TONY GLOVER (Team Manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) NOTE: Glover, a 44-year-old native of Kingsport, Tenn., will return to his home track this weekend with his driver, 44-year-old Tennessee native Sterling...
TONY GLOVER (Team Manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
NOTE: Glover, a 44-year-old native of Kingsport, Tenn., will return to his home track this weekend with his driver, 44-year-old Tennessee native Sterling Marlin, leading the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings by 99 points over rookie Ryan Newman. Marlin has recorded eight straight top 10 finishes, including the final three races of 2001, and has won two of the last three races. Glover and Marlin first worked together with the Abingdon-Va.,-based Morgan McClure Motorsports team. Glover has worked full time in NASCAR for the past 28 years. He was crew chief for his father, Gene Glover, during his 1979 championship season in the Late Model Sportsman Series (currently Busch Grand National).
"I started out sweeping the floors and carrying out trash for my father," Glover said. "I was 22 years old and crew chief for my father when he won the championship. I wasn't old enough or mature enough then to realize what he had accomplished. My father still comes to the Bristol race, and he comes to a few others during the season. I talk to him a lot about what we're doing and what's going on. He was in racing for 30 years, so he knows a little bit about it.
"We're just having a good time right now and taking it one step at a time. Sterling is the best he's ever been in a race car right now. He's driving smart, he's communicating well with the team and he's the best I've ever seen him beyond the shadow of a doubt. I hope he's peaking at age 44 or 45 and will maintain it for the next dozen years.
"I'd say we've got the best shot at winning the title we've ever had. Right now, we've got everything we need to win it. Chip and Felix have given us the tools we need to win it all. Now it's up to us. It's still real early in the season, but we've got five straight top 10s and we've been in contention to win every week except Atlanta. We kind of missed it there. We got lucky at Darlington a couple of times. Sterling did a good job of missing that wreck late in the race and he did a good job of working his way up through the field all day.
"We had a little problem with the motor, and we were lucky enough that Tony Santanicola (Head Engine Builder Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) and his guys caught it. If they hadn't caught it, we would have been in trouble Sunday. So we got lucky a couple of times and Sterling ended up winning the race. We feel real good about the first five races.
"We're also excited about the 41 car (teammate Jimmy Spencer). He's been running well and qualifying better each week. I think he had a car to beat Sunday at Darlington. The cars are built identical. All the information is shared, and the setups are very, very similar. Jimmy might like a little different combination of springs, and Sterling might like different shocks, but they're very close and we're glad to have Jimmy on our team. He gives us a wealth of experience to draw from.
"I was with Morgan-McClure for 13 years, and I guess my most memorable moment at Bristol was winning with Ernie Irvan in 1990. We had been running in the top three most of the day and we ended up beating Rusty Wallace for the win.
"The concrete changed the setups at the track a lot. Shocks come more into play now, but we've been racing pretty good at Bristol. We haven't had a lot of luck there recently, but our whole team is pumped up and we think we can use this momentum to carry us through Bristol. You've got to be lucky at Bristol, but I think using your brain creates luck. You've got to be smart on and off the track. If you give Sterling Marlin a good car, he'll use good judgment and get you a good finish.
"My dad and stepmom still live up there, and my wife's family is up there. We have plenty of close friends in Kingsport. I lived there for 39 years, and it's a beautiful place to live. It's a great place to be from, but there's only one Winston Cup team up there. If you want to be in Winston Cup Racing, then Mooresville (N.C.) is the place to be. I get back home a couple of times a year, but it's mostly racing-related stuff. We've got a real busy schedule and they're doing a good job giving us time off when they can, but we only have a couple of weekends off once the season starts. It's hard to find a lot of free time."
STERLING MARLIN (No.40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I guess it's better to be lucky than good at Bristol because so many things can happen up there. If you've got a good car and can stay out of trouble and be patient, then you're going to get a decent finish. I liked Bristol better when it was a paved track, but the concrete is OK. We tried to test up there last week, but we got rained out, so we'll just go cold turkey and see what works.
"Qualifying is real important at Bristol. Track position means everything, and it's real important to stay up front so you can stay out of trouble. We're taking chassis No. 109. It's the same car we ran at Rockingham (qualified sixth and finished second). I think it'll be good if we can keep it in one piece.
"I'm a little surprised with our streak right now. Yes and no, I guess. I knew we were going to run good with the way we finished last season. I'm surprised a little with all the good luck we've had. We've had good cars except at Atlanta, and I think we could have won two other races with a little luck. Me and Glover and Lee McCall (crew chief) are working together well. We put our heads together on the chassis and decide what we're going to do. Last year we might have been satisfied with a fifth-place car, but this year, like at Darlington, we did some stuff we'd never tried before and it worked.
"You never know about Bristol. I drove for Morgan-McClure a while back and we had some top 10s at Bristol but never could win. We'd start running in the top five and something would always happen. You just never know what to expect at Bristol. I guess that's why the fans like it so much. You can roll the dice, and if you're not right in Happy Hour, you can make some changes and go for broke at Bristol just like anywhere else.
"We ran pretty good up there last year. We broke the frame on the car in the first race and ended up 11th. I think we finished ninth up there last fall. We'll see what we've got and go from there.
"It'd be nice to come through Bristol with another top 10 and then get a weekend off before going to Texas. There's still plenty of racing left, and it's way too early to talk about points. It's nice to have the lead, but 99 points don't mean much. Heck, that could be wiped out before the Bristol race is half over. We're just going to try to take it smart and bide our time and hopefully we'll be around at the end to give 'em a run for their money."