Marlar had a shot at future NASCAR races after running 4th; The force removal of the Marathon logo put an end to that idea
Mike Marlar also talks his dirt late model operations after running 2nd in the Dirt Million; Praises Brandon Sheppard as a future great of the sport
Mike Marlar was crowned the 2018 World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion. Heading into 2019, he came in with the idea of dialing way back on his racing operations.
That break didn’t last very long. Soon, Marlar was hitting all the biggest dirt late model events, per usual. He was also returning to victory lane, per usual.
On August 1, 2019, Marlar entered the Eldora Dirt Derby. It’s the only NASCAR Truck Series dirt race. Marlar finished 5th in his heat then drove through the field in the feature to pick up a 4th place finish.
“It’s an awesome race,” Marlar told Fox Sports after the finish. “Every little kid in the world dreams about NASCAR. As racers start racing, you know, deep down everybody wants to race NASCAR. It’s awesome that we got to do it and had such a great finish tonight.”
He did all that without a sponsor on his truck. But, that wasn’t the original plan…
Mike Marlar talks the Eldora Dirt Derby
What were your thoughts of the Eldora Dirt Derby week? And how did that deal come together?
“Tom and Rocky Smith made that happen through Reaume Brothers Racing. I got chosen to do the deal,” Mike Marlar stated to RacingNews.co .
“Josh Reaume more or less said, ‘Here’s the truck you’re going to drive. Do whatever you want to do to it.’ “
“So, I had a little bit of my hands on with getting to work on it. That was fun. I got to meet all their team and spend a couple days at their shop.”
“We worked on everything, hauled it up there and it was a blast man. The spotter was awesome. Everything about that deal was a ton of fun.”
“To come out of there with 4th… We were very happy with that. I’ve probably never been so happy to finish 4th in something.”
“It was a good time. I sure wish that I could have done a little better. But heck, there was some high dollar teams there. For us to just show up like that and come out in the position we did, I was really happy with it.”
Did you get any practice leading up to that week? Did you stop anywhere on the drive up there?
“Nope. The first time I ever drove it was in the hot laps/qualifying sessions.”
I know you dented it up a little bit in one of those sessions. But, those weren’t televised so I’m not sure what happened there? Just pushing the limits?
“I was pushing the limits a little bit too much. And actually, our steering… Now, we didn’t know it — Because they’re not made to drive sideways. Where some of the other guys have trucks that are made sorta for dirt racing. My truck was a speedway type truck.”
“Anyway, my shocks were hitting my brake rotors. I went into the corner to cut and backsteer. My brake rotor grabbed my shock bolt. That locked the wheel up and spun me. Then, I got hit.”
Marathon sponsorship in NASCAR
Marlar showed up to Eldora Speedway with a sponsor. But, the Marathon branding didn’t last very long.
NASCAR officials required Marlar and the team to remove the Marathon corporate logos. Sunoco Fuels is an official sponsor of NASCAR. That makes them the only fuel sponsor allowed in the sport.
I know a little bit about how those truck deals work. You either bring money or you bring a sponsor. So, you brought a sponsor in Marathon right?
“Kinda sorta, Tom and Rocky Smith, my friends from down in Knoxville, Tennessee own a business that they lease engines to the NASCAR Truck Series, ARCA teams and actually a couple cup cars, I think.”
“So, they already had the engines. They were leasing engines to that truck team. I had just been friends with them. They had been wanting me to get a shot to drive it.”
“So, the agreement was that they would provide the engine. They had actually bought the truck. They never took ownership of it. They said, ‘just put our engine in it, we’ll buy the truck and let Mike drive it.’ “
“From there, I said, ‘Hey, I got Marathon.’ We got in touch with my guys at Marathon and they said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to sponsor the truck.’ “
“So, I was going to get to drive it either way. But, by me not getting to put Marathon on it definetely makes the future look dim for me. With everything pulling together there, it was looking like it could be more than a one-time deal.”
