Marlin Out For Rest Of Season

Sterling Marlin, who led the NASCAR Winston Cup Series points standings for the majority of the season, will miss the rest of the year because of a fractured vertebra in his neck.

Marlin suffered a non-displaced fracture of the No. 2 cervical vertebra as a result of his accident at Kansas Speedway last Sunday, when the nose of his No. 40 Coors Light Dodge hit the wall hard coming out of Turn 2.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty and spinal injury specialist Dr. Dom Coric of the Carolina Neurological and Spinal Injury Clinic are treating Marlin. Both doctors are the attending physicians.

“It is unfortunate that Sterling has to end his season early due to his injury,” team owner Chip Ganassi said. “Sterling has dominated the championship points race and we were looking forward to helping him win his first NASCAR Winston Cup title. We are expecting Sterling to make a full recovery and be ready to go for the title chase again in 2003.”

Jamie McMurray will drive the No. 40 Dodge for the remainder of the season. McMurray, currently a Busch Series regular, was recently hired to drive a third car for Chip Ganassi Racing next season.

McMurray will complete his stint in the No. 27 Brewco Motorsports Chevy in the Busch Series, with only one conflicting weekend. The Busch Series is in Memphis the weekend of Oct. 19, while the Winston Cup Series is in Martinsville, Va. A different driver will be behind the wheel for Ganassi at Martinsville.

McMurray will make his Winston Cup debut this weekend in the EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The news is particularly distressing for Marlin, who, with seven races remaining, is 121 points behind rookie Jimmie Johnson, the leader in the Winston Cup standings. Marlin took the points lead after the second race of the season and held it until three weeks ago.

Marlin was searching for his first Winston Cup championship since becoming a regular in the series in 1987. He posted two victories this season, but none since Darlington in March.

Marlin also suffered a hard accident at Richmond in early September.

“I think it probably hit harder than Richmond, but it probably pulled some soreness out,” Marlin said after exiting the infield care center at Kansas on Sunday. “I’m not near as sore now as I was at the start of the race.”

The problem apparently wasn’t as noticeable on Sunday, but got progressively worse during the early part of this week.

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