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Sterling Marlin Says It Is ‘Probably” All Over

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 16 2009
NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin says it's about over. (HHP Images/Harold Hinson)

NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin says it's about over. (HHP Images/Harold Hinson)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The last of the Good Ol’ Boys is preparing to ride off into the sunset.

Sterling Marlin plans to enter Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway then, after over 30 years of life in the fast lane, will “probably” hang up his helmet.

“Will I miss it? Yeah, in some ways,” said Marlin, 52, who raced his way out of the Carter’s Creek tobacco fields and into international fame with back-to-back Daytona 500 victories in ’94 and ’95.

“But in some ways I’ll kinda be glad when it’s over. The sport has changed. It’s not much fun any more.”

One of the biggest changes is the steady decline of Southern drivers. They once dominated stock car racing; now they’re a vanishing species.

Sterling attended his first race when he was two weeks old. His mom, Eula Faye, held him in her arms while his dad, Coo Coo banged his way around Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway. The roar of racing engines was his lullaby.

By his early teens Sterling was behind the wheel, following in the tire tracks of his dad and uncle Jack. He won everything there was to win in Nashville. At 18 he made his debut in the big-league Sprint Cup Series. He hasn’t slowed down since.

Until now. Sterling has spent the last few years struggling with second-tier rides – the kind he was forced to accept throughout the first 17 years of his career. When he finally got a good car he broke it in by winning the Daytona 500.

Now he’s back where he started, trying to make a slow car to go fast and keep up with the  superstars that his daddy called “hot dogs.”

When Sterling was starting out I wrote a story tiled “The Prince and the Pauper.” I compared self-reliant Sterling to fellow racing teen Kyle Petty whose famous father had given him the world.

Sterling’s mom didn’t like the story. “We’re not paupers!” Eula Faye declared. “We may not be the Pettys, but we’re not paupers.”

I explained that I meant “racing paupers” but I don’t think Eula Faye bought it. (Her “pauper” son would go on to win over $40 million in NASCAR gold.)

Those were heady days, fun days, watching colorful Coo Coo in his prime and following the rapid rise of his talented son. Seems just yesterday Sterling was a tow-headed kid tagging around the track after his dad and dreaming big dreams. Today he’s a grandfather preparing to ride off into down the trail.

Sterling spends most of his time tending the Maury County farm he yearned to escape as a youngster. The one-time terror of Daytona now drives a tractor. But he’s been to the top, basked in the bright lights, and if it’s over, it’s over. No complaints, no regrets.

Sterling has lived his dream.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 16 2009
24 Comments

24 Comments »

  • Kent Benfield says:

    As a longtime fan of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.-I was never a huge Sterling fan. As time has passed, I appreciate ALL drivers, and Larry, you’re right, the last of the “Good Ol’ Boys” is hanging it up. Enjoy retirement, Sterling! Thanks for the memories, good & bad.

  • Danny J says:

    Class act and a true gentleman,had the pleasure of hearing Sterling speak live at Daytona,great storyteller,the Chickensnake nickname from Donnie Wingo to branding cows with Coo Coo.Hats off to the Columbia Tennessee Flash.Thanks for the good racing along the way,you and Paula enjoy your retirement and the grandkids.

  • paddyo57 says:

    I’ve been a fan of Sterling since he drove the #22 Maxwell House Ford and a long time member of his fan club. I was lucky to meet Sterling a couple of times and definately a class act. I even remember the story of when Sterling was signing autographs one day, a young boy was down and Sterling asked what was wrong. The boy said that he had show and tell tomorrow and had nothing to bring. Sterling said that he wasn’t busy and what time did the boy need him to show up. The drivers now days would ask for an appearance fee. Sterling I too have a room called “The Sterling Shrine”. It has 25 diecasts and 5 carboard cutouts among other memoribillia.

    You,Paula and the rest of the family relax. You deserve everything you worked hard for. You’ll be greatly missed and I agree. Racing isn’t fun anymore.