Marlin Looks To Reel In Win

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – This is Sterling Marlin’s kind of race and his kind of place.

Talladega Superspeedway has long been the favorite track of the veteran NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver, and from his second-place starting position, Marlin heads into today’s Talladega 500 as a favorite to win.

“Talladega has always been real good to me, picked up a couple of wins and poles here,” says Marlin, a soft-spoken Tennessee native who prefers to let his results do the talking. “That means a lot to me because I was here for the first race they ever ran. I was a little-bitty kid, but I still remember them paving the garage area the day of the race. It’s all been pretty wild.”

The aerodynamic draft is something very few people truly understand, much less master the way Marlin has at Talladega.

If drafting is an art, Marlin is NASCAR’s version of Picasso when the Winston Cup tour races around the mammoth 2.66-mile oval, and that’s the reason he has more than a few fingers pointing towards his No. 40 Coors Light Dodge as the car to beat.

“I don’t know what it is,” Marlin says of his drafting prowess. “I guess it’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. I’m going to try to lead as many laps as I can and be up front. I ain’t going to be running around back there in 40th waiting on the big wreck. Then again, I’ve been racing here for the lead and got caught up in a wreck too. If it’s going to happen it’s going to happen, if it ain’t it ain’t.”

Others aren’t sure they’ve totally figured out what the art of drafting is either, but they know Marlin’s got a pretty good idea of what it takes to get the job done.

“Sterling is very smart when it comes to this restrictor-plate racing,” says Tony Stewart. “Dale Earnhardt was always the best at seeing the air, but Sterling’s always been pretty good, too. At Talladega, you know that if you can get hooked up with Sterling, he’s going to get you to the front somehow. I can guarantee you if there’s an opportunity for me to draft with him, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Much like Earnhardt did, when Marlin drops out of the draft to make a pass, a lot of the other drivers do all they can to follow suit.

“Sterling always does a good job, especially at the restrictor-plate tracks,” says Bill Elliott, who starts third. “I don’t see why Sterling won’t be a factor at Talladega.”

Rookie Casey Atwood agrees that his fellow Dodge driver is the one to follow when it comes to racing at the restrictor-plate tracks.

“Sterling always seems to be up front when it comes to Talladega and Daytona,” Atwood says. “He is always good at those two tracks. Sterling is definitely somebody you can watch and learn a lot from, and I’ve tried to do that a lot this year.”

There have been a lot of other drivers following in the path of Marlin this year, which has been somewhat of a surprise since in his first year with Dodge, he’s now fourth in the Winston Cup point standings. Marlin has been very good since the start of the season, winning his Twin 125 qualifying race at Daytona in February.

“We’ve got a good bunch of guys that work on this team, and so far we’ve had a good year,” Marlin says. “I thought before the season started that we’d be a pretty good team and the switch to Dodge would help us out because it had to be better than what we’d had.”

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