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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 »

  • Doug G says:

    Sterling Marlin remains my favorite NASCAR driver. He and Mark Martin are the last of the old school racers and it’s a damn shame he was pushed out of his ride too early. When a two-time Daytona 500 winner and venerable racer like Marlin says it’s not fun anymore, it speaks VOLUMES about what Brian France and co. have done to this sport.

  • Rooster says:

    Say it aint so. Surely Felix Sabates and Coors or Kodak, somebody would do a farewell race at Daytona for truly one of the last of the good ole boys. Nascar will not be the same.

  • Louise Diamond says:

    Sterling, we all knew this day was coming, and we will miss you more than you know. May God bless and keep you and your lovely family. And thank you for all the wonderful memories. Hearing these words fom you and Larry Woody have made it official…and I’m in tears.

  • 4-40-14MarlinFan says:

    Nothin’ but class. A Marlin fan since the Mid 90’s – I’ll never watch racing the way I used to. I met Sterling several times – A true gentleman too.

    Sterling, you will be missed.

  • Donnie D says:

    Sterling I had the best time in this sport whenever we worked together. If it was your rookie year with Roger Hamby,Biily Hagen or Chips. Good Luck Bud Donnie D

  • Catcrochet40 says:

    I will miss Sterling greatly I have followed his career and only “tuned” into the races to follow him. I have been fortunate to meet him 8 times in my life seen him race 2. I am lucky to own quite a few autograph cars/and momentos over the years including the minivan I drive. I have an office dedicated to Sterling and that will be the way it is until we move. I agree it just isn’t fun to watch anymore. I used to bring him some VT Maple Syrup when I would attend autograph sessions in NH,RI,NC even going to NC just to see him and attend the Sterling Marlin Fan Club event.Sterling you will be missed I just wish I had a way to send you some more syrup…

  • LukeZ says:

    Hey Sterling your the best, hope you and Paula enjoy your retirement. Hope to see you at Crabby Joe’s again someday

  • Keitth says:

    Don’t know anyone who disliked Sterling. He was tough in that Yellow #4. He will be missed at the track.

  • Alex M. says:

    I will miss Sterling Marlin. I met him at a Frederick Keys minor league baseball game near Baltimore and he was cool as heck!

  • banzaibonnie says:

    I,too, will really miss Sterling,and along with Mikie being more owner than driver ,I’m not sure I’ll even watch qualifying and practice, like I always have. The fun is gone.

  • Nosferatu-14 says:

    I started watching in 2002, when Sterling Marlin was the best. He’ll always be my favorite driver & will forever be missed. Thanks for the memories & best wishes in retirement!

  • Stmarlin40 says:

    THIS IS A SAD DAY FOR ME! STERLING YOU WILL BE MISSED! YOU SAID IT, NASCAR IS NOT FUN ANYMORE! THEY ONLY TIME I WATCH IS WHEN I SEE YOU ON THE ENTRY LIST, BUT I ONLY WATCH FOR AN HOUR OR SO OR UNTIL YOU HEAD TO THE GARAGE IN YOUR SLOW CAR. AGAIN! HAVE A GREAT TIME AND TELL STEADMAN TO GET INTO NATIONWIDE OR SOMETHING, GIVE ME SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT.

  • Brad says:

    Sterling, hit it right on when he said the sport has changed and is no fun any more and how their is no southern drivers. Watching old races from back in the day is much more exciting than watching this stuff every Sunday! Will miss watching Sterling and others!

  • MarlinFan says:

    NO! Not yet. One more race, Sterling. Please.

    The 2010 Daytona 500, with a resurrected Morgan-McClure No. 4, and Tony Glover as crew chief, on loan for a one-off deal from Earnhardt-Ganassi. End it where it began.

    …thanks for giving me something to cheer for. Still the man!

  • I would not have been a NASCAR fan if it weren’t for Sterling Marlin. The first race I attended with the Pepsi 400 in Daytona. I wore my new Sterling Marlin 4 hat and he takes the lead on the fist lap and basically led the whole race. He was awesome and that Number 4 was the most exciting car on superspeedways, my favorite. I’ll always remember when Sterling’s in front “life is good.” It’s sad that the popularity of the sport has declined in recent years and that is no coincidence. I think the move to push out the older more equitable race names for the new and untested has diminished the sport’s equity. I used to plan my Sunday’s and Saturday nights around NASCAR. Now, i just look on line for the results and that’s about it. I miss Sterling Marlin on the track. I miss the Coor’s Light 40 and even the Waste Management car. I’ll always cherish the memories. Thanks Sterling Marlin!
    Bob

  • Roger says:

    Sterling, thanks for the memories. I loved seeing that silver bullet at the front of the pack. I still have a big poster of that car on my wall. You are right, Nascar is not nearly as much fun as it once was.

  • Old Racer says:

    Thanks for the memories, Sterling. Long gone are the days when drivers had to work their butts off to get to the big-time, nowadays theres drivers running Cup that were doing bodywork at a repair shop four years ago, or who have less than 5 years of racing experience. Its all about the almighty dollar, if you can come up with a $20M sponsor, you can drive a Cup car for somebody. They haven’t “earned” their rides, they’ve bought them. Sterling is among the last of a dying breed, those who toiled for years to earn their fame and fortune.We’ll miss you, Sterling!!!!

  • Fred says:

    Thanks for a lot of great memories… and for that amazing Tennessee accent.

  • wimmer33fan says:

    That’s a shame, just 7 years after he nearly won the championship back in 2002 and now he’s calling it quits. Yeah Sterling, I agree. It isn’t very fun anymore.

  • Jizzy says:

    I always liked Sterling.