2001 review: Talk about career
revival. Sterling Marlin, who finished 19th in
points in 2000, rebounded under new owner Ganassi
and a new manufacturer, Dodge, to post two wins
and finish a career-best third in points.
2002 outlook: With a year's experience with Dodge
under its belt, Sterling Marlin's team should
be poised to make a serious run for the championship.
Marlin has won 10 career poles, with five coming
in the 1992 season.
An eight-time winner, Sterling made his first
start in 1976 in his father's car at Nashville
after Coo Coo Marlin hurt his shoulder. He ran
in one or two events each season until 1983, when
he hooked up with car owner Roger Hamby and won
rookie of the year.
Sterling Marlin drove for Jim Stacy, D.K. Ulrich,
Earl Sadler, Hoss Ellington, Billy Hagan, Helen
Rae, Junior Johnson, the Stavola Brothers and
others before joining Morgan McClure in 1994.
That's where he had the most success, with best
finishes of third and eighth in the standings,
until 2001 and his move to Chip Ganassi's Dodges.
Sterling Marlin made a pretty strong statement
that his Chip Ganassi Racing Coors Light Dodge
team would be a strong contender for the 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup championship with his first
top-10 points finish in five years, in 2001.
Beginning with Speedweeks 2001, where Marlin
won Gatorade 125 qualifying race for the Daytona
500 and then finished seventh in the "Great
American Race," Marlin's team was the only
one to remain in the top 10 in the standings for
the entire year, ultimately tying his career high
Sterling Marlin scored Dodge's first victory
in its return to Winston Cup racing after a two-decade
absence as he won at Michigan International Speedway
in August. He scored another victory, at Lowe's
Motor Speedway and had 12 top-fives and 20 top-10s,
which added up to a career high in money won,
Marlin has experienced the pinnacle of exhilaration
in Winston Cup racing, as he won consecutive Daytona
500s in 1994 and 1995. But in 2001 he traveled
a new road in his 16th full season in the sport
racing the new Dodge Intrepid for Ganassi.
The entrance of Ganassi, who bought a majority
stake in Felix Sabates team and the return of
Dodge provided a huge resurgence for Marlin. Marlin
struggled in 2000, with one top-five finish and
seven top-10s en route to a 19th place finish
in the final point standings. Perhaps telling
the tale of his odd and frustrating season was
that his best race was a runner-up finish to Jeff
Gordon on the road course at Sears Point.
While he is perhaps best known as only the third
driver in Winston Cup history to win back-to-back
Daytona 500s, joining Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough,
Sterling Marlin has a successful short track background,
including Nashville Speedway USA championships
He made his Winston Cup debut in 1976, replacing
his father after a crash broke his shoulder. He
has won eight times in Winston Cup and also won
the Winston Open in 1988-89 and 1993.
Sterling Marlin was a football standout at Columbia
High in Tennessee and was named Tennessee Professional
Athlete in 1995-96. He played in four bowl games
and was team captain as a senior, playing quarterback
and linebacker. He also played basketball in high
school and continues to be a huge University of
Tennessee Volunteers fan.