As the country celebrated the nation's bicentennial early and often throughout 1976, our family spent several Saturday nights at the track watching the rise of the Kiddie Corps. Four drivers had really caught the attention of the fan base as the track transitioned away from its earlier legends such as Darrell Waltrip, Flookie Buford and Coo Coo Marlin. The Kiddie Corps was comprised of:
- Coo Coo's son Sterling
- Mike Alexander, a bit of a protege of Waltrip and the son of R.C. Alexander for whom DW raced at Nashville
- P.B. Crowell III, the son of another Nashville legend P.B. Crowell Jr. as well as a former owner for Waltrip
- Dennis Wiser
Sterling, Mike and their teams had a full-on rivalry in the early 1980s. Both had an opportunity to race at the Cup level a few times though neither had yet made the full-time move. Week to week, it seemed the two were battling for the win. Whoever won, the other one often protested. After the inspectors tore the winner's car apart, the team needed a week or two to get back in the saddle giving the opportunity to the other one to win for a while. Back and forth it went.
Alexander was the first of the two to nab a track championship in 1978. Marlin countered, however, by winning back-to-back championships in 1980-1981.
On June 5, 1982 with the track having been renamed simply Nashville Raceway, the rivalry may have reached its apex. Alexander wrecked hard, and he and his team directed the blame towards Marlin.
|The Tennessean - June 11, 1982|
Larry Woody, beat writer for The Tennesseean, acknowledged the change and referred to Sterlin Marlin in his columns. Later, however, the 'g' returned. Apparently Marlin's mother made it very clear she named him STERLING. So honoring his mother's scolding, he returned to Sterling. (Though we all still just say Sterlin.)
|The Tennessean - June 12, 1982|
Throughout his Cup career, Marlin was known as a laid-back, Krystal Sunriser eating, no frills, throwback driver. He didn't talk smack and didn't court controversy. On that June night, however, Marlin went a little off script. He not only won the race, but he applied a faux-rookie stripe to his Coors Light Camaro just to add a bit of agitation to all of the critics. A yellow middle finger if you will.
|The Tennessean - June 13, 1982|
|The Tennessean - June 16, 1982|
I went to the Cup qualifying session for the Marty Robbins 420 at Nashville in May 1983. In addition to the Cup cars being in town, the late model locals also ran a feature race. Sterling returned for double duty - this time with a new Pepsi / Beaman Automotive sponsored Pontiac.