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Talladega Tales: Waltrip And Marlin Look Back

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 4 2017

Darrell Waltrip tasted victory at Talladega. Tasted pretty good, too, he said this week.

NASHVILLE – They were fast times and fun times, and last week Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin shared some of their favorite Talladega memories at a media luncheon to promote the May 7 race.

“Talladega Superspeedway is an animal unto itself,” Waltrip said.

“The first time I rolled onto the track and looked down that giant straightaway that seemed to stretch on forever, I realized this was going to be a lot different from the little (Nashville) Fairgrounds track I was used to.”

Waltrip, who retired from the Cup Series after the 2000 season and shifted gears to Fox Sports broadcasting, won four races at Talladega. At least that’s what the record book says.

“I really won five,” Waltrip said. “I won one relief-driving for Donnie Allison. I had dropped out of the race earlier and was on my way out of the track when someone ran up and said Donnie had gotten sick in the car and they wanted me to take over.”

Waltrip chuckled at the memory:

“Man, the inside of that car was a mess. I thought I was going to get sick myself. But the car was fast, and before long I had it out front and went to win the race. I was behind the wheel when the checkered flag waved, so as far as I’m concerned that made me the winning driver, no matter who they put in the record book.”

Another amusing memory:

“My first trip to Talladega was in ’71 and I was driving an old Mercury with a set of used tires still on it from a previous race,” Waltrip said.

“For some reason, the new tires Goodyear brought to the track that weekend weren’t as fast as the old tires already on my car. Before I knew it I was in the lead — a rookie, leading his first race at mighty Talladega.

“Harry Hyde was my crew chief and he radioed and told me to hold her wide open. The old motor eventually blew, and I ended up ‘way back in the field. But it sure was fun while it lasted. I made $650 for the finish.”

Marlin also shared one of favorite Talladega stories. The Columbia resident, who started

Sterling Marlin celebrates after winning the NASCAR Diehard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama (Photo by Jamie Squire/Allsport)

racing in his teens, had won three track championships at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway when he and his father Coo Coo decided it was time to give Talladega a try.

“We knew my mom would hit the ceiling,” said Marlin, grinning. “It was one thing for me to race on the short track at Nashville, but it was something else entirely for me to race on the biggest, fastest, most dangerous track in NASCAR.

“Daddy and I didn’t know how to break the news to her, so that night when we sat down for supper he said, ‘Pass the potatoes Sterling’s racing at Talladega.’ It took a minute for it to sink in for my mom. Then, of course, she hit the ceiling.”

Marlin won two races at Talladega during a career that also included two Daytona 500 victories. After retiring from the Cup series in 2010, Marlin returned to Daytona in February to receive the 25th annual Living Legends of Auto Racing Award.

Although he is retired from the big leagues, Marlin, 59, continues to race at Fairgrounds Speedway where he got his start decades ago. He won a race last year, and plans to run a full schedule this season in the track’s Pro Late Model Series.

“I still get a kick out of it,” Marlin said. “Whether its Nashville, Daytona or Talladega, I still enjoy being on a racetrack.”

The Charlie Daniels Band will perform a concert on Saturday night prior to the Sunday race. A complete schedule of events, along with ticket info, is posted on the Talladega Superspeedway website.

“For drivers, Talladega is nerve-wracking,” Waltrip said. “But for the fans in the stands and those watching on TV, it’s the most thrilling track on the circuit. When I see those big packs of cars running three- and four-wide at over 200 miles per hour, I’m kinda glad I’ve gone from driving to watching.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 4 2017
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