Saturday night at Tennessee’s Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville seemed like a throwback to the 1990s and early 2000s when Sterling Marlin’s name was synonymous with winning races. At least for a little while it did. He took the checkered flag. He celebrated in victory lane. Then he was disqualified in post-race technical inspection by chief technical inspector Ricky Brooks.
Marlin was disqualified because according to Brooks, his compression on the engine exceeded the maximum allowance of 10.0. Marlin’s compression measured at 10.4. A tolerance of .1 is given as well, but Marlin’s engine compression was past that as well.
“It was really a great win for him. I hated it was wrong, but I can’t and won’t look the other way,” Brooks told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “He ran an unsealed Crate where most are running the SEAL Alliance program. These problems just don’t come up anymore with the approved engine builders because of the fine if they are caught wrong.”
According to Marlin, Brooks and his tech inspection team used a P&G gauge first to measure the cubic inches of the engine, “and the P&G showed wrong.” Brooks disputed that claim by saying the P&G showed “borderline.”
Marlin then said that, “According to the rule book, you take the motor off and you take the head off and they wouldn’t let us take the head off. That’s all I know.”
Brooks disputed that claim as well, saying that Marlin was actually referring to the General Motors Spec Manual for Crate Engines.
“When the Crate engine first came out, this book that (Marlin’s team) is referring to is several years old and needs to be updated,” Brooks explained. “The original GM book showed that you can be five degrees off on the cam. Well, GM now knows that they screwed up and they put too much tolerances in there because their cams aren’t that far off. So, in everybody’s rule book pretty much, I know ours at Pensacola and pretty much everything south of Tennessee including Nashville, it states in the rule book that no reground cams are allowed. With a Cam Doctor you can determine that. It also states in there that maximum compression for all Crate motors is 10.0-1 no matter what.
“Basically, that manual states that if you pop the motor and whistle the motor and it’s over 10.0 then you can take the motor apart and check the heads and the block and all that,” Brooks continued. “In 10 years that I’ve been teching, our machines are accurate. Whether it’s my machine, CRA’s machine, Nashville’s machine or wherever, because we keep this stuff calibrated. Every motor that I have ever whistled, if you pull it apart it’s always a .1 over because the machine has tolerance built into it.”
Brooks also added that his machine costs over $2,500 and that every series and race track he works for has bought that machine in order to keep from tearing engines down at the race track. He also explained that the main purpose of a sealed engine is also to keep from tearing it down at the race track.
To show that his machine was accurate, Brooks said he took it off of Marlin’s engine and placed it on the engine of the eventual winner, Cole Williams. Brooks’ said Williams’ car measured between 9.7 and 9.8.
“We whistled two cylinders on Sterling’s motor just to see,” Brooks said. “I was happy for him to win just like everybody else was and I was hoping the motor was right.”
For Marlin, 59, it was basically a kick to the gut. Marlin led most of the 100 laps on Saturday night.
“It kind of makes me not want to go back, you know,” said Marlin. “I feel like I didn’t get to take the head off and the inspection process wasn’t completed. We worked hard to try to have the best car we can and to get taken away from you is hard. We had a fast car, the fastest we’ve had it. Short Track Racing doesn’t need all these rules and regulations.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com