with 50 to go. It dinged it up pretty good, but we still came back and finished seventh. You've got to drive smart, but you've got to drive hard, too.
"'I really haven't read that much about it. I saw a picture of the soft walls. At Indy on the exit in the corners you run so close to the wall I guess they stopped 'em before they ran right into the fence, but I think it's a good idea. A guy had a pretty bad wreck yesterday at Indy and if it wasn't for the soft walls it may have really hurt him. I think it's a good deal.
"You're going to try to win every segment (of The Winston), but you know the fans are going to vote to invert 10 cars. Do you try to win the second segment or do you try to finish sixth or seventh so you've got a good start in the last 20 laps? I'm glad to see they extended the last segment from 10 to 20 laps. It gives you a little more time to get to the front and if someone gets a jump on the start and gets out there, you've got a little more time to try to run 'em down. I wish they'd run 40 laps for the last segment. That would let the best handling cars to come to the top, but I'm just glad to be in it and be a part of it.
"We had to change an engine at Darlington and started in the rear and managed to win the race. I think Stewart and them did the same thing (Sunday at Richmond). If you've got a good car, you just need to be a little patient at the start and you can work your way through traffic and get back to the front. I don't own a car, but it would have to save a little money on the qualifying motors. They were getting pretty exotic on some stuff, so I'm all for it.
"I probably tore up my fair share of cars early in my career, but you're wanting to go to the front and you're wanting to lead. I think it probably comes with more experience. You see some deals where you could make it three wide and you've got a 50-50 chance of getting through. You've got a fast car. You can just check up and hold up a lap or two and let everybody get sorted out and then make your pass. They (younger drivers) haven't really come by (for advice), but any time they want to, they're more than welcome.
"The deal at Richmond, they had sealed the track and it was basically a groove and a half track. I think you can look back at Richmond, typically they don't tear up that many cars at Richmond, but everybody was kinda fighting for the bottom groove and when you get a one-groove track it makes passing tough. I think the next race at Richmond you'll see, if they don't seal it again, you'll see a cleaner race. Everybody was wanting the same piece of real estate and some of them got took out and some tempers flared up.
"I know Chip and Felix have put together a great race team. There's a great bunch of people working on 'em. The support that Dodge and Coors Light has given us has just been tremendous. It's been a big year for us so far."