How Trackhouse Racing and owner Justin Marks are transforming NASCAR for the better

  • Justin Marks bought NASCAR Operation Chip Ganassi last year and has brought this team to full bloom this season track racing.
  • Trackhouse won two races with driver Ross Chastain and pushed teammate Daniel Suarez closer to his first cup win.
  • Marks hired an Oregon-based branding company to create the team’s name, logos and overall style and struck a deal with international music superstar Pitbull to join the ownership.

    Over the course of its 75-year history, NASCAR has had more than a few transformative personalities.

    • In the 1950s, Carl Kiekhaefer introduced first-class “team” racing to the sport, outfitting his mechanics with a uniform and his cars with similar paint schemes.

    • Starting in the early 1960s, Richard Petty proved An outstanding personality can bring in large numbers of fans to the race.

    Daryl Waltrip bumped into the sport in the ’70s And the dynamics of the sport’s old streak, driving and talking changed his way to the top.

    • Jeff Gordon arrived in the ’90s and used his racing talent and showbiz brilliance to take the sport to places it hadn’t been before.

    There are others.

    Justin Marks might be the next name on that list.

    NASCAR Goodyear 400 Cup Series Playoffs

    Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks, right, talks with Kyle Busch on a pit road in Darlington earlier this season.

    James GilbertGetty Images

    Among other noteworthy items, Marks is the first NASCAR team owner to travel to Switzerland in an effort – which ultimately proved successful – to recruit a former Formula 1 champion to drive in the Cup Series. In August, at Watkins Glen International, Kimi Raikkonen is set to drive a car owned by Marks’ Trackhouse Racing team as part of Trackhouse’s new PROJECT91 programme. Marks plans to offer occasional Cup rides to drivers of international standing as part of the PROJECT91 plan.

    Raikkonen’s first start in the Cup (he ran Xfinity and Truck races in 2011) would be a somewhat unusual moment for NASCAR, but Marks’ grand plan is to normalize such things at the highest levels of motorsports. A former driver now at the wheel of one of NASCAR’s most watched teams, Marks has big ideas and doesn’t seem afraid to put them in motion.

    He’s bought Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR operation and brought that team to full flower this season as Trackhouse Racing. In what must be considered one of the best seasons in recent NASCAR history, Trackhouse won two races with driver Ross Chastain and pushed his teammate, Daniel Suarez, closer to his first cup win.

    Surprisingly to many, Trackhouse Chevrolet was consistently ahead in the first half of the season. on Sunday Coca-Cola 600 In Charlotte, Suarez and Chastain combined to lead 189 out of 413 laps of the race.

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    Justin Marks started six NASCAR Cup games, 35 times in the Xfinity Series and 38 more in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during his NASCAR driving career from 2007-2018.

    Daniel SherryGetty Images

    None of this was expected at the start of the season. Chastain and Suarez showed promise before 2022, but neither of them won the cup and neither was expected to be on the qualifying grid when things get serious in September.

    For Marx, 41, that’s a path he expected to take a few years ago when he took a ramp to break out of a 20-year driving career and began making plans — big plans, as it turned out — in the property yard. He brought in longtime racing CEO Ty Norris to run the operation, confirmed Chastain and Suarez would continue their roles, hired an Oregon-based brand company to create the team’s name, logos and overall style, and struck a deal with international music superstar Pitbull to join ownership.

    “Two years ago, if Justin walked into a room and said, ‘I’m going to start a racing team and we’re going to win races in our early years,’ everybody would say, ‘Okay, Justin, let me clarify,'” Norris said. He has gained that credibility now. He is more right than wrong. If he goes in now and says, “Hey, I’m going to take five NASCAR drivers to Mars via SpaceX,” he probably would. “

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    One way to get the NASCAR team’s immediate attention is to bring Pitbull into the picture as the team’s co-owner, as Justin Marks did at Trackhouse.

    Steve JenningsGetty Images

    Marks successfully drove into sports car racing before crossing over to regular cars in 2007. He found it challenging, scoring no goals in 38 Camping World Truck races and driving only one lap in six Cup races scattered over four seasons. He had one win in the Xfinity Series in 2016.

    Even as his driving career failed, Marks, who had access to more financial opportunities than the typical mid-range driver, was designing his future. He saw it not only at the races but also in entertainment in general.

    “When I reached the age of thirty, my career stopped going upward,” Marks said. “My competition started to get smaller and better. I wasn’t really building a career. I thought I really needed a plan. I knew I couldn’t do it forever.”

    But Marks, who has watched other development teams hit the wall — literally and figuratively — at NASCAR, said he needs strong reason to believe NASCAR will be a good fit for him in the long run. got it with next generation car.

    “I sat down with Jim France (NASCAR President) in the fall of 2019 and drank it on this car and walked out of his office and thought, ‘I need to do this,'” Marks said. “I had to hear some conviction about how serious they were about strict car control. I would never have played if they were going to open the windows to change the car all the time. He told me they wouldn’t let people mess it up.”

    That meeting and others convinced Marx that he and his team would compete on a level playing field.

    Also that fall, Marks and Norris met with NASCAR officials Steve O’Donnell, John Probst and Ben Kennedy to outline the Trackhouse proposal, a proposal that would not only include racing in the Cup series but also taking its brand internationally and integrating motorsports with music, education, and outreach to minority communities.

    “They almost stood up and applauded her,” Norris said. “They know that something important has to change. They bet themselves on the new car, the changes in the schedule and some moves like [banning] The Confederate flag, which somewhat caused a ripple. Diversity has become a very important initiative, and when you add all of these things you see a very progressive change. This change was born from the knowledge that if we did not change, we would become so insignificant that we could not recover from it.”

    NASCAR North Carolina Camping World Truck Series Education Lottery 200

    Ross Chastain helped put Trackhouse Racing in the victory lane twice, so he was a fan in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season.

    James GilbertGetty Images

    NASCAR’s public move toward expanding its base was underlined Wednesday – the first day of Pride Month – when she tweeted that “her recent actions have not aligned with NASCAR’s mission to be a welcoming sport for all.” NASCAR did not specify “last actions,” but the message was widely interpreted as a kind of apology for Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s appearance in a key role in the May 22 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Abbott has been criticized by national LGBTQ organizations.

    Marks lives near Nashville and opened the management office of Track House Entertainment Group there. He said the Trackhouse race operation will remain in Concord, North Carolina.

    Marks said Trackhouse has an investment in the IndyCar race in Nashville and is working with members of the city’s music community. The popular Tootsie bar downtown is the patron of Trackhouse.

    “We have to build equity in the brand,” Marks said. “We can’t follow everything at once. People have to know what a Trackhouse is. That comes from winning and being in the news, from pitbull talking about it. I’ve done a lot of front-end risk taking on this, and I’ve bet myself that we’re going to get the economics of this done.” Now we have the 2023 season 90 percent of it (in car sponsorship) sold out. That’s working really well.

    “A lot of people come to me and say, ‘I love what you do.’ It’s not just about the fact that we’re bringing a competitive effort into the ring, but we’re doing something different. It’s just kind of a proof-of-concept. People have been waiting a long time for a new team to come out and be exciting. And different. And win.”

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