Las Vegas: Dodge Motorsports weekend preview

Red-hot Dodge duo enters Vegas on a roll, Marlin-Burton ranked 1-2 in Cup standings LAS VEGAS (Feb. 28, 2002) Sterling Marlin and Ward Burton enter Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 ranked 1-2 in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings after the first...

Red-hot Dodge duo enters Vegas on a roll, Marlin-Burton ranked 1-2 in Cup standings

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 28, 2002) Sterling Marlin and Ward Burton enter Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 ranked 1-2 in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings after the first two of 36 events on the 2002 schedule.

Marlin carries an 18-point advantage over Burton into Sunday's Wild West shootout. Marlin drove his No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T to a third place finish in last year's Cup race at Vegas and left with the series lead. Burton, winner of the 2002 Daytona 500 in the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T, finished 13th last year at Vegas.

"These Dodge teams have their game faces on, and we haven't had any real bad luck yet," Burton said. "I'd love to see the championship come down to a race between Sterling and I, but we've got a lot of racing left before we start thinking about that too much."

Also, Dodge and Ford are tied for the lead in the manufacturers standings with 15 points and one victory each.

The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series will also compete in Las Vegas this week with Mopar-powered Mark Kinser hoping to return to the form that carried him to a second-place finish in last year's title chase.

Here is the weekend lineup for Dodge- and Mopar-backed cars:

* Friday, Feb. 28-March 2, - The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series takes to the dirt track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 2002 Silver State Shootout. Qualifying begins at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Thursday.

* Friday, March 1 - NASCAR Winston Cup Series Qualifying, 5 p.m. EST televised live on FoxSportsNet (FSN), and live radio coverage provided by Performance Racing Network (PRN).

* Saturday, March 2, - NASCAR Winston Cup Series Happy Hour, (2:15-3 p.m. EST), tape delay set for 6:30 p.m. EST on TV-FX.

* Sunday, March 3, - NASCAR Winston Cup Series UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 will be televised with pre-race programming beginning at 3 p.m. EST, and live event coverage at 3:30 p.m. on Fox. Radio broadcast begins on PRN at 3 p.m. EST.

NASCAR Winston Cup Series

Marlin has put together quite an impressive record in his past five starts. Dating back to the final three races in 2001, Marlin has recorded five straight top 10 finishes. He's got four top fives in that stretch, including three runner-up finishes.

"If we kept doing that we could damn sure win the championship, but it's a long season, and we've got a long way to go," Marlin said. "It's way, way too early to start talking about the championship, but we've got a good start out of the gates. We got close last year, but we had some bad luck along the way. We're going to keep working hard and try to stay focused and see what happens."

Chassis 115 turned out to be Marlin's secret weapon last season. The Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing Team hasn't used it yet in 2002. That probably comes as shocking news to the competition.

"We're taking a brand new car to Las Vegas. It's No. 203," Marlin said. "We did a tire test with it at Texas, and it ran real good. We had thought about bringing chassis No. 115. (Marlin's miracle chassis No. 115, finished third at Michigan in its first start in June. On the return trip to Michigan on Aug. 19, 2001, Marlin became a part of Dodge's racing heritage by winning the rain-shortened Pepsi 400 with chassis 115. The same Intrepid finished second in the Brickyard 400 and the NAPA 500 at Atlanta, fifth at Kansas and Homestead and won the fall race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.)

"I think 203 will be as good as 115. We just wouldn't have had enough turnaround time to get 115 ready for Atlanta. Vegas might be a better test for the one engine rule than Rockingham, but it's really going to show up at Atlanta and Texas. You run wide open at those tracks for 500 miles, and you're going to see some engines blow."

Dodge had no engine failures at Rockingham, but Ganassi Racing team manager Tony Glover says he expects Vegas to be a bigger test for the new one-engine rule.

"You need a good motor at Las Vegas, and I think that'll be a bigger test for the one-engine rule than Rockingham," Glover said. "You've got a longer straightaway at Vegas. We didn't have any problems at Rockingham with the new engine rule. We only had two 45-minute practice sessions on Saturday, so there's only so much you can do in 90 minutes."

Winston Cup teams have been known to take gambles, and Vegas is a perfect place to partake in a game of chance. Marlin and Glover may enjoy some friendly card games or crap tables in Vegas, but don't expect either of them to spend the night in a casino.

"Maybe we can get lucky at Vegas and win the race," Marlin said. "I know Spencer (teammate Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T) had a good race out there last year (10th). Bill Elliott runs good out there, so maybe we can keep this momentum going for Dodge.

"DaimlerChrysler sponsors the race, so it would really be great if a Dodge driver could win it. It'd be even greater if that Dodge driver was in the No. 40 Coors Light Intrepid."

Glover echoes his driver's sentiment.
"We'll go to Vegas and have a little fun," Glover said. "I play a little Black Jack, but I've never been very successful at it. We're really going to Vegas for one reason and one reason only and that's to win the race. Anything beyond that is just killing time. We've got our priorities in order. We'd rather be lucky on the race track than in the casinos."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup , World of Outlaws
Drivers Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jimmy Spencer , Sterling Marlin , Mark Kinser , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing