Race report from Sunday, June 21, 1981
Sterling Marlin Wins Yawner
By LARRY WOODY
If it had been a prize fight, they’d have stopped it after the fifth lap. It was all over by then.
But they don’t have referees or bells in auto racing. So Sterling Marlin continued to pour it on, turning last night’s 50-lap Grand American feature race at Nashville International Raceway into another yawner.
Marlin has now won all six races of the season, dominating the division like it has never been done before. Don Smith of Gurley, Ala., was the only driver in the same lap with Marlin at the end, and he was a mere speck in the distance.
A number of fast cars showed up in the 19-car field, lured to town by the $400 bounty placed on Marlin by the Speedway. They went home empty-handed.
Marlin won the pole position and second-fastest qualifier Phil Grissom appeared determined to make a race of it. But his hood came loose on the second lap, and he lost a lap on the pit stop. Six laps later, he dropped out with engine trouble.
Tony Cunningham, who qualified fourth behind Smith, was challenging for the lead when his engine blew. Nos. 6 and 7 starters Al Henderson and Dorris Vaughn also were forced out with mechanical problems.
Marlin had two big leads wiped out by caution flags but shrugged off the lost time and went on to coast to victory. It was just another night at the office for the 23-year old Columbia Comet.
Race preview from June 20, 1981 Tennessean:
There's No Stopping Sterling
By LARRY WOODY
The bounty hunters have about given up trying to catch Sterling Marlin. Five times this season they've tried. Five times they've failed.
Marlin is unbeaten at Nashville Raceway this year. Won every Grand American race that's been held. Actually, won may not be the proper word. Marlin has plain run away with the races. No contest. He drives like he’s late for an appointment.
At times the 23-year-old driver from Columbia appeared to be toying with his opponents. You could almost see him yawn as he came down the straightaway.
It wouldn't be exaggerating to say that Sterling is literally stealing the show. Attendance at the track has sagged; who'll come out to watch a race for second place?
But don't expect Marlin to apologize for winning. “I’ve told them to bring in the best drivers they can find, and I’ll race against them,” he says. “And I’ll try my best to beat ‘em. I’ll try to win every race this season if I can.”
He may just do it. Marlin will be trying to make it six out of six tonight in the 50-lap feature. Time trials start at 6:30 with first race at 8. In addition to the Grand American feature, a 25-lapper is scheduled in the Street Stock division and a pair of 15-lappers in the Mini-Stock class.
Not since a kid from Owensboro, Ky. named Darrell Waltrip turned Nashville Raceway into his own personal driving range a decade ago has a driver so dominated the sport. Marlin may just be the best race driver to come out of Nashville since Waltrip. And in a pair of Marlin-Waltrip showdowns earlier this season, Marlin won both.
Marlin’s winning ways finally got so out of hand that Speedway officials decided to offer a bounty to any driver who could beat Marlin. They hoped to lure some out-of-town toughies in to give Sterling a run for his money. The bounty is up to $400 now which, along with the regular $1,000 first-place money that goes to the winner, makes a nice bundle for 20 minutes or so of racing. But nobody has collected.