Racing has been Sterling Marlin’s life for greater than a half-century. Over the past six months, confronted with critical well being points, the hope of racing has been the one fixed that has helped maintain the 62-year-old’s spirit alive and motivated.
Since 2012, Marlin has battled Parkinson’s illness, a debilitating neurological illness that slowly robs a person of motion in varied physique components, significantly use of the arms.
Earlier this yr, the 1994 and ’95 Daytona 500 champion underwent a number of surgical procedures – together with a four-stage deep mind stimulation process that delivers electrical pulses to mind cells – to sluggish or cut back among the illness’s development.
Marlin, nevertheless, suffered critical negative effects, together with extra fluid on the mind that required one other process.
Whereas the surgical procedures sidelined Marlin longer than he anticipated, they’ve paid off because the Columbia, Tennessee, native hopes to be again behind the wheel of his No. 14 Late Mannequin on Saturday at his dwelling observe of Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville for the primary time since final fall.
“I really feel actually good, I simply need to race the automotive, I’m able to go,” Marlin instructed NBC Sports activities in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I’m having extra good days now.
“(Racing at Nashville will) imply an entire lot. I’ve been by lots over the previous six months. I assumed we have been going to be prepared by the primary race in April, however we have been far off from it.
“It’ll be good to come back again and have a race. The final time I received a race in Nashville (final August), I led each lap, received the race. Then we have been main the following race (in November) earlier than it began raining.”
However as an alternative of worrying about tires and gas mileage and automotive set-ups, Marlin spent a lot of the primary half of the yr along with his surgical procedures and several other follow-up exams.
“It’s been an extended course of, actually,” he mentioned. “(The deep mind stimulation) was a bit of scary. They’d to enter my mind or I may have died. I dodged that bullet, nevertheless it was fairly touch-and-go there for some time.
“My household has been there by thick and skinny. I used to be fortunate I had the surgical procedure. I misplaced a number of weight however I’ve been capable of put 17, 18 kilos again on.”
Marlin tried to make his racing return at Nashville almost a month in the past. He was able to go bodily and emotionally, however his race automotive developed clutch issues that prompted him to withdraw reasonably than run the chance of pricey repairs if the clutch suffered even higher injury throughout competitors.
The clutch has been repaired and as soon as once more, Marlin is able to put the pedal to the metallic. If all goes effectively, he hopes to do one other two extra races at Nashville earlier than the season ends and, if extra sponsorship comes about, received’t rule out one-off races at different tracks.
“Racing is all I’ve ever executed since I used to be 10-12 years outdated,” Marlin mentioned. “I get pleasure from doing it and see how briskly we are able to go. Hopefully, we are able to get again to the place we have been final fall and see what occurs.
“We’ve received an excellent automotive, an excellent sponsor and we’ll give ‘er hell.”
If all goes effectively each health-wise and racing-wise, Marlin hopes to proceed racing so long as he can.
“I used to be nonetheless profitable final yr and we have been quick each race and led a number of laps,” Marlin mentioned. “If I can nonetheless do it and revel in doing it, I’ll maintain doing it.
“But when all I can do is run 20th, then I received’t do it anymore.”
In accordance with The Tennessean newspaper, Marlin wants two extra wins to change into the winningest driver in Fairgrounds historical past.
And if he wins his comeback race on Saturday? He already has a plan, he mentioned with fun:
“If I win, I’ll climb the fence like John Drive,” Marlin mentioned, referencing Drive’s fence climb into the grandstands after profitable his 150th profession race final weekend.