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NASCAR Winston Cup ITW DeVilbiss 400 Preview: #4, Sterling Marlin

13 August 1997

 #4 Sterling Marlin, Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo 
 NASCAR Winston Cup Series
 ITW DeVilbiss 400 Advance
 Michigan Speedway
        'Fuel mileage will make the difference. It always does'
BROOKLYN, MI - The luck hasn't gotten any better for Sterling Marlin and the 
Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet team. This past Sunday in the Bud At The Glen at 
the Watkins Glen, N.Y., road course, traffic cost the team a chance to really 
capitalize on a sixth-place qualifying run -- traffic in the pits. On its 
first pit stop, the Kodak Gold Film team turned a top time but was blocked 
in, and lost valuable time when it was forced tO back the car out and then 
clear moving traffic down the pit lane. Marlin finished 13th in the race.

Yet, it's been that kind of year. The now-legendary screwdriver that shot 
through the radiator at Darlington, S.C., in March was just the start of 
things, it seems. A groundhog that interfered with the Pocono (Pa.) 
International Raceway electrical system in June chose to make its infamous 
walk during Marlin's second-round qualifying run. There were the cut tires at 
the start of races at Dover and Daytona, not to mention Marlin being slammed 
by another car in the April race at Texas -- all happened within the first 
three laps of those races and, ironically, ended with some of the team's best 
finishes -- 10th at Dover in June; third at Daytona in July; eighth in that 
Texas race.

Marlin, 40, is the 10th leading career money-winner in NASCAR Winston Cup 
history. Morgan-McClure Motorsports, which fields the Kodak Gold Film 
Chevrolet, has been Chevrolet's leader in the 90's on the big superspeedways 
at Daytona and Talladega, as well as on the road courses, where the team is 
also Chevrolet's leader.

The thoughts of Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet driver Sterling Marlin heading into 

"There was a small press conference before the last race at Michigan in June. 
Some of the writers were asking about some of the luck we'd had this season, 
and it got downright comical at times. I mean, how could all of this stuff 
happen to you in a lifetime, much less in half a year? I laughed mainly to 
keep from crying. It's unbelievable. If I hadn't seen it all happen, I sure 
wouldn't have believed it could have happened to anybody.

"Then you think, why us? I mean, this is a hard working bunch of guys here. 
(Crew chief) Robert Larkins and the boys on this Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet 
team go as hard as they can week in and week out. Life has picked an awfully 
good bunch to play a cruel joke on. They deserve better than they are getting 
in the luck department. If it was a bunch of guys who didn't do all that much 
or just went through the motions, you could just about see it. But that's not 
the case here at all. These guys are doing everything they can do.

"Last week at Watkins Glen was pretty close to being the topper. I mean, I 
can see getting caught up in traffic, but getting caught up in traffic that's 
sitting still? We got blocked in on the pit stop and we ended up losing time 
-- and positions -- backing the car up and moving back out again, and then 
dodging and working around everybody else that's pitting. It cost us a bunch. 
I mean, that's nobody's fault but circumstances. The guy in front, if he is 
able to park another foot further up, we're out of there and we don't lose 
that time. Instead, we've got good track position after a really good pit 
stop, and we're back in a position to win the race. By being blocked like 
that and losing the time getting out, we end up racing everybody and his 
brother to even have a shot at getting to where we were to begin with. That's 
what I'm saying. We had a really good pit stop and plain old bad luck ends up 
costing us not only everything the pit stop gained for us, but costs us 
everything else we had gained too.

"Hey (laughing), that'd been something, wouldn't it? Ol' Sterling sitting 
there in Victory Lane at Watkins Glen. Sterling Marlin and Stirling Moss.

"Well, all we can do is pick up the pieces -- again -- and head to Michigan 
to see what we can do there. We think we can win there; we know we can run 
really well. We've run well there in the past and we've had some good 
finishes. Last June we led most of the race and had a great shot at winning 
the thing. It ended up a fuel mileage deal and, like just about everybody 
else, we had to duck into the pits for a splash.

"Fuel mileage is always a big deal at Michigan, and I'd just about bet you it 
will be again this race too. Even if everything doesn't boil down to fuel 
mileage at the end of the race, mark my words it's going to help somebody and 
it's going to reach up and bite somebody. Check out the garage at the end of 
the race and you'll figure out pretty quick who had good mileage and who 
didn't. There's always a driver somewhere yelling at his crew chief that 
so-and-so must have gone a good hundred miles further on a tank of gas, and 
the crew chief will be yelling back that the other car only went one more 
lap. The guy with the good fuel mileage will be smiling and waving and having 
a great time, most likely in Victory Lane. The guy who didn't, you won't 
really see their faces. All you'll see is their rear ends because they'll 
have their heads up under the cars and behind the tires and in the engine, 
trying to figure out what went wrong.

"By and large, this Kodak Gold Film Chevrolet team has gotten pretty good 
mileage over the years. I can't tell you why, mainly because that's something 
(engine builder) Runt (Pittman) has figured out. But I know we're as good as 
any other Chevrolet on mileage and better than most. And we usually figure it 
pretty well. Figuring mileage doesn't leave a large margin of error. There 
are guys on other teams who claim they can figure it to the final drop. They 
don't fool me. I know it's three or four drops.

"We'd rather just power our way around and win the thing by four or five laps 
but, yeah, we'd take a fuel mileage win at Michigan. Anybody would. The way 
our luck has been this year and as much as Lady Luck owes this Kodak Gold 
Film Chevrolet bunch, maybe that'd be the way to chunk this monkey off our 
backs once and for all."

By Williams Company of America, Inc.