The Frontstretch: Scanner Static : NASCAR Fans Speak Out by Jess Nicholas -- Thursday April 6, 2006

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Scanner Static : NASCAR Fans Speak Out

Sterling Gets the Last Laugh · Jess Nicholas · Thursday April 6, 2006


Q: I’m so mad at Chip Ganassi I could spit. Sterling Marlin is a great driver, and Ganassi had no right to fire him last year. There’s no reason Sterling should have to race his way into races. He’s a great driver, and I would have hated to see him miss Martinsville. Why did they fire him? O.T.

A: Well, if you notice, the guy who replaced him (David Stremme) is out of the Top 35 in owner points and not all that competitive, so maybe it was a good thing Sterling isn’t with the 40 anymore. That doesn’t come as a surprise to a lot of us, because Stremme wasn’t really lighting up the Busch series last year before getting moved up. Also, it bears noting that Sterling wasn’t really "fired" "" Ganassi knew how good a driver he was, which is why he tried to bribe Sterling into taking a Busch ride and used a ride for Sterling’s son Steadman as bait. Ganassi knew Sterling could still drive; the main reason Stremme got that ride is because Lone Star Steakhouse and Coors Light wanted him to have it, since looks and marketability are just as big (if not bigger) than driving talent these days. So Marlin took his face for radio to MB2 and is probably in the Top 35 to stay now, if I had to guess. Meanwhile, Stremme is running with the backmarkers. I’m happy for Sterling, because he’s a class guy and a good driver. P.S.: In terms of marketability, you really need to see the RV commercials we get up here in Tennessee with Sterling and his wife. Pure gold, baby.

Q: Where did Steadman Marlin get his name? It’s kinda unusual. Katie Speed

A: I don’t know for sure. I’ve heard he named him after a former University of Alabama quarterback, Steadman Shealy. But Sterling’s a big Tennessee fan, and those two schools don’t exactly exchange Christmas cards. Maybe someone who knows the true story will email me this week. By the way, are you related to Lake?

Q: You think Jeff Gordon was a little mad at that last caution? Way to go straight backwards, Jeff! That’s how not to do a restart. Junior8.81.8

A: He might have been mad, but what are you going to do? You have to play the hand you’re dealt, and Gordon "" well, he got played instead of doing the playing himself.

Q: So much for your prediction of a Petty Enterprises win. txj95

A: I never said either Petty car would win, I just said they had good shots at it because Martinsville is a crapshoot nowadays. And the Petty cars were very competitive Sunday "" they both were lead-lap cars when they broke rear end gears after hanging around the Top 20 all day. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out ol’ that Richard drove straight from the track to whoever supplies those gears and cut the valve stems off the guy’s tires.

Q: Poor Robby Gordon just can’t catch a break. I was looking forward to seeing him run well at Martinsville. He’s a great driver and I wish him well. Teresa

A: He’s a great driver "" perhaps the best pure driver on the circuit right now, in terms of raw ability "" but he’s never going to qualify for the Chase, and I’ll tell you why: there are times, like at Martinsville, where he’s going to break and it won’t be his fault. That happens to everybody, but Robby’s problem is that he’ll take himself out of two or three other races over the course of a season because he can’t keep his mouth shut over the radio, or he can’t control his emotions on the track. I think he’ll win races "" he’s my clear pick for Watkins Glen this year, for instance "" but I would be shocked to see him have consistent success. And I hate that, because he’s good for the sport.

Q: I was serious last week about Mercury. I’d like to see them come back to Cup and race the Montego or the Milan. Why won’t they do it? The Masked Marauder

A: And I was serious, too "" get in line behind the Cub Cadet Mower Co. Mercury will completely fold up their company tent before they ever come back to NASCAR racing. The Big Three aren’t exactly making money hand over fist these days, especially Ford. By keeping all their R&D dollars and advertising dollars focused on one vehicle, they cut their costs and can do more things that actually help the teams win. Look at GM "" they even cut their self-proclaimed "performance division," Pontiac, out of the NASCAR game a few years ago. Seeing as how Mercury is now “Lincoln Lite,” with no performance cars even offered, why would they come back to NASCAR?

Q: Man, you said you got a Mitsubishi Starion? That’s a cool 80s car, man, where can I get one? I’ve got a black Trans Am right now and it needs some company. Michael Knight

A: If mine keeps burning up throttle position sensors ($210 apiece, two have gone bad since Christmas, three-week delivery from Japan), I might just give you one. Tell K.I.T.T. hello for me.

Q: I saw Boris Said is going to drive for Roush. Does that mean Roush is going to have six teams? What about the new rules? Everydayraceme

A: Actually, he’s not going to be driving for Roush, but he is going to be driving Roush-supplied Fords for a new team. I wish him luck, because he’s another one of those guys that makes the sport more fun.

Q: Who do you think is the most underrated driver in NASCAR? Candy

A: Honestly, Kenny Wallace. He’s never had a top-dollar ride in Cup except for some relief driving for DEI, and he deserves a shot before he gets too old. Of those currently in Cup, I like Casey Mears a lot and I think his problems in the past had more to do with the equipment than his own abilities. People also don’t give Robby Gordon his due because of his attitude. And while I wouldn’t call him underrated, I think Clint Bowyer is flying under the radar, and may have more staying power than any of the other rookies in this year’s rookie field.

Q: If you could have dinner with any four NASCAR drivers, who would you pick? gavindegrawfan

A: I would assemble Jimmy Spencer, Robby Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Kevin Harvick, and then I would go watch from a safe distance.

Have a question for Jess Nicholas, or a bulletproof vest he can wear while attending that four driver dinner? Email him at, and you could be part of this very column next week!

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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AJ Lewis
04/06/2006 08:37 AM

Marlin has certainly been a great competitor over the years and I have a lot of respect for him as a person and as a driver.

However, how old do you have to be, and how many seasons do you get to run before there’s enough pressure from below to move aside? Countless younger guys have recently proven what they can do when given an opportunity to run in first class equipment. There just seems to be an awful lot of drivers getting mutiple bites at the cherry, so to speak.

J. Meyer
04/06/2006 03:16 PM

Hey AJ, on the other side of the coin, there are also countless young guys who have been given a shot at the expense of an older, more experienced driver who have proven they ain’t worth a crap! If I were a team owner, I’d be more of the mindset that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the Bus©h!”


Jess no longer contributes to the Frontstretch, but you can still read all his articles on his archive and bio page.