NASCAR Says Farewell To One of Its Most Beloved Drivers

Brandon CaldwellCorrespondent INovember 17, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - JULY 24:  Sterling Marlin, driver of the #09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort Dodge, stands in the garge during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 24, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Like every morning, I woke up and went on and expected my day to start off better by hopefully reading something good this morning.

Instead, I read that Sterling Marlin is calling it a career after 33 seasons.

My heart sunk. I love Sterling Marlin. One of NASCAR's most favorite drivers.

Sterling has "ran" seven races in 2009, but it was a start-and-park effort for Phoenix Racing's No. 09 team.

Sterling's last top-10 finish was recorded at the spring Richmond race in 2006, where he finished ninth.

"Will I miss it? Yeah, in some ways...but in some ways I'll be kinda glad it's over. The sport has changed. It's not much fun anymore," said Marlin, this morning.

This sport will miss drivers like Marlin. He was as cool as they come, but had a temper too. He was a great driver, that never got that big-time chance.

His run of success really began in 1988. He was driving for Billy Hagan in the Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile, and he had thirteen top-10 finishes, including a near win at Martinsville.

In 1989, Sterling was again driving for Hagan, in the No. 94 Sunoco Oldsmobile. He once again had 13 top-10 finishes, and he was running better and better, and getting very close to a win.

However that win didn't come for five more years.

After one more year with the Hagan team, and then two with Junior Johnson, and then one with the Stavola Brothers, Sterling Marlin finally had the ride of his life.

It was 1994, Sterling was 37, and many people thought this was going to be it for Sterling if nothing happened for him in 1994.

He was with the Morgan-McClure Motorsports team. A team that had won the Daytona 500 once already, and had a driver who finished second to them in that win.

It was a match made in heaven.

Marlin went out and won the Daytona 500 in 1994.

In 1995, Sterling and the Morgan-McClure team won the 500 again, along with Darlington, and Talladega.

In 1996, Sterling had two more wins.

But from 1997 until 2000, Sterling drove one more year for the No. 4 car, and then he went to Felix Sabates' No. 40 team from 1998 until 2000.

In 2001, Felix merged his operation with big money car owner, Chip Ganassi, and the results showed right away.

Sterling had his best year up to that point in 2001. He had 20 top-10 finishes, and two wins.

In 2002, Sterling had the best year he ever had.

If it weren't for a foolish move to get out of the car under a red flag situation and pull out the right fender, being penalized by NASCAR, and dropped to the back, Sterling would've won his third Daytona 500. He had to settle for eighth after the penalty.

Still Marlin went out and had 14 top-10's, and two more wins.

He was also leading the points standing by 91 over Jeff Gordon, going into the fall Richmond race.

Sterling was on his way to his first championship, before Richmond.

Then a crash on lap eight changed Marlin's career forever.

He hit the wall hard, and grimaced as he got out, possibly hurting himself, and it showed in the next two races.

Back to back 21st place finishes had fans thinking Marlin was racing hurt.

He just stayed quiet, until another crash at Kansas.  It was then Sterling stepped out of the car due to a broken bone in his vertabrae.  It was the final hurah for Sterling in his career.

Jamie McMurray jumped in the 40 and won at Charlotte.

Sterling ran three more years for the Ganassi team, with no wins.  He was then not re-signed and went to the 14 car with MBV Motorsports.

That team merged with Ginn Racing in 2007, and Marlin was released after Chicagoland.  He sat out for the remainder of the '07 season, and then he ran for James Finch's team in 2008, and this year.

Now we go to Homestead 2009. Sterling is expected to run the No. 70 TRG Motorsports Chevy, and hang up the racing shoes for good after that.

Sterling Marlin is one of the good guys in the sport of NASCAR. He was always good for a laugh.  His southern Tennessean accent was like no other, and on Trackside, he said one of the most unforgettable quotes in history.

John Roberts asked Sterling, "What happens in Columbia, Tennessee when they bring their horses in town, for the horse show?"

Sterling answered, "Well, I guess everyone comes to town and shows their asses, I guess!"

It was hysterical. Something I'll never forget.

That's the thing this sport is going to miss most about Sterling. He was a great driver without a huge chance, and Marlin will be known as one of the best never to get a chance.

Enjoy retirement Sterling, you will be missed.  


    Biggest X-Factors for NBA Title Contenders

    Featured logo

    Biggest X-Factors for NBA Title Contenders

    Adam Fromal
    via Bleacher Report

    Winter Olympics End on a High Note

    Featured logo

    Winter Olympics End on a High Note

    Matt Jones
    via Bleacher Report

    17-Year-Old Prospect Has Scouts Gushing

    Featured logo

    17-Year-Old Prospect Has Scouts Gushing

    David Gardner
    via Bleacher Report

    NFL Scouts' Takes on Draft's Top QBs

    Featured logo

    NFL Scouts' Takes on Draft's Top QBs

    Matt Miller
    via Bleacher Report