LOUDON, N.H. (November 23, 2001) The Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T driven by Sterling Marlin finished second in the New Hampshire 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. It is Marlin's best finish at the Speedway; his previous best finish...
LOUDON, N.H. (November 23, 2001) The Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T driven by Sterling Marlin finished second in the New Hampshire 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. It is Marlin's best finish at the Speedway; his previous best finish was sixth place in 1993. Marlin finished the season third overall in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship points standings.
The Coors Light Dodge began the 317-mile (300 laps) event in sixth position. Prior to the original September 16 race date, qualifying was canceled and the starting lineup was set according to the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series rulebook.
Marlin moved into fourth position on lap 14 and raced in the top-5 until the car became tight around lap 22. The first caution came out on lap 32 when the No. 15 of Michael Waltrip hit the wall in turn 3. The Coors Light Dodge came in for two tires (right sides), fuel and wedge and air pressure adjustments to loosen the car up. Marlin restarted the event on lap 37 in second position.
The yellow flag came out on lap 51 for a competition caution. Marlin beat the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon back to the caution and assumed the lead during the caution period. The Coors Light team elected to not pit and stay out with the rest of the front-runners. Under the caution period, Marlin radioed in and suggested to add a little more wedge and the next stop to loosen the car. On the restart, Marlin lead the field until lap 64 when Gordon took over.
Another competition yellow came out on lap 97 and the Coors Light team brought the car in for four tires, fuel and adjustments to loosen the car. The 14.83-second pit stop put Marlin out in second position for the restart. Marlin kept the car up front for approximately 20 laps until lap 126 when he started dropping back. Marlin stated that the car felt tighter than it was at the start of the race.
Marlin kept the car in the top-10 until a caution came out on lap 142 for the No. 44 car hitting the wall. The Coors Light team adjusted the No. 40 Dodge and took on two right side tires in a 7.33-second pit stop. Marlin restarted the event in second position and raced in the top-5 from lap 150 to 200.
On lap 201, a caution was called for debris on the track. Marlin came in for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments. Marlin restarted in fifth and stayed in the top-10 until the next caution on lap 273 when the No. 32 car hit the wall in turn 3. Marlin brought the Coors Light Dodge in for its last pit stop of the day, which included a two-tire change (right sides) and fuel. Marlin came out of the pits in first position. Marlin lead the event until lap 281 when eventual race winner Robby Gordon (No. 31) and Jeff Gordon (No. 24) passed him on the inside. Five laps later, the No. 31, 24, and 12 cars were involved in an incident, which pulled out the last caution of the day. The Coors Light Dodge stayed out and restarted the 11-lap shootout in second position. Marlin was unable to catch race winner Robby Gordon and ended up scoring his second straight runner-up finish. Marlin finished the season in third place in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship standings.
"We had a pretty good car right off the bat," Marlin said following the race. "We were real tight early and we fell back. We made a few adjustments on the car to try to free up the car. We never got it real good and free. We didn't want to lose too much time messing with the car. Track position is real critical here. We took two tires at the end, and it worked pretty good for us."
"I'm proud of all of the team," Marlin said. "We knew what we had to do for the points. We just ran as hard as we could and let the points take care of themselves. We were second last week and second this week. We're going to try to get lined up and get going for next year."
Tony Glover, team manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, was pleased with race and the championship points finish.
"I thought it was a real good race today," Glover said. "I'm tickled with the way the Coors Light car ran. The driver did a good job and the crew did a good job. It was a big improvement from the last time we ran here. I'm excited about finishing third in the points. That equals my best, and it equals Sterling's best. For basically a first-year team, I think that's an incredible achievement, and I'm proud to be a part of it."
Lee McCall, crew chief for the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge, was impressed with the team's performance.
"Sterling was up on the wheel today like he's been all year long," McCall said. "We had a lot we could prove today here, and everybody did a good ob and we ended up third in the points. That's unbelievable. We had a phenomenal year. We didn't expect to be here. We stayed in the top-10 all year and stayed in the top-5 toward the end of the year. We kept having to bump our goal up. We came here 42 points out of second and 16 out of third. Our goal was to finish second. We're ready for next year. We're going to shoot for that championship next year."