FINAL SHORT TRACK RACE OF SEASON -- Sunday's Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway marks the final short track race of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Dodge has yet to win a short track event, but John Andretti came close in the No. 43...
FINAL SHORT TRACK RACE OF SEASON -- Sunday's Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway marks the final short track race of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Dodge has yet to win a short track event, but John Andretti came close in the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T at Bristol in March. Andretti finished second. Ward Burton led the way for Dodge at Richmond in September with a 12th-place finish in the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T. Sterling Marlin's No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T paced the Dodge effort at Martinsville, Richmond in May and Bristol in August with finishes of fifth, 11th and ninth, respectively. Fresh off his second victory of the season at Lowe's Motor Speedway last Sunday, and Dodge's third win in the past seven races, Marlin will enter Sunday's race at Martinsville looking for his first victory at the .526-mile track. In 31 career starts at Martinsville, Marlin has nine top 10s and three top fives. He ranks fourth in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings (NWCS) after 29 of 36 events with two wins, nine top fives and 16 top-10 finishes. Crew chief Lee McCall says Marlin and the No. 40 Coors Light team can finish second in the final standings and will come out smoking in qualifying Friday at Martinsville.
(Crew chief No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We started 31st at Martinsville in April and spent the rest of the day trying to get track position. It's very important to qualify up front there. Track position means everything. Once we got caught up to the leaders, we ran in the top five all day. It's not that hard to pass at Martinsville. There's just so many cars on the track. We couldn't get the car to grip in qualifying, so we're going to concentrate hard on getting the car to grip so we can qualify better. "We struggled at the beginning of the season on the short tracks, but we learned a lot of stuff at Richmond. We qualified well and were running up front until we tore up the transmission in the pits. That was a big turnaround for us. We're excited about the last short track race of the season. I can't speak for the other Dodges, but the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodges are going to be competitive at Martinsville. "We've got seven races left, and realistically, I think we could win all seven of them. Every week we go to the track, I think we're capable of winning. If we just focus on running in the top five every week, the wins will come. Everything has to go right to win. Last Sunday at Charlotte, we needed it to go green down the stretch to win and it did. We knew if we had a 10-lap restart at the end that we wouldn't win. "Realistically, I think we can finish second in the final standings. One bad race for the 28 and we could be there. We're 44 points out of third and 197 out of second. We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing all year. You hope the 24 doesn't have it in the bag, but it's going to be tough to beat both of those top two guys. Both of them are not going to run bad, so second is our goal right now for the standings. "When I came here this year, our goal was top 10 in the standings. So far we've exceeded our expectations, so we've set a new standard. We've got to be more consistent and have better cars, but we've got some pretty good cars. Sterling has 14 cars ready to go and the 01 has 14 cars. We're going to run the same car Sterling won with at Charlotte at Homestead and Atlanta. It hasn't finished out of the top five in five starts so far, so hopefully we can keep that up and get us another win with it. It's my favorite car, and I know it's Sterling's favorite car, but all our cars are great. "It's been a long season, but I think we've handled this 20-race stretch pretty well. Any time you can go out and win, it gives the team a boost. Everybody has a good attitude, and Chip has been great to work with. He's a big coach, and he's real proud of our team. You don't have that much time to celebrate now when you win. It was pretty much business as usual for us at the shop on Monday. We had a lunch for the team and Chip came down for a few minutes. We can't stop here. We've got to go on to the next level. "It's not just the 40 team. The 40 and the 01 work as one big team. I've heard the talk about us starting a third team, and that's up to Chip and Felix. Andy Graves and Tony Glover can worry about that. My main focus is the 40 car. A third team would be fine with me. It'd provide another resource and more tests. Chip and Felix are smart enough to make the right decision about a third team. If we can make it work, we will. "We're just focusing on Martinsville right now. I don't think we've outgrown Martinsville. I like racing up there. I think there might be too many cars on the track at once, but NASCAR makes the rules and we abide by them. The secret at Martinsville is keeping the brakes and fenders on the car. "I've been a little surprised with the success of the Dodge teams this season. The Dodge people have given us a lot of support, and that's what you need to make the Dodge or any other brand more successful. Dodge just seems to do it bigger and better. It really is a different way of working with the teams. They've helped us in many ways, and Dodge puts a lot of effort into what they're doing. "We've got two wins and Ward Burton won at Darlington, so Dodge has three wins this season. I think Dodge has won four poles, and we were proud to contribute two of those. It was great to see Jason Leffler get one at Kansas. All-in-all, I'd say Dodge has been very competitive for its first season back in Winston Cup. I think we'll keep working hard and be even stronger this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Dodge comes away with a few more wins in these last seven races. "I know it's been a long season, but I think we've been well prepared. We'll keep working hard down the stretch and hopefully have something to show for it when all the smoke settles."