“We had to take Marathon off and that cut any corporate sponsorship we had. That definitely put me in NASCAR about as fast as I got in it.”
“That’s unfortunate that happened. But, that’s just the reality of it.”
But, did it put you in a bind in any way? Because you had a sponsor in the plan. Then, you couldn’t bring the sponsor.
“It did a little bit. It cost us some money.”
That’s what I figured.
“Marathon had agreed to pay for some of the stuff on the truck. They would have still done it. But, I didn’t want them to use any of their money up because they didn’t get the sponsorship out of it.”
“I told them to just keep their money and that we would pay for the things they were going to pay for.”
Mike Marlar talks his dirt late model team
And now, you got a pretty big check this weekend in the Dirt Million. A couple of them actually. Does that alleviate any of that stress?
“I’m very fortunate. I live a very simple life. It’s just me and my wife.”
“I also have a business that I operate. Technically, I make my money with that. Everything I do in racing, it’s just a big cherry on top.”
“I’m fortunate that I’m not in a bind or gambling any to go racing. We just want to do the biggest, best race, every week.”
“We won over $60,000 in the Dirt Million. Coming out of here with that definitely makes this big black rig here run up and down the road.”
“Winning and winning some money too, solves a lot of problems. It helps with the team moral. We’re just three buddies that go racing and we got a great car owner.”
“My car owner is only 45 minutes from me and we’re kinda semi-neighbors I guess. Josh Davis, Jerry Sprouse, my main crew guys, we all three live in the same town. Josh and I kinda grew up together. He’s a little younger than me. But, we’ve always done things together, even outside of racing.”
A small group doing big ass things.
“It’s a little bit like that, yeah. And I think maybe our community is starting to take notice. Our little town we live in, it’s got 900 people in it.”
“My race shop’s in Winfield, Tennessee. Monday comes around… I’ll say to my guys, ‘Yall want to go to that race? Or if you want to just go fishing, we’ll take the week off. Whatever you want to do.’ “
“That’s just how we do it. We are. We’re a small group and I do feel like we’re doing a lot. But, we don’t race for the money or to impress anybody. We do it, for what I feel like is all the right reasons.”
“We do it because we love it. We’re competitive. We want to win. And we’re in it for each other and that includes my car owner.”
“Nick and Erik Jones at Marathon. Jack Cornett does our engines, he’s also 45 minutes up the road. My car owner lives 45 min down the road. My crew guys live in the same town. Everything we do is together.”
“Then, I got some friends that have been around it for 20 years. They tag along and go with us. We’re a little bit more of a family vibe. I don’t wanna say, but I don’t know of anybody in dirt racing that has that other than us. Maybe I’m overlooking.”
Well, I know a lot of the big teams in this pit area don’t have three guys. Those super teams up there, they got a whole staff of people.
“That’s right. What we’ve built into here is something really cool to be a part of. It’s really special really. And it’s becoming more and more special.”
“It’s a lot of fun right now. At the end of last year, we were kinda burnt out. We said, ‘We’re probably not going to race much.’ By March, we all had the fever again. Here we are.”
Mike Marlar talks the Dirt Million
Marlar finished 2nd in the Dirt Million. Brandon Sheppard went on to take the win and the check for $101,626,20.
What did you need to win the Dirt Million?
“My car wasn’t any faster than Brandon Sheppard’s. His car and may car, they were really about the same speed wise.”
“If I would have been in front of him… There’s a little bit of an advantage to being the front guy, air wise. I had a few struggles keeping up with him. But, if he would have been behind me, he would have had the same struggles.”
“He was fast in that Dash, ran 2nd and got the outside pole. He just done an awesome job. He’s a really, really good driver. He’s turned into one the greats really. He’s going to go down as that. You think of his age, and all the big races he’s won at this point.”
“He done a phenomenal job. He really made no mistakes. And I really don’t think I did. I threw a hail-mary a few times in turns three and four… I still don’t think at any point in that race that I didn’t make the right moves.”
“We were just so close to the same speed, I could never pass him.”