Just after 9 p.m. on June 30, 2021, Trackhouse Racing sent out a media alert. It was one line, simple and to the point, without hinting at what was to come.
“Trackhouse Racing founder Justin Marks will make a major announcement.”
Marks didn’t figure in the rumor mill at the time. There were no leaks about forthcoming announcements. The only thing that came to mind was Marks announcing he finally got his hands on the long-sought-after charter he wanted for the No. 99 car of Daniel Suarez.
When Marks walked into the NASCAR Hall of Fame alongside Chip Ganassi, that storyline fell by the wayside. Instead, Marks delivered a stunner in revealing he’d bought Ganassi’s NASCAR organization.
Not just the charters. The whole damn thing.
A smart and savvy business owner, Marks thought outside the box to get what he wanted while also taking a massive step in creating an even stronger future for his organization.
Nearly nine months later, Marks is a winning car owner in the NASCAR Cup Series. Ross Chastain, a driver Marks has believed in for years and hired for the second car he now had through the Ganassi acquisition, prevailed Sunday in a wild last lap at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, to capture his first career Cup Series win. It was a good day for two of the good guys in the garage.
“It’s a triumph for all 128 people who work for our company,” Marks said. “This was an ambitious thing to dream up, and I asked a lot of people who had a lot of experience in this sport and seen a lot of teams come and go to trust me and to commit to Trackhouse. So to be here not even a year-and-a-half into our existence, I’m just proud of everybody that committed, and every single one of these people, they own a piece of this victory.
“It was always Ross. That’s what I told him when he got out of the car – it was always you. When the Ganassi buyout happened, he texted me as I got off the press conference stage at the Hall of Fame and he just wrote, ‘I want this.’ And he had to be patient with me as I let the dust settle. But we all were huge, huge believers in Ross’ talent. We knew what he was capable of doing, and he’s proved it the last month at Trackhouse, and I think we’ve really just opened the door for him and Phil (Surgen) and the No.1 team moving forward. So I’m really proud of everybody.”
SUNDAY AT COTA: Chastain wins first Cup race after a banging overtime
Marks is everything NASCAR needs: a natural leader, intelligent and articulate, who will be here for years to come. And while Trackhouse has come out strong this season with Suarez and Chastain, its owner has kept things in perspective by routinely preaching about the need to build a culture of believing in the mission and being a cohesive unit.
Nothing Marks does comes without great thought. He is passionate about racing and very bullish on the future of the sport. A former driver, Marks spent as much time honing his skills behind the wheel as he did studying trends and looking at the sport’s future. So when NASCAR announced a new business model with charters and then a new car, Marks saw it as the right time to get involved.
But he didn’t jump right in and expect greatness. Marks aligned with Richard Childress for Trackhouse’s debut season, knowing that it didn’t make sense to invest in the sport’s current infrastructure because it was changing. He saw no need for a fab shop and felt with Next Gen that teams could eventually stand independently without needing a big campus and deep engineering staff.
Marks is a disruptor in the racing world. Those who didn’t already know that saw it when he partnered with rapper Armando “Pitbull” Perez. They were reminded of it when he bought out Ganassi.
“Trackhouse is an investment in people,” said Marks. “The thing is, I’ve really believed since Day 1 this car delivers an opportunity for these companies to feel like real teams and to really invest in teamwork, and the No. 1 and the No. 99 work together, and everybody feels motivated and empowered.
“The pitch was, ‘Let’s build a great team together, let’s do all of this together.’ That was the inside of the building pitch. The outside of the building pitch is, this sport is ready for challengers. It’s ready for disruptors. It’s ready for people to come in and challenge the status quo and how we do things; have some fun, look good. Try to be fast, win races, have a good time doing.
“And I’ve always been authentic about my mission. I just take a lot of pride in seeing everybody’s smiles and happiness today, and so the pitch was just let’s do something great together.”
Marks and company continue to leave no doubt they will do just that.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Trackhouse Racing: Ross Chastain gives start-up NASCAR team first win