NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400 Preview -- #4, Sterling Marlin
1 July 1997
#4 Sterling Marlin, Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pepsi 400 Advance Daytona International Speedway STERLING MARLIN NOTES & QUOTES: PEPSI 400 Defending race winner is "Starting a new season at Daytona" DAYTONA BEACH, FL - There have been better yearly starts for Sterling Marlin and the Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet team. Still, they head to Daytona International Speedway this week for Saturday's Pepsi 400, mathematically not but historically the kickoff race for the second half of the NASCAR Winston Cup season. For a team that's gone through everything from a screwdriver through the radiator to a groundhog killing the clock and ending a qualifying run, the Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet team is remarkably positive. And why not? No one has shown more in restrictor plate races in the 1990's than Morgan-McClure Motorsports and engine builder Runt Pittman. Marlin and the Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet team have won three of the last seven races at Daytona, including two Daytons 500s. At NASCAR's other restrictor plate track, Talladega (Ala.) SuperSpeedway, they have won two of the last four races. No other team's record compares. For example, virtually written off by some pundits after qualifying problems in this year's Daytona 500, the team roared back to finish fifth. Marlin turns 40 on June 30, just five days before the Pepsi 400. The Columbia, Tenn., native is 11th in career money winnings among NASCAR Winston Cup drivers. The thoughts of Sterling Marlin heading into Daytona: "You have to kind of figure the place for us to turn things around is Daytona. Since I got with this team they've been really good on the restrictor plate tracks, and they were really good before I got here. We've run pretty well. Sometimes circumstances haven't gone our way and sometimes our luck hasn't been the best, but when everybody unloads at Daytona on Thursday, you have to kind of figure they'll still be looking over at the Kodak Gold Film team and wondering what we have. "The first part of the season has been pretty rough. Some things we couldn't control. I mean, what are you going to do when somebody leaves a screwdriver on a race car and it falls off and shoots through your radiator? What are you going to do when a groundhog figures our qualifying lap at Pocono would be a great time to take a stroll? I mean, I do my best not to get upset over circumstances I can't control and that nobody can control. "I don't know what we ran over in Dover on the first lap but that put us two laps down spinning out, limping back to the pits and changing tires. I could have sat there and beat on the steering wheel all day - and that's five hours of steering-wheel-beating when you run 500 miles at that place - or we could just do what we did. We just figured we'd do the best we could with what we had to work with, and we finished 10th. That's been our third-best finish so far. "That's why we can't get out-of-control upset with what we've done so far this season. Sure, nobody is particularly happy about it but instead of spending a few hours each day pointing fingers, everybody is just working that much harder. We're going to lose this monkey off our backs sooner or later and, when that time comes, we'll start being a factor again. "I figure Daytona is the best place to throw the monkey but not necessarily for the reason you might think. I figure it's the best place because it's the next place we run. Sure, Runt (Pittman, engine builder) and the boys are good at Daytona - really good. But they are pretty good everywhere, and I think that's going to start showing here pretty soon. We're looking at the second half as a brand new season. If we have a good 'year' the second half of 1997, maybe we can get back up there in the points, pick up a win or two and a couple of poles. That's more what we're used to. "Daytona is more of a combination of driver and team than just about anywhere we race. The car has to be great, no question. The engine has to be nearly perfect. The body of the car has to be nearly perfect, too, because aerodynamics play such a big role. The driver has to drive smart. You have to know when to stay in line and know when to go. "Believe me, it's hard to be patient at 200 miles per hour but you have to be. You have to rate the reward of passing somebody to the risk of pulling out, losing the draft and dropping back 15 positions. You have to do that in the blink of an eye too. It has to be instinctive. Think about it for two seconds and not only is your chance to pass gone, but you might be gone too. "We're planning on being up there at the front. It's time we got back on track and got our season underway. I hate we waited this long but maybe we'll able to tell some guys at the end of the year we just gave them a head start." By Williams Company of America, Inc.