Trackhouse Racing has been the surprise team of the 2022 Nascar season. The Next Gen (Gen7) car and the fresh approach from co-owner Justin Marks are leading the way.
Spend enough time in the paddock of auto racing, and you’ll find that the unofficial uniform color is black. Black golf shirts. Black khakis. It’s not every team or race official, but it’s something not hard to miss.
Coincidence, subconscious or not, Justin Marks is wearing all white as I approach him in the paddock ahead of the Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Marks and Trackhouse Racing may not be going entirely in the opposite direction of every other Cup series team, but they certainly are the biggest disruptor thus far in 2022.
In 16 races, Trackhouse has pulled off three wins; an incredible feat for a team founded in 2020. Yes, Marks and co-owner Pitbull made an offer Chip Ganassi couldn’t refuse to purchase his Nascar team assets in June of 2021 that got things off the ground, but it’s what Marks and the team have done with those pieces that have been the buzz in Nascar circles.
To start, there was controversy with driver Ross Chastain’s aggressive driving style at Worldwide Raceway. Marks made comments after in what he said to me were in the “heat of the moment” and pulled back from them by the Sonoma race, but it’s clear that as an owner, he’s competitive.
For Marks as a team owner, everything started with the Next Gen car, which sees a significant change in design. The key OEMs had a large hand in the body design to look more like the cars they are designed to mimic. Some 47 parts are “spec” creating a more level playing field.
“I think that the new sort of philosophy and psychology of the [Cup series] is playing out exactly what they intended it to with this car,” Marks said to me in an interview for Forbes. “What we’re seeing is a lot of new opportunities for teams to come in and be successful. I think the issue for so long was this got to be an engineering arms race between the OEMs and where that and that became a matter of teams with the most capital to deploy across engineering R&D platforms were going to win the races and less and less of it was in the driver’s control. The teams with more financial resources were bringing superior pieces of equipment to the racetrack. So, I was never personally I was never going to enter the sport at that time. I didn’t want to wait ten years to finally be in a position to compete.”
And beyond the technology change to the car, Marks and Pitbull are part of a change going on across Nascar as a sport: from team ownership to car design to changes to the schedule to social initiatives, diversity is paving the way for America’s most popular form of motorsports.
Marks comes from a racing background. He’s raced in IMSA GT Daytona class, as part of the No. 93 for Meyer Shank Racing team. He’s also raced Arca and the Nascar Truck Series. Pitbull is a Grammy award-winning rapper and shows an increased interest in Nascar by those outside the traditional team ownership ranks. Put the two together, and the team is going about business differently as a newcomer.
“You know, it’s not just about the car and the shake-up in the schedule. It’s more aggressive marketing, being more culturally relevant in marketing initiatives by leading,” Marks says of the changes in Nascar. “What I would hope is and I think is that Trackhouse Racing has done a good job embracing all of that and really deploying a brand which was always the goal from day one. Hopefully, that inspires all these other haulers on pit road to do the same thing.”
Marks had additional reasons to believe that what he said is proving itself out. After the interview, in his 195th start, Daniel Suárez driving for Trackhouse became the first Mexican driver to ever win a Nascar race by winning at Sonoma Raceway. Will success continue for Trackhouse? The Nascar Cup series gets back underway this weekend with the Ally 400 at the Nashville Superspeedway (5 pm ET on NBC).