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Marlin eager to let his miraculous start ride

Don't bother Sterling Marlin with statistics or any other historical facts from his season. The last thing Marlin wants to do now is look back.

Granted, today's Pontiac Excitement 400 is only the third event of the 31-race NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, but after 17 undistinguished seasons, Marlin is having a career start.

He followed up his Daytona 500 victory _ the first Winston Cup title of his career _ with a second-place showing at Rockingham, N.C., a week ago. Those two outings have him atop the series point standings.

"I've never led the points before, and it feels great," Marlin told the Associated Press. "Our main goal is to keep the momentum going that we've had the first two races and go from there."

Marlin finished second at this Richmond event as recently as 1992, and his Morgan-McClure Racing team has logged 1,594 of a possible 1,600 laps at the 0.75-mile speedway in the past four years.

Said Marlin: "A win isn't out of the question."

After his startling Daytona 500 win, what is?

She's first to 300: Rachelle Splatt on Saturday became the first woman in drag racing to reach 300 mph. Splatt, a native of Melbourne, Australia, who lives in Phoenix, had a run of 4.907 seconds at 300.00 mph in a Top Fuel dragster in Baytown, Texas. That was good for 13th in the 16-car field for Top Fuel competition in today's NHRA Slick 50 Nationals.

"I was shocked when they told me, but it's a tremendous honor to be the first woman to go 300 mph," said Splatt, a 24-year-old NHRA rookie.

Joe Amato, Cruz Pedregon and Scott Geoffrion led the qualifiers. Top Fuel dragster Kenny Bernstein was a non-qualifier for the first time in 11 years. He had made the finals in 168 consecutive NHRA national events and all 75 events he had entered since switching to the Top Fuel category in 1990.

Nemechek rules 250: Joe Nemechek drove away with an easy victory in the Hardee's Frisco 250 stock-car race Saturday at Richmond International Raceway. The 1989 Grand National champion led twice, accounting for 147 of the 250 laps, including the final 60 trips around the .75-mile oval.

"We had a pretty dominant car," said Nemechek, who picked up his third career Grand National victory and first since the New Hampshire race in August 1992. "When we unloaded off the truck, we were fast. That's the way the race went. It went my way."

Nemechek will race in the Pontiac Excitement 400 today at the track.

Kenny Wallace finished 1.17 seconds behind in the Frisco 250. Harry Gant, second to Terry Labonte a week earlier at Rockingham, was a lap down in third this time, followed by Elton Sawyer, Hermie Sadler and Labonte.

Who has the keys? Hut Stricklin's team plane was delayed more than an hour before takeoff from Daytona Beach's airport after the Daytona 500. The reason? The team's senior manager, Bob Masten, locked himself and the crew inside the plane and left the keys in the outside door lock.

An airport attendant ran out and freed the crew, some of whom were beginning to feel claustrophobic.

"Bobby won't be in charge of unlocking the airplane anymore," quipped the team's pilot, Danny Culler.

Miami's IndyCar vice: With the 1994 IndyCar season weeks away, Miami is lobbying heavy for a spot on the 1995 calendar.

The latest feather in Miami's cap: a successful single-car test session last weekend on the city's 1.87-mile street course, which would be the site of its IndyCar race until a proposed 1.5-mile oval in Homestead could be completed in 1996.

Said Dave Elshoff of IndyCar, which has admitted its interest in adding races in Florida and Texas next season: "Until the '95 schedule comes out (which probably will be between August and October), we won't be able to say which races are on and which are off."

Danny debut on ice: Danny Sullivan, the former IndyCar champion, failed to make the NASCAR Winston Cup field at Rockingham last week. The team, backed by Sabco Racing, has decided to skip today's race at Richmond and attempt Sullivan's stock-car debut next Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Arie's air time: Talk about getting exposure. The No. 28 Indy car driven by Arie Luyendyk this season is sponsored by Eurosport, the network that's the ESPN of Europe. It's televising all 15 IndyCar Series races and has 100-million European viewers.

Sebring on deck: The 12 Hours of Sebring is March 16-19. IMSA's new World Sports Cars will be on display with the usual cast of support races.

Tickets are on sale at Ticketmaster outlets and by phone at (800) 626-7223. Prices range from $30 to $100.

Two-wheel show: Bike-Week moves into full swing this week at Daytona International.

It culminates with next Sunday's Daytona 200, which will be shown live on TNN at 1:30 p.m.

"I hope the public sees that people who ride bikes aren't bad people," said defending champion Eddie Lawson, who also will drive a full Indy Lights schedule. "That perception isn't as bad as it used to be, but I think we still have a ways to go."

Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

NASCAR facts

Today's race: Pontiac Excitement 400.

Track: 0.75-mile Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Green flag: 1:15 p.m.

Distance: 400 laps (300 miles).

Pole sitter: Ted Musgrave.

Last year's winner: Davey Allison.

TV: Live on WTBS.

Radio: WFNS-AM 910.

Fry's pick: Dale Earnhardt.

Winston Cup points: 1. Sterling Marlin, 355; 2. Ernie Irvan, 335; 3. Dale Earnhardt, 302; 4. Mark Martin, 294; 5. Terry Labonte, 282; 6. Morgan Shepherd, 280; 7. Ken Schrader, 272; 8. Ricky Rudd, 272; 9. Geoff Bodine, 258; 10. Rick Mast, 247.

Money leaders: 1. Sterling Marlin, $302,210; 2. Ernie Irvan, $251,660; 3. Dale Earnhardt, $181,125; 4. Jeff Gordon, $180,025; 5. Terry Labonte, $157,910; 6. Rusty Wallace, $121,250; 7. Mark Martin, $113,656; 8. Morgan Shepherd, $112,440; 9. Ken Schrader, $91,500; 10. Brett Bodine, $90,900.