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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2008 Driver Review: Sterling Marlin

2008 Ride: No. 09 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet (seven races); No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge (two races)
2008 Primary Sponsors: Miccosukee Gaming & Resorts (No. 09); Wii Fit (No. 40)
2008 Owners: James Finch (No. 09), Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates (No. 40)
2008 Crew Chiefs: Marc Reno (No. 09), Steve Lane (No. 40)

Stats: 9 races, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 3 DNQs, 51st in points
Best Finish: 22nd – Talladega (April)

High Point: After being unceremoniously released from the No. 40 ride in favor of a younger David Stremme at the end of 2005, it had to feel good for Sterling Marlin to be asked back by a desperate owner Chip Ganassi three years later – even if only for a few races. With an injury to rookie Dario Franchitti, Marlin heeded the call for a substitute and signed a two-race deal where he did an admirable job of filling in. The highlight was Darlington, where he qualified 14th and ran well early until an on-track incident derailed him towards a 34th-place finish.

Low Point: In Marlin’s other part-time gig – the No. 09 Chevrolet – he had a horrific five-race stretch in summer and fall. Making five attempts between Daytona in July and Martinsville in October, he failed to qualify twice and finished 41st, 42nd and 43rd in the races he did make. Can someone say, “Ouch?”

Summary: Following the lead of other aging veterans, Marlin chose to cut back to a part-time schedule in 2008, signing up to drive for one of the most powerful independent owners in the Cup business these days – James Finch. But while the ride has produced such magic as a top-five finish for Mike Wallace in the 2007 Daytona 500, it did no such thing for the back-to-back champ of the Great American Race in 1994 and 1995.

Instead, Marlin failed to qualify after a poor performance in the Duels, and things never improved from there. No top-20 finishes in 10 attempts wasn’t exactly what the semi-retirement doctor ordered, and probably has this veteran wishing he could have quit cold turkey.

Off-Track News: Marlin made a few waves when he replaced the abruptly departed Johnny Sauter in the No. 1 Nationwide Series car for a few weeks. However, he kept to his word to run a part-time schedule in whatever series he was running despite intense pressure to take that car and make it a full-time gig.

2009 Outlook: After 741 career starts and 10 career victories, could Marlin be ready to call it quits? No official offer has apparently been extended by the No. 09 Chevy, and there’s no other ride prospects on the horizon – even for someone of Marlin’s caliber.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: F
2007 Grade: C-
2008 Grade: D+