NASCAR

TOTALLY NASCAR: Marlin talks as fast as he drives

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Ryan McGee

 
   
 

Pause: A Moment with Sterling Marlin

There is no better sound bite in the Winston Cup garage than Sterling Marlin. What? You say you can¿t understand a word the man says? Well, c'mon, that¿s part of the fun. It¿s Sterlingspeak. Hey, Sterling, what do you think about the new aero rules at Daytona and Talladega? ¿Well, faskme, daottah lay dem spoilers back and give us a biggaplate. Denwecould dropdahammeranletemeat.¿ Translation — ¿In my humble opinion they should lay back the rear spoiler and enlarge the holes in the restrictor plate. Then we could have better control of the car and overtake our rivals on the track more easily.¿ Hey, Sterling, you were running pretty good, uh¿well. What happened out there? ¿Well, sumtin¿ stuck a stick in muh spoke, back me up.¿ Translation — ¿We more than likely had a mechanical failure somewhere in the engine, slowing our efforts.¿ The amazing phenomenon about Sterlingspeak is that you can fully understand what the Columbia, Tennessee native is saying¿you just don¿t understand how he said it. ¿He¿s funny, man,¿ says , who truthfully has no room to comment on someone else¿s dialect. ¿I love talking to him. He¿ll get to going, and you know exactly what he¿s saying. But I wouldn¿t want to have to write it out.¿ Hey, Sterling, how¿s the car running? ¿Well, you know, weezerunninrealgoodsofar. Ol¿ Chipnassy knows howta build him a racecar.¿ Translation — ¿As of now, very well. My car owner, Chip Ganassi, certainly knows how to build a winning race team.¿ If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then Sterling should be feeling pretty good about himself by now. When host Steve Byrnes unveiled his Sterling impersonation to the TV world last season, the idea caught on in a hurry. Now the garage is full of rookie imitators trying to match Byrnes. Mr. Marlin is impressed with the effort. ¿Well, ol' Steve hasgotdadealdown, yaknow. It¿s purty good, purty good. Now I gotta work on my Steve Byrnes.¿

Rewind: 2001 review

W.Cup — 36 races, 2 wins, 1 pole, 12 top 5¿s, 20 top 10¿s, 3rd in points
Marlin¿s Winston Cup career roared back to life in 2001, to the tune of two wins and tying his career best points finish from 1995. Since leaving Morgan-McClure Racing for Felix Sabates in 1998, Marlin¿s points performance had slowly declined, bottoming out with a 19th place effort in 2000. Enter Chip Ganassi, who bought out Sabates at the end of that season and brought with him the ownership know-how that won four CART series titles and the 2000 Indy 500. ¿Chip is a racer,¿ says Sabates, who still owns a minority share of the team. ¿I am not. I am a guy who got into racing. Chip has been a racer ever since he was born. This team needed that kind of attitude.¿ Ganassi quickly made the decision to join Dodge¿s reentry into NASCAR in 2001 and brought in engineers from his other racing efforts. The effect was immediate. ¿All the sudden, everybody was feeling good and working hard ¿cause Chip made us feel like we ougtha be winning all the time,¿ says Marlin. ¿And so we starting winning.¿ With most fans focusing on Ray Evernham and Bill Davis Racing as the teams to return Dodge to Victory Lane, Marlin and Ganassi quietly took the lead of the Intrepid charge. They earned Dodge¿s first win at Michigan in August and a second checkered flag at Charlotte in October. ¿Man,¿ Marlin said after his rain-shortened win at Michigan. ¿It¿s just good to be runnin¿ up front again.¿

Fast Forward: 2002 preview

If 2002 is all about momentum from 2001, then Sterling¿s got ¿em where right where he wants ¿em. Three consecutive top fives and two straight runner-up finishes to close out the year catapulted the Coors Light crew from 5th to 3rd in points. The end of the 2001 also brought the announcement that veteran Jimmy Spencer would be joining Marlin, replacing struggling rookie Jason Leffler. Spencer¿s two Winston Cup wins came eight years ago, but he has been a solid top 20 points contender for a over decade now. His failure to qualify for Daytona aside, adding Spencer can only become a good thing for Marlin¿s effort. So, what should we expect for 2002? Let¿s see¿Marlin¿s got his confidence back, the Dodge Intrepid is a proven racecar, Ganassi finally has everything at the shop the way he wants it, and a new veteran teammate has just moved into the shop. Six wins? After all these years, finally a run at a championship? Marlin¿s smile gets big and broad when he hears the question. ¿I dunno. Don¿t see wh¿not, d¿you?¿ Ryan McGee is the producer of which airs weeknights on Fox Sports Net weeknights at 6 p.m. local.

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