NASCAR driver who was a three time track champion at Nashville Speedway USA.
He is the son of former NASCAR driver Coo Coo Marlin. Sterling was named after the British Formula One legend Stirling Moss. Before going into NASCAR he was a three time track champion at Nashville Speedway USA (1980-1982).
Sterling ran his first Winston Cup race in 1976 as a substitute for his injured father. However he did not participate in the series regularly until 1983, where he was awarded the Rookie of the Year title.
Sterling's first career win came in his 279th career start at the 1994 Daytona 500 driving for Morgan-McClure Motorsports in the #4 Kodak car. He went on to win the 500 in the following year, becoming only one of three drivers to win consecutive Daytona 500s. Sterling won two more times during the 1995 season and finished a career high third in the point standings, during a four-year run with Morgan-McClure Motorsports.
In 1998, he joined the Felix Sabates operation, which had switched to Chevrolet, and had Coors Light as its sponsor in the #40, and Joe Nemechek as teammate in the #42 BellSouth Chevrolet. Nemechek won once in 1999 before leaving. Kenny Irwin was his teammate for 2000. Tragically, Irwin was killed in July 2000 during the New England 300, and was replaced by Ted Musgrave with a new number, #01, before being released late in the season.
In an unusual series of events at the end of 2000, the two Sabates teams switched sponsors. For the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 in Hampton, GA, the final race of the season, #01 car sponsor BellSouth, based in nearby Atlanta, chose to switch cars with the #40, which has Coors Light. Busch Series driver Bobby Hamilton, Jr, in his second career start, would assume the #01 car, with Coors Light as sponsor, while sponsor BellSouth chose to side with the more experienced Marlin for their Peach Bowl scheme, making his #40 car the BellSouth Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Chevrolet for a race in their headquarters market.
In 2001 Chip Ganassi bought a controlling interest into the team Sterling Marlin was racing for. As well as the management change, the former Chevy based team switched over to Dodge. Dodge had returned to NASCAR that year after a long absence and Sterling scored their first win at Michigan International Speedway in August. He went on to score another victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway in October and equalled his best career finish in the points (third).
Marlin's 2001 season was also noted for the criticism he took after the 2001 Daytona 500, the race in which Dale Earnhardt was killed. Marlin touched Earnhardt's rear, which caused his car to go to the apron of the track, then come back up and into Ken Schrader's #36 Pontiac and then into the wall. Many fans blamed Marlin for the incident afterwards, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the accident investigation.
Marlin scored two victories early in the 2002 season at Las Vegas and Darlington. He led the points standings for 25 straight weeks before his championship run was cut short by a neck injury in a crash at Kansas Speedway. The team, however, did not bend. Jamie McMurray stunned the field at the UAW-GM Quality 500 by defending Marlin's title in just his second start. Marlin called the victorious McMurray on national television minutes after the stunning win, congratulating McMurray and the team in prime-time television. Marlin finished 18th in the final standings despite missing the final seven races, but the team finished eighth overall when points earned by substitute drivers Jamie McMurray and Mike Bliss in the races Marlin missed were added. (Some of NASCAR's prize money, and NASCAR's exemption policy on races are based on owner points, not driver points.)
Marlin left Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the 2005 season and was replaced by David Stremme. He joined MB2 Motorsports for 2006, and with the team looking for sponsors and a car number after previous sponsor Valvoline took driver and number to Evernham Motorsports, the team found one of its coprimary sponsors (Waste Management), and when the team was looking for numbers for its team, Marlin and MB2 agreed to #14, in honour of his father, who had died in August 2005, forcing him to miss one race.