Daytona International Speedway NASCAR Winston Cup Test Session Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003. STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Marlin posted the third fastest time in Thursday morning's test session with a lap of 183.434...
Daytona International Speedway
NASCAR Winston Cup Test Session
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003.
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Marlin posted the third fastest time in Thursday morning's test session with a lap of 183.434 mph. Kyle Petty in the No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid was the fastest at 183.733 mph.
"I think we'll be in pretty good shape. We've got the same car we ran in all the speedway races since 2001, and it's been a real good car for us. It's led every race we've been in. We won a qualifying race with it and we came close in a couple of (Daytona) 500s, so I think we're going to be in pretty good shape. We've got another car we need to pick up a couple of tenths to be competitive with, but right now we're right pleased.
"Chip and Felix have a great team put together. The guys at the shop put in a lot of hard work. We've got a lot of good people. They're building cars left and right. We've got a lot of stuff left to try. We're going to try to get back to Talladega in a week or so to run some stuff in. It pays a lot to win this thing. There's a lot of prestige, so we don't want to leave anything laying on the table.
"That's about the 1000th and tenth time (I've been asked about my neck). It's OK. I'm been doing a little stuff. I got some stuff from UT, weights to build you back up. I did it last year and it seems to be the same amount of weights with the same number of repetitions. It never really got weak. The neck really never hurt the whole time. It felt like I needed to pop it. After Richmond is when it was really sore.
"They say it's supposed to be stronger. When a bone breaks it's supposed to callous over and builds up more calcium on it. It's stronger now than it was.
"The technology now has gotten so far. Back then (without restrictor plates) we were on bias ply tires. I guess Elliott's got the record at 210 mph here. It just kind of went where you aimed it. We didn't have any rules on the spoilers. We'd just lay the spoilers straight back. It was a pretty wild ride. The race wasn't bad, but qualifying would take your breath.
"After Richmond, it was really sore. We went to Kansas and was just about over it and did the same thing again. My neck never hurt. It took three weeks after Kansas to get my chest or ribs or whatever I messed up...You got up in the morning and it didn't hurt. If you'd wake up in the morning every now and then and stretch you could kinda feel like it needed to pop. We went back the first of December and got X-rayed and everything is fine.
"After Richmond, we went to Dover and tested that week at Kentucky. I was going to Dover and we had to get the trainer to meet us at the airport. I had to do some therapy on my ribs they hurt so bad. Finally, I got over it and then we wrecked at Kansas and they say that's what broke my neck. I think the Richmond deal cracked it or something because Richmond hurt a whole lot more than Kansas did.
"You look at 2001, we were third in points and no one gave us much of a chance when the season started. We came back last year and had the same team, the same everybody and led points. We felt like when we went into last year we had a pretty good chance to win the championship from the previous year with the fall we put together. We've got the same everything now, so I think we can come back and be as strong this year. Hopefully we won't get hurt.
"There was nothing I could do about it. Once they saw the X-rays and I saw 'em, I knew I couldn't drive. It's frustrating. We worked hard all year to get in a position to try to win the championship and then have that happen. Worst things have happened. We're glad to be back this year and we're looking forward to getting it done this year.
"Last year we wore the Hutchens and Hans. We're going to wear the Hans this year. If I'd had it on last year, it might not have cracked my neck, I don't know. Given what we saw, the Hans deal looks a little safer than the Hutchens deal. NASCAR is always doing things to make it safer.
"I guess everybody saw it. It's a deal where I'd been racing cars a long time and I knew going around the track the fender was on the tire hard. What were they going to do? Put you in jail? We knew we were going to have to pit anyway and go to the rear. We thought we'd just try to call their bluff and get out there and try to pull it off and get back in the car. It didn't quite work. I didn't know he (inspector) was behind me. He scared me when he touched me on the shoulder. The hardest part was getting the window net hooked back. I didn't think I was ever going to get it hooked. I finally got it hooked. If I'd known that I wouldn't have tried to hook it. I would have just come in the pits. It almost killed me.
"You never know what's going to happen (in Daytona 500). In 2001 we led a lot of laps, and I think last year we led the most laps. The thing that was aggravating last year was we came back and raced Ward for the finish. Then they stopped the race. That killed us.
"A guy came to the shop every day. A lot of guys put the foam like stuff that forms to you, kinda like the Indy car guys run. He fitted it up and it felt real good, so we're going to try to run it.
"I saw it (space shuttle) coming off turn two. The guy says the space shuttle is taking off, so I was looking out. It was going real fast.
"I remember when Alan Kulwicki won it it was really tight between five guys. Last year we led a long time. It was like it was meant to be. We'd fall out of a race and the other guys behind us have trouble. I remember the road course race at Sonoma, I thought we'd fall to fourth or fifth. When we walked out of the garage I think all the top four cars had trouble. It was just a weird deal. Hopefully we can come back and compete and try to win the thing this year.
"At certain tracks you get at you hit the right combination and you don't have any trouble. The tracks I see that have a lot of trouble are tracks like Kansas, Chicago, tracks that are semi-banked and everybody is real close and you get the aero push a lot. They tested big greenhouse cars at Charlotte with softer tires and I don't think they really saw anything there. The cars are so slick now, so dependant on aero. I saw a picture the other day from '95. We were leading at Charlotte and I was in front of Gordon and Earnhardt. The left front valence was a mile off the ground. We didn't think anything about an aero push. If it was like that now, you'd run 40th. It's just the evolution.
"The car is running good. Two years we left after testing down here and we were 30th. They guys had to go back and work and cut the cars apart. The hard work paid off. We came back down here and almost won the 500. We came down here last year and had a pretty good test. This year it looks like we're even better than we were last year. We are better. We're just trying to get the other car up to speed.
"I still haven't figured out what Casey (Mears) is carrying around in his backpack. Every time I see him, he's got a backpack on. I haven't asked him yet. He's probably got a Gameboy or some cookies or something. I don't know what's in there. I've got to ask him. I wouldn't have a backpack. I've got everything I need in my pocket.
"We're having a good time. That's what I did last year. If you can't have a good time, you might as well stay home. I feel real good. The guys have a lot of good cars built up. We're going to do some more testing before we go back to Las Vegas and try to win at Vegas again. We need to get off to a quick start. We've done that the past two years, so we hope we can do it again this year."