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When a handshake meant more then a signed contract

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Sterling Marlin

When a handshake meant more then a signed contract

Becky Davidson
July 24, 2007

Big major contract deals between owners and drivers nowadays mean absolutely nothing. They have not meant anything for a very long time. The days of a handshake, being honest and standing behind your word are a part of the past just as the good ole days of NASCAR are a part of the past.

Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress only shook hands. There were no concerns or questions whether each would keep their word to each other. Nothing more then an honest handshake was needed.

Just like what Ward Burton and other drivers have had dealt out to them in the past, it continues to happen. You race on the weekend and without a hint, a clue, you get told on Monday, you have been replaced; you’re done, clean out your office. The almighty dollar keeps on getting greedier each day.

This latest action that happened to Sterling Marlin, a stockcar driver who loves to race and has done it all of his adult life is so disrespectful. It was hard hearted, cruel, mean and a lot of other words could be used to describe an owner who does a veteran stockcar driver the way Marlin was treated. It meant nothing to the fact they he had a signed contract with the owner; it meant absolutely nothing at all. His owner like many are looking for greener pastures just as many of the new breed stockcar drivers are and have done. There is no "silly season" anymore. The entire race season has become one big "silly season," all year long. You know, like the "Never Ending Story," and a nightmare to many drivers with that being said.

I remember when Sterling Marlins career in Winston Cup racing began in 1976. He ended up substituting for his own father; Coo Coo Marlin since he had broke his shoulder. Coo Coo was another driver who was with the grass roots of racing when there were no contracts and probably no handshakes either. Perhaps a pat on the back. They just drove on the weekends and worked during the week to make the monies needed to repair the cars and pay their entry fees out of their own pockets.

I remember the wonderful days when we had Winston Cup racing at the old Nashville Raceway. It was great to see the likes of Sterling, ole DW, Dale SR, Richard Petty and more race on these small hometown tracks until politics stepped in and the Fair Board and NASCAR could not reach an agreement. That is when we truly lost out in Nashville and the Middle Tennessee area. The year was 1986 when Winston Cup racing packed their gear and never returned. Not changing the subject but fight for your hometown tracks, fight real hard to keep them. I am sure you know many driver's in the past or who are currently driving began racing on your local hometown track like we have here in Nashville. We are very close to losing it and that makes me very sad.

At least we still have Bristol and yes, a beautiful Nashville Super Speedway that I have been privileged in the past to work for in Marketing just on race weekends. That is when you truly see what all goes on at these tracks we each travel to in order to put on a race. It sure takes a lot of man hours and money to make the tracks fun for entire families. It takes a lot more then the haulers coming in with the car and the drivers flying into the tracks in their private jets. I was very proud to be part of the beginning when Dover held the last Busch race at the old speedway before we made our move to the new one the following year at in the Gladesville/Lebanon area of Tennessee.

It is not right that a driver like Sterling Marlin who has had a great career to have the door slammed on him without any warning. You owners should at least let these drivers fill their contracts you agreed to and signed with them and allow them to fulfill their obligations. Instead of being descent and treating the drivers fair and the way they should be, some of you owners add to the insult. You present these veteran drivers, without warning, the almighty pink slip without any prior notice at all.

Owners who conduct their self like this, in my opinion, have no heart or compassion for those drivers who are devoted to doing the best job they can on race day. Of course, you owners are not the one who risks your life each time they climb into those cars each race day to try and win or have a good finish. The only owners who know what it is like are those who use to be a driver their self before becoming owners like Richard Childress and Richard Petty to name only a couple.

There is one exception I can think of right now and that is Joe Gibbs. He may never have driven a race car but he knows how to handle those who drive for him. To me he is a good man and one of my very favorite owners. There are a few owners who are true leaders and yep, I have not forgotten Richard Yates or Jack Roush. You can bet they respect those they have under contract more then you so called owners who many truly know absolutely nothing or very little about racing to begin with. The only thing you know comes in the color of green and some of you sink as low as you can go to obtain it.

Sterling had already said next year he was going to scale down and only run part-time. My goodness, you could not even give the man the courtesy to allow him to finish out the season. You have those dollar bill signs in front of your faces all of the time and I know I am not alone in my feelings. No matter who the owner is, when they do a driver like Marlin, a long time Veteran NASCAR driver the way they have done, I sure do not wish you them any luck in the upcoming season or for the remaining season. I don't wish you owners anything at all. I don't care if it is a driver I like or dislike, none of them need to be treated as you have done Sterling. Ward Burton and Ken Schrader and Joe Nemechek are other examples when the hunger and greed for the almighty dollar takes over.

The only time you want these drivers to return is when you know you are going to be racing at a track where an EXPERIENCED and seasoned veteran is needed. Just like this upcoming weekend. Good ole "front row Joe" has been asked to step in and race at Indy.

Sterling may never have won a championship but still he was a good racer is his day. Like each of them, they race with their hearts. In 1983 he was Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, in 1994 and in 1995 he won the Daytona 500. Sterling falls into a very small category. Sterling along with Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough are the only Winston/Nextel Cup drivers ever to win two consecutive Daytona 500 races. Sterling was the only driver to ever get his first and second career race wins by winning the Daytona 500 back to back.

In 1995 he was also third in Winston Cup Standings and in 2001 he was also third in Winston Cup standings. His career wins to date has totaled 10.

The young fans, the fans of NASCAR racing nowadays are not aware of what Sterling did for NASCAR along with his other comrades, the handful that are still racing or those who have retired or for one reason or the other, are not racing any longer such as Dale Earnhardt Sr. who lost his life doing what he loved. Rusty retired and I was happy to see him to be able to do so but I sure miss Rusty in the # 2 on Sundays. Nothing stays the same and life moves on, this I know so very well.

More people need to watch Dale JR's show, "Back in the Day." Owner's need to watch it and sit back and listen to Junior Johnson tell how it was "Back in the Day" where a man's word was the law. Only then you might know the history of NASCAR, the true roots and why it angers us long time fans to see our Veteran drivers being treated as cruel and unfair as they are. You owners have shown nothing but disrespect for Marlin and the other drivers I mentioned above who have had the stockcar door slammed in their face. I hope these drivers at least get the money that is owed to them for a contract they were honoring.

You sure are not winning any friends by doing these veteran stockcar drivers as you are but then, you don't care as long as you are shown the money. You rank right up there along side of NASCAR and fighting over the same word GREEDY = $$$$$$$$$$$$. Who cares about the drivers and who in the heck truly cares about we fans? Remember us, we are the ones who continue to make you rich year after year and I myself am getting real tired of stuffing anything into your overfilled wallets.

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