Before the Trackhouse Racing Team makes its NASCAR Cup Series debut with Daniel Suarez in the Daytona 500, team owner Justin Marks has made a slight detour in Pensacola, Florida to compete in the Snowflake 100.
The Pro Late Model is similar in appearance to the one that was unveiled to the media two months ago with a revolutionary approach best described by the team’s official credo.
Central to the Trackhouse Racing Team is a commitment to making an impact on youth in America’s minority communities. Through a sizable contribution from the Marks Family Foundation, as well as support from the team’s partners, Trackhouse will design and execute an immersive STEM education initiative aimed at exposing America’s underrepresented youth to career opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Using the spectacle of NASCAR racing as a curriculum platform, Trackhouse will work with school districts, community organizations and youth groups to build the most impactful roadmap for those who are inspired to pursue STEM careers.
Central to that cause is that Marks simply loves motorsports and wants to contribute to it in every way possible.
Marks, 39, has spent the past two decades as a driver in numerous categories and has earned victories in World Challenge, IMSA and the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Simultaneously, the lifelong race fan previously served as the co-owner of the HScott Motorsports NASCAR Pro Series team and helped launch Kyle Larson’s Sprint Car team in 2014.
In recent months, Marks began dabbling in Late Models, joining forces with Willie Allen after he moved to the Nashville area. He made a Super Late Model start at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway over the summer and now turns his attention to the biggest short track weekend of the year in advance of the Great American Race.
“I mean, I love participating in all different kinds of motorsport events, obviously,” Marks said. “I had a lot of fun when I raced this car at Nashville and really wanted to do more of it.
“Obviously, I’ve been really busy lately, and haven’t had a lot of time to drive, but I wanted to come down and do this. I originally thought about doing the Snowball Derby, but I’ve only driven one Super Late Model race in my life and only a handful of Pro Late Model races.
“Those were different tracks out west, and on a different tire, and so it was kind of a smarter play to come down this year and race the Snowflake. I really want to do the Snowball next year.”
Marks has enjoyed his time in the short track community thus far, and it’s why he’s starting to invest back in it with greater regularity, especially since he ‘quote, unquote’ retired from driving.
“So, I tested here like 10 days ago and now I come back and like an entire city has been built around this place,” Marks said. “It’s incredible. It’s one those events that has the buzz around it.
“And even though it’s only Wednesday, I can tell there’s a lot of excitement and I ready to see how it grows through the week. I’m just excited to be part of one of the great motorsport event of America.”
He attended the Snowball Derby 10 years and vowed to come back as a competitor, but had his hands full. Even now, preparing for a full-time Cup Series campaign, he’s busy, but the relationship with Wallie Allen Racing (WAR) is what made it all possible.
“Willie runs such a great operation,” Marks said. “They’ve got great people and the equipment and the cars are ready to go.
“But here’s what it comes down to for me: You can’t let your work swallow you up so much that you don’t have an opportunity to experience races like this and remind yourself why you do what you do to begin with.
“I love driving race cars, and I love going to great racing events, so I personally try to find a work-life balance, and that’s why I’m here.”
Marks said he’s gotten a few friendly jabs about being retired but cited that Tony Stewart has run over 500 races since he’s stepped away from NASCAR. His focus is on building TrackHouse into a Cup Series winner, but being at Pensacola comes back to that work-life balance.
He met his wife at a race track and they’re vacationing this week around the race.
“I don’t have any interest, really, in racing NASCAR or any of the big sports car stuff,” Marks said. “I’ve had that experience and it was a great experience, but it ran its course. I’m committed to building a great company with Trackhouse.
“I’ll always drive something, just like Tony. So, I suspect I’ll be doing more of this as time allows and making sure that I continue to sample the goods, so to speak, until no one will have me in their race cars anymore. This is a lot of fun for me and I think we’ll be doing this kind of thing for a long time.”