Sterling’s daughter 8th in Fairgrounds debut

Monday, July 20, 2009 at 12:21am

Carrying the red No. 711 that her grandfather made famous in the 1960’s, and with her two-time Daytona 500 champion dad coaching her over her radio headset, Sutherlin Marlin chased down her destiny Saturday night.

Sutherlin, 19, finished 8th in a 40-lap Supertruck feature at Fairgrounds Speedway, the track on which her grandfather Coo Coo won four championships in the 1960’s and her father Sterling added three more in the 1980s.

“I can’t wait to go again,” said Sutherlin, a student at Columbia (Tenn.) State who spent months practicing for her first race. “I was a little nervous at first, but after the race started it went away. It was fun and I’m definitely going to keep racing.”

The evening was an adventure from start to finish.

In practice, Sutherlin swerved and scraped the wall, slightly damaging her truck. At the start of the she missed a gear and dropped off the pace. And midway through the race she spun out on the backstretch, did a 360-degree spin, and kept going.

“How’d that happen?” Sutherlin asked her dad over her in-truck radio after the spin.

“I thought she did OK for her first time out,” Sterling said. “She finished the race and didn’t tear up anything. But she needs a lot more practice. I’m going to put her in one of daddy’s old cattle trucks and let her drive around the farm all day to practice shifting.”

Her mother, Paula, watched anxiously from track-side. Her appraisal?
“I’m just glad it’s over,” she said.

The Fairgrounds season runs through the fall and Sutherlin plans to be a regular competitor in the truck series, the track’s second-tier division.

“I guess I was just excited and trying to think of too many things at once,” Sutherlin said. “Being in a race is a lot different from being out there by yourself in practice.”

Sterling and son Steadman raced in Saturday night’s premier Late Model division. Both were involved in crashes and finished back in the field.

Sterling this year is running a partial schedule in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and will attempt to qualify for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.