Darlington: Winning Dodge team press conference

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) "We had a lifter bad yesterday. I know Ward started last here last fall in the 500-mile race and came back and won it. We had a real good car, and we felt like we'd be OK. We had some good...

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)

"We had a lifter bad yesterday. I know Ward started last here last fall in the 500-mile race and came back and won it. We had a real good car, and we felt like we'd be OK. We had some good pit stops, and I guess the first 40 laps got us back into it. We kept clipping them off. Our car was really good on long runs. That was the key for us today.

"I saw the 20 and 44 get together. Gordon is good about missing wrecks, so I followed him. We got through the smoke, and I saw the 20 coming back down the track. I swerved to the left real quick and just barely missed him. I got through it, and I guess Jeff just clipped somebody somewhere and got his fender messed up, but we were fortunate to get through it.

"I guess me and Jeff were over in three and four and I was working on Jeff pretty good trying to get by him. We were in the middle and I saw the 44 and 20 and they were both turned sideways. I started checking up and I was trying not to get run over from behind.

"The 24 was good on short runs, and Stewart came out of nowhere. He must have got his car freed up a lot. He must have been real tight. I was working on Jeff pretty good. I was surprised I caught Jeff that quick. The lap before that, I had pulled up beside him on the straightaway and a slow car was there or something, and I had to get back in line. Our car was really good on long runs, and it really surprised me we caught Jeff that quick.

"I was content. Let 'em go on and we'll race 'em 20 laps down the road. That's what I did with Little E. I knew his car was real quick on the restarts. Our car was a little tight and he got by us. We raced for 10 or 12 laps and finally ran him down and caught him. He did what you're supposed to do. He raced hard and he pulled over and let me go. It kind of surprised me, but it shows that he's grown up a whole lot. Two cars racing side by side just slow each other down.

"A little bit. I knew going in last year that the last half of the season we really ran good. We got two wins, and those last three races we had three top fives and two seconds. We've got a great race team assembled, a great car with great people. Going in here I felt like we could win five or six races this year, so we'll just see what happens.

"We'll just take it one week at a time. We'll race hard and race to win and the points will take care of themselves. If we can win five or six or eight or 10, we'll do it. If we come back here in September and we're still leading the points, I think we'll have a good chance at it. We're just going to race hard week in and week out and let the chips fall where they may.

"I don't think it was really the lapped cars fault. If you've got a bad handling car it's almost impossible to get out of the way. Guys would go in and slide up and you'd just have to time it where you could pass them on the straightaways. A lot of times, I'd roll out of the throttle going into turn one and you'd get close if somebody lifted in one and two. In the middle of one and two you'd get back in the gas and get your run up off our and pass 'em. If you got crowded going in and got loose and got into trouble, like I said, you've just got to race the track here and things will take care of themselves."

"The team I'm with right now is a lot more dominant team. Week in and week out, when we go to tracks, we've got as good a chance as anybody to win the race. It's a credit to all the guys who do all the hard work at the shop, and Chip, too.

"I ain't going to tell you (what I learned from Dale Earnhardt). Everybody else will figure it out. He taught me something here a couple years ago. I had a good car and he had a good car, and he got to beating us pretty bad on long runs. I think it really helped our long run situation today. He didn't tell me. I figured it out.

"We were patient. We knew we had a good car, and we just didn't take any chances. You race the race track and know who you're racing and take your time and come up through there. We knew the guys would give us good pit stops. I guess we were 20th or 22nd by the first caution, and we just kept chipping away at it.

"I think our team is one of the top five or top 10 teams to look at. I know last year Rusty paid us a compliment. He said, 'we come up and watch you guys as much as we watch anybody now to see what ya'll are doing. We monitor you on the radio and see what you're doing.' As good as we ran last year people started to take notice. We kept all the guys on the team, the same motor guy, the same fab guys and the team just got stronger."

LEE McCALL (Crew chief No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)

"We knew we had a problem (with the engine) and couldn't take a chance with it. We put our best motor in and started in the rear and watched Sterling drive that thing up through traffic all day long. He picked 'em off one at a time, and raced this race track all day long. It did a heck of a job, and my hat's off to him and our whole race team. That just goes to show how strong he is.

"First of all, you have to tell NASCAR you have a problem. Once you get the motor out, you take it over to their inspection area and tear it down. You can see the problem. We ended up having a bad lifter, so we put a fresh Ernie Elliott motor in and ran great all day long.

"We have to stay with one motor the whole time we're here. We ran the first practice on Saturday and then Happy Hour. The guys were going through the motor and checked the valves and springs. I saw the lifter and it didn't look good. They decided to pull it out and put this fresh motor in.

"Motors are all the same. When I say best motor, we put a new motor in. That's just the one we put in. Our motor program is on top right now. For these guys to make the call and pull the motor out says a lot for our race team and shows how strong our race team is.

"We couldn't take a chance on putting a lifter in and tearing something else up. In the position we're in right now, it would be a bad decision just to fix that problem. Again, we took it upon ourselves to put a race motor in and go from there.

"There was nothing that was obvious that we did have a problem. It was just a normal check on the motor and we found out we did have a problem. I'll guarantee you that motor probably wouldn't have lasted another 200 miles. To be able to put another Ernie Elliott motor in and do what we did today, again, I just keep bragging on these guys."

-dodge motorsports-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt