DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) - It must not mean much to win the Daytona 500 anymore.
Sterling Marlin, who won Winston Cup's most prestigious race in 1994 and 1995, will be replaced in the No. 4 car by Bobby Hamilton next season, the Morgan-McClure team said Friday.
Marlin isn't the only former Daytona winner to face a different future in 1998. Former Daytona champs Derrike Cope and Ernie Irvan have been bumped as NASCAR's season of driver switches and unfounded rumors hit full blast at Darlington Raceway this week.
Larry McClure, team manager for the Kodak-sponsored Chevrolet, said he and Marlin agreed in California that a change was best. "We're parting on very good terms," McClure said.
Hamilton, who spent the past three seasons driving for Richard Petty, said he was uncomfortable with the multiple-team concept and wanted a single-car operation.
He talked with teammate Kyle Petty, who returned to his father's race team this season, about the problems involved with multiple ownership last week at Bristol, Tenn.
"All the help started focusing on two cars," Hamilton said. "It takes away from both ends of it."
Marlin, who joined Morgan-McClure in 1994, won the first time he drove at Daytona that season. He added three victories the following year, including a repeat at Daytona. But after crew chief Tony Glover left at the end of 1996, things started to go sour for the team, McClure said.
"Winning spoils you," McClure said. "We want to get back to where we once were or maybe even better."
Don't feel bad for Marlin, though. McClure said he thought the driver had secured a deal. Rumors had Marlin joining Team Sabco, run by Felix Sabates.
Irvan, let go by Robert Yates last month, said Thursday he would drive the Skittles car that Cope ran this year.
Irvan's replacement on the high-powered Yates team, Kenny Irwin Jr., said that he would run five races the rest of the season to prepare for driving the No. 28 car in February.
Irwin took his new No. 27 car, which will be sponsored by toymaker Hasbro the next three months, to Richmond, Va., last week for testing.
"I wanted to wear him out," Yates said. "I wanted him to see that 50 laps in the drivers seat isn't as comfortable as 20 laps may be."
It's uncertain where Cope will end up. He has worked for four owners since his Daytona win in 1990. He could wind up driving for the Washington-Erving team owned by ex-football star Joe Washington and former basketball great Julius Erving.