Marlin drives through sand to first Winston Cup pole


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Sterling Marlin was golden in Pepsi 400 qualifying yesterday at Daytona International Speedway despite having to drive through a "sandstorm," and rolled to his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series pole with a lap of 190.331 mph.

The Pepsi 400, midpoint race of the 29-event season, is scheduled for tomorrow at 11 a.m. (ESPN).

Marlin was the only driver topping 190, and finishing second through fifth were Ford's Davey Allison, winner of three of the past five races; Harry Gant, Olds; Geoff Bodine, Marlin's teammate, in a Ford; and rookie Bobby Hamilton, Olds.

It's the slowest pole pace at the 2.5-mile track since Cale Yarborough qualified an Olds at 186.803 for the 400 in 1978. Competitors traced the reduction in speed to four factors: a steeper rear deck spoiler angle of 35 degrees that increased aerodynamic drag; the seven-eighths-inch carburetor restrictor plate that reduces horsepower; tougher NASCAR inspection directed at the placement of new spoilers on the rear glass, deck lid and left rocker panel; and steamy mid-90s weather that made the track slicker and slower.

Nevertheless, it was a delighted Marlin who emerged covered with sand after his run in his Ford.

Just before Marlin went on the 2.5-mile track, a leak in Darrell Waltrip's Chevrolet engine left a line of oil in the preferred groove. A sand-based solution called "Speedy Dry" was put down to cover and absorb the fluid.

"I was sitting on pit road waiting and I kept seeing the trucks hauling that stuff go by," said Marlin, 34. "I thought, 'Aw, naw, don't tell me I've got to run in that when we've got such a good chance.' "

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