Sutherlin Marlin About To Take Her Shot
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
NASHVILLE — She inherited her dad’s corn-silk hair, her mom’s vivaciousness, her folks’ Tennessee twang and her grandparents’ wry sense of humor.
If she also inherited her family’s racing genes, look out – Sutherlin Marlin just could become NASCAR’s Danica Patrick.
Sutherlin is the 19-year-old daughter of Sterling Marlin and granddaughter of the late Coo Coo Marlin, one of racing’s most colorful characters. This season she will launch her racing career at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, the historical 51-year-old track where here grandfather won four championships in the 1960’s and her dad collected three more in the 1980’s.
“My folks took me to my first race when I was two weeks old and I’ve grown up in the sport.” Sutherlin says. “I can’t wait to give it a try.”
She is aware of her family’s deep racing roots.
“Oh yes – if you’re a Marlin you know all about racing,” says Sutherlin, whose brother Steadman, 28, has competed at the Fairgrounds for several years, winning races but so far no championships. “It’ll be great if I can continue that tradition.”
A student at Columbia State near her hometown of Spring Hill, Sutherlin is extroverted and outgoing, and on top of that she possesses the droll sense of humor of her parents and grandparents. (The adventures of Coo Coo and wife Euala Faye are priceless.)
In other words, Sutherlin is an absolute media delight – Danica-attractive, plus a terrific personality.
But can she drive?
“She’s got talent,” says her father. “When she was 5 or 6 we went to a go-kart track in Panama City and she raced against (big brother) Steadman and a bunch of other boys and beat them. She’s been on me to get her a race car, and finally we cut a deal.”
The deal: Sutherlin goes to college and works on her race car.
“I told her I’ll help but she’s gotta work, too,” Sterling says.
In addition to being a college co-ed and racing mechanic, Sutherlin – whose pop’s race winning stand at around $40 million – also works part-time as hostess at Sperry’s, an area restaurant.
“My dad worked hard when he was getting started and he expects me to do the same,” Sutherlin says.
Sutherlin was 4 when she posed in Victory Circle with her father after his first of two Daytona 500s. She grew up on the NASCAR circuit amid racing celebrities. One of her infield playmates was Taylor Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt’s daughter.
She is aware of the family legacy: Coo Coo was the area’s first nationally renowned NASCAR driver, and her father is one of the sport’s most popular figures.
“Once at a track a woman came over to show us her twins — one was named ‘Sterling’ and the other was named ‘Marlin’” Sutherlin recalls. “My dad sure has some loyal fans.”
Sterling, who is running a limited Sprint Cup schedule this year, is often referred to as “the last of the Good Ol’ Boys,” and Sutherlin is proud of her country-fried roots.
“When we park our motor home in the infield some of the other drivers call us the Clampets,” she says with a laugh. “One afternoon mama (Paula) was cooking baloney on the grill and I was shucking corn. Dale Jr. walked by, stopped, grinned and said, ‘I don’t believe it!’”
Sutherlin plans to race in the Speedway’s truck series, a tough division that run the fast, high banks of the five-eights-mile track. It would seem breathless for a beginner.
“I told her if she’s going to race, then race with the big boys,” Sterling says. “We’ll find out pretty fast if she’s got it or not.”
“I’ll be cautious, especially at first,” Sutherlin says, “but I won’t be intimidated.”One Comment