Column: Trackhouse in Nashville as NASCAR’s hottest team

Daniel Suarez (99) drives a NASCAR Cup Series car race at World Wide Technology Raceway, Sunday, June 5, 2022, in Madison, Ill.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Daniel Suarez (99) drives a NASCAR Cup Series car race at World Wide Technology Raceway, Sunday, June 5, 2022, in Madison, Ill. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

AP

Just a year ago an aggravated Justin Marks sat on the podium at the Nashville Superspeedway. Two days before that, he said he was blinded to learn that he was once again closed on the sale of two NASCAR charters.

He sat down next to Trackhouse Racing partner Pitbull, whoever the entertainer plugged into his upcoming tour “Ewan Ko Sa Iyo Pero Ang Sarap Ko”. The Grammy winner feels great: Nashville is whispering the long-awaited return of NASCAR and people are partying all over the city-proof to Pitbull that he is in the midst of a post-pandemic renaissance.

Does the charter matter to the NASCAR team? Don’t worry about Pitbull. He lets Marks run the business, while Pitbull