STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Sterling Marlin led three times for 28 laps in the Kmart 400 in June at Michigan International Speedway. The 44-year-old driver from Columbia, Tenn., led laps 175-193 of the 200-lap...
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Sterling Marlin led three times for 28 laps in the Kmart 400 in June at Michigan International Speedway. The 44-year-old driver from Columbia, Tenn., led laps 175-193 of the 200-lap race until a caution flag robbed him of a shot at his first win at Michigan and Dodge's first victory of the season. Marlin ended up third behind Jeff Gordon and Ricky Rudd. Marlin came close again with the same Dodge Intrepid R/T on Aug. 5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Marlin led laps 132-135 before another caution flag flew and allowed Gordon to once again pass for the win. Marlin finished second at Indy. He's coming off a disappointing 25th-place finish yesterday at Watkins Glen and will take a fourth-place ranking in the season-long standings into Sunday's 400-miler at Michigan. Marlin trails the leader by 415 points, and he's 150 points behind third-place Dale Jarrett.
Marlin has led the way for Dodge all season. He has six top fives and 11 top 10s with only two DNFs. He's the only driver who's been ranked in the top 10 in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings all season. In his first season behind the wheel of the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge, Marlin will make career start No. 526 on Sunday at MIS. He has six career victories and 11 career poles with a career-best finish of third in the series standings in 1995.
Marlin talks about road racing at The Glen, the June race at Michigan, competing against Gordon and his outlook for the remaining 14 races.
"We didn't have a real good day at Watkins Glen," Marlin said. "Everybody was going kamikaze on those last few laps. They were going in on banzai runs through all those turns, and I got spun out. We had a decent day going until those last few laps, but that's what happens when you have restarts with a few laps to go on road courses. Our car had gotten tight, but I think we had a top 10 car. We could have had a top five car if we could have ever gotten track position.
"We had a lot of road course guys out there who don't usually run with us, but it looked like to me the regular guys were running over the regular guys. Those last three laps, everybody was going off course and dust was flying and you couldn't see. Thank goodness we've only got two road course races a year. I'm sure Jeff Gordon wishes we had more, but he's probably one of the few who feels that way right now."
ARE YOU ITCHING TO GET BACK TO MICHIGAN?
"Yeah, I just hope we can be as good as we were up there the first time. We feel like we'll be as good as we were before, but the track changes from one race to the next. It sits there all summer, and it gets a little slicker. I was running the 4 car up there one year and dominated the first race, but we had to stop for fuel and didn't win. We went back for the next race that year and couldn't get the chassis right and didn't have a good run.
"You've just got to get the car right. I don't know if our car will be any better or not with those two extra inches on the nose. Everybody keeps asking me about it. I'll bet 20 people have said, 'ya'll should really be stout at Michigan with those two inches,' but I can't tell any difference to tell you the truth. We had a good car up there in June and should have won, but a late caution came out and we finished third. We had the same car at Indy with the extra two inches and were leading down the stretch when another caution came out and we finished second. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, but we had a chance to win both of those races if those last caution flags hadn't come out. Until we run the same car back-to-back at the same track, it's hard to tell what the rule change is going to do. I think we'll be just as good, and I hope we're better, but you won't know until you get there and see. Everybody else might be better, too, so hopefully we can stay even with them.
HOW ABOUT THAT 24 CAR? GORDON HAS A HUGE LEAD IN THE STANDINGS. CAN YOU CATCH HIM? CAN ANYONE CATCH HIM?
"He's stout. Those Chevys have good bodies and good motors, but if he has two bad races we're right back in it. It seems like those Yates' Fords are tough every week, and they've got a lot of horsepower. Tony Stewart has been leading the way for Pontiac, and our Dodge is usually pretty strong. We need to keep working on our bodies, and early in the season our motors were really good, but we haven't been quite as aggressive with them lately. It's time to turn it up a notch or two. Those Yates Fords were the only ones going 200 mph down the straightaways at Indy. Gordon had me beat about a tenth down the straightaways, but I could catch him in the corners. Come to find out when they tore down our car at Indy, we had a broke valve spring. I don't know when it broke, but we weren't too bad considering that. We're just going to try to pick it up a little bit in the motor department and not be quite as conservative."
14 RACES LEFT. ARE YOU RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO GET THAT FIRST DODGE WIN?
"I don't think anybody is pushing the panic button yet. The 29 car won at Atlanta, and we ran with him all day and in front of him most of the day. We could have won at Michigan and Indy without those late cautions, so we were in contention to win three races. We should have won at least one of those three. Then there's the Daytona 500. Who knows about that one? We led the most laps at Talladega and then got boxed in with those rules at the end. We ran in the top three all day at Darlington and got juked on the last restart and finished fifth. We were running good at Bristol and had some equipment failure. I got taken out at Charlotte in the closing laps. We should have had five more top fives and that would have really put us in the thick of the points race, but everybody has had some bad luck along the way. It just seems like we've had more than our share.
"It's hard as hell to win one of the races these days. You just can't afford to make mistakes, and you need a little luck. I'd rather go out and just dominate the whole race, but that's really hard to do these days. We've been in position to win three or four races, but it just seems like we haven't been able to close it out. We've got two of my favorite tracks coming up. There's plenty of room to race at Michigan, and I really like racing at Bristol. Everybody loves those Bristol night races. It'd be great to win either of those or both of 'em for that matter.
"I don't think we're really running out of time, but we've just got to put it all together and get a little luck on our side for a change. We want to finish as high as we can in the points, but if you're winning races no one is going to gain points on you. Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates have put together a great team, and they deserve to win a race. Michigan would be a great place to put Dodge back in victory lane, so maybe we can win there and get on a roll and win a couple of these last 14 races."
DODGE GARAGE NOTES -- Marlin will carry a Target paint scheme on his No. 40 Dodge Intrepid at Bristol. The artwork is at www.chipganassiracingwithfelixsabates.com.... Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup champion from Dawsonville, Ga., has won seven races and six poles at Michigan International Speedway. In 47 starts at the two-mile oval in the Irish Hills of Michigan, Elliott has 16 top fives and 28 top 10s. He swept both events at Michigan in '85 and '86 and won six of eight from 1984-87. Elliott started sixth and finished ninth at Michigan in June in his first start at the two-mile track behind the wheel of the Evernham Motorsports No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T.