Sterling Marlin may be NASCAR’s most diverse athlete. Before getting into racing, Marlin was a star football and basketball player at Columbia High in Tennessee. Still, there was little doubt about which career path he would take. “I was always in the shop working with the guys on my dad’s (Coo Coo’s) cars,” Sterling said.
“I started doing that when I was 12 or 13 years old. By the time I was 15, I was changing tires for him, and then when I turned 16 I was serving as my dad’s crew chief and I also started driving.”
Marlin started racing in the mid 1980s. He won three consecutive track championships at Nashville Raceway from 1980-82. He actually made his Cup debut four years prior, after his father, Coo Coo, suffered a broken shoulder. He is perhaps best known as only the third driver in Cup history to win back-to-back Daytona 500s, joining Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough after winning in 1994 and 1995. The 1994 Daytona win was Marlin’s first Cup victory in 279 starts.
In 2001, Marlin also scored Dodge’s first victory in its return to Cup racing after a two-decade absence as he won at Michigan International Speedway. He came closest to winning the NASCAR championship in 2002. Marlin scored victories at Las Vegas and Darlington and held the Cup points lead for 25 weeks. However, a late-season crash at Kansas ended his season. Still, he scored 14 top-10 finishes and six top-10 qualifying efforts in 29 starts. He started from the Bud Pole twice — at Pocono in June and Darlington in early September.
Marlin finished among the top 10 in the Cup series five times. He has raced for more than 30 years and his career earnings have totaled more than $42 million. In 1995 and 1996, he was named the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame “Professional Athlete of the Year”.