Talladega: Sterling Marlin race report

Marlin scores fourth top-5 of season at Talladega. TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 21, 2002) - Sterling Marlin drove the Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T to a fifth place finish in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. For the eighth straight...

Marlin scores fourth top-5 of season at Talladega.

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 21, 2002) - Sterling Marlin drove the Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T to a fifth place finish in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. For the eighth straight race, Marlin remains the leader in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship points standings; he increased his lead over Matt Kenseth to 109 points.

The Coors Light Dodge started the 188-lap event in 31st position. Marlin originally qualified in 33rd position but practice accidents moved two cars to the back of the field prior to the start of the race. At the start of the event, the field quickly became three-wide and Marlin took advantage of the fast-moving middle groove to move up to 17th by lap 8. Marlin found that his car worked better on the inside groove and used that strategy to move the Coors Light Dodge into the top-10 on lap 42.

Green-flag pit stops began on lap 51. The Coors Light team used pit stop strategy to keep Marlin out an extra lap in order to lead a lap and pick up five bonus points for the Winston Cup championship. The Coors Light crew performed a four tires and fuel pit stop during green-flag conditions on lap 52 in 14.724 seconds. The quick pit stop kept Marlin up front and racing in the top-10 for the next 50 laps.

The Coors Light Dodge eventually got shuffled to the middle-pack and was running in 14th position when Marlin came in for the second pit stop of the day on lap 105. Due to a broken spring in the air gun, the 17.122-second pit stop dropped Marlin back to 20th position when green-flag pit stops cycled through.

The first caution came out on lap 115 for debris on the track. The No. 40 Dodge pitted on lap 116 for four tires and fuel and restarted the race in 16th position. Marlin kept shuffling in the top-15 for the next 30 laps but once again got into the top-10 by lap 158.

While in fourth position, Marlin came in for a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 161 for four tires and fuel. The second caution of the day came out on lap 162 for a 15+-car accident on the backstretch. The No. 40 Dodge was not involved in the accident and restarted in 10th position.

Marlin moved up through the top-10 before another caution and red flag on lap 180 halted the race. The four-lap shootout allowed Marlin to move from restarting eighth to taking the checkered flag in sixth place. After reviewing the finish, NASCAR officially moved Marlin to a fifth place finish because the No. 98 of Kenny Wallace gained positions by going below the yellow line.

"(Matt) Kenseth got in a wreck, so we gained some points on him and that's good," Marlin said. "I figured the big wreck was going to happen sometime today, and I just happened to be in front of it when it did.

"I don't know whey they red-flagged the race. No one was going to out run that 8 car (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). We weren't close to him. He was in a league of his own. He had a rocket or something in that car. It looked like that thing that guy shot through the Grand Canyon."

Next on the schedule for the No. 40 Coors Light team is the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway on April 28, 2002.

-cgr-

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Series NASCAR-CUP