Sirius Satellite Radio 400 Media Day Highlights. Michigan International Speedway. STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Original Dodge Intrepid R/T) "We've got a good group of guys coming into NASCAR -- Casey, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman...
Sirius Satellite Radio 400 Media Day Highlights.
Michigan International Speedway.
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Original Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We've got a good group of guys coming into NASCAR -- Casey, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and the whole bunch. NASCAR is looking good for 12-15 years down the road. When we started, you owned your own car. You raced short tracks Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Back in the 80s when we started, there were probably 8-10 good cars. Now with all the sponsors and owners that have come in the sport, you've got a lot better equipment, better people working on the cars. Like Jimmie Johnson, stepping right into a Hendrick car, that was unheard of 20 years ago, stepping into a top ride and never running a lap in Winston Cup. It's good for the sport and it's just a sign of the times.
"It's way too early to worry about points. You worry about it, but you've got to finish first. We're still trying to win races. Every race we go to we're going to try to win. If we can't win we're going to pull out a top five and if we can't get a top five, we'll take a top 10. Last week we started on the pole and the car was way off. We fell back to 20 something and we kept working on the car and finally ran fourth. You take days like that when you're way off and survive and come back and get a top five. It showed a lot of character from our guys on the team.
"I still get it (kidded about getting out of the car under red flag at Daytona). It was a situation where we were damned if you do and damned if you don't. If I hadn't got out, we were just going to call NASCAR's bluff. What are they going to do? Put you in jail? We looked at the fender and if the fender was on the tire real good, it was going to cut the tire down in a lap or two. It was going to take out myself, Ward Burton and maybe two or three of the other guys we were racing with. If we didn't do not nothing they were going to black flag you anyway. It was a deal where I was going to have to go to the back anyway. I just wanted to see how bad it was.
"At Bristol, Tenn., we used to have 30,000 people there and now it's 140,000. It's amazing to me to see how it's taken off. It's convenient. TV has really brought it to the public's eye. I went to some sub shop a little while ago and some guy you would have thought didn't even know what Winston Cup Racing was recognized me. It's pretty neat to go places where you wouldn't think people knew anything about it and they know a whole lot about it. It's great to be here.
"I guess it was the first race Dodge had won since 77 and it was really neat for us, especially here at Michigan in all the manufacturers back yard. We had been close all year and we came up here and had a good chance to win the spring race and ran third. We got shuffled on the restart. We came back the second race and we were determined we were going to win the race. It's been a good track for me. We brought the same car back and it was flawless all day.
"Casey started in go-karts. I had a go-kart but couldn't afford a motor for it, so I had to push it up and down the hills. A lot of young drivers start with go-karts. They start running short tracks, and it's just amazing how fast some of them come up. Jimmie Johnson, I guess he's 27, but he came in off road racing. It's amazing how some of them come in off different types of series and run Winston Cup.
"I felt like I could always do it if I had the right parts and pieces and equipment and the right people behind you. Chip came in and bought it. He breathed new life into the team and me. It's been a great year and a half for us.
"When you go week in and week out and know you've got a good shot at winning the race or running in the top five. This is the most fun I've ever had. We hope we can keep it going and get a championship. We've been lucky and dodged a couple of wrecks, but we've got a good race team put together. We've got a great group of guys and Ernie Elliott is doing the motors. They run good week in and week out. We've got a good team. We have good pit stops and good cars. We won Charlotte last fall, and we went back and thought we had a real good shot at winning the race. We drove from 35th to fourth, and I thought we were going to win the race, but as soon as it gets dark, the chassis went away and we finished 11th. The same thing happened at Dover. We started way back and drove all the way to the top five and then the chassis went away again. At least last week we started up front, went to the back, and came back to the front. I think we figured out what the problem was with the chassis. We just can't overlook something and let it happen to us like that again. Eleventh isn't that bad, but we need a top five.
"We had a little problem with the chassis and overlooked it, and it bit us two weeks in a row. We adjusted for it last week and it showed it. If we just keep our nose clean we'll be all right, but we're trying to win races right now. You can't sit still. The guys behind you are too good. They get on a hot streak and all of a sudden you're in second place. We're going to keep racing hard. If it comes to late October and we're still leading, we may have to pull in the reigns, but as competitive as it is, it's going to be tough to keep a big lead.
"Pontiac has five cars in the field and they've won three races. I don't know where the changes come from. We'll see. They've got the oldest car out there, but Stewart has led a lot of races and Bobby Labonte won Martinsville. They got a break, so we'll see what happens.
"I feel better now than I've ever felt. I feel great after races. We've just got to concentrate on the cars in Happy Hour and get the cars driving good. We've got to qualify better and not start so far back to get to the front. That'll make it a little easier. If we can do all those things we should be in good shape the rest of the year. Chip brought a lot of magic and organization to the team. Since I've been driving for Chip, we haven't wanted for nothing. Whatever it takes to make that race car go fast, Chip gets it. We've got great race cars and great motors. We haven't wanted anything that we haven't got, so he walks in and puts together a great team with Tony Glover and Andy Graves. He hires Ernie Elliott to do the motors, and I think Ernie is one of the best in the business. Chip will call me once a week and ask if I need anything. If you've got a little p roblem, he'll fix it. I was lucky to have enough money to get to the race track back in the old days. Now it's just get in the car and drive it and we've got a chance to win races.
"MIS is a really neat track. I like it. You can run two deep, three deep through the corners. During the race you'll see some guys running at the bottom, in the middle and at the top. It's a first-class facility. We run side-by-side a lot. It's one of the neatest tracks we run on. It's pretty fast. We don't have restrictor plates on. I'm having a good time. I feel as good as I ever felt, and it's hard to walk away when you can still win races. When it quits being fun and you feel like you can't do it anymore, you ought to quit, but I feel like I can at least run five more years. I never even thought about quitting. That's all I've ever done since I was 12 or 13 years old.. It'd be weird not getting out every Sunday morning. It's weird now being at home for two weeks in a row when the season is over.
"I was probably 12 years old when I first started coming to Michigan. It took forever to drive up here. They wouldn't let me in the garage area. I had to stand outside the fence in the garage. Finally the main NASCAR official would feel sorry for me and let me come in the garage. He'd say, 'OK, you sit on that workbench and don't move.' At least he'd let me in and I could watch daddy work on the race car and go out and practice. I've been coming to Michigan since 1971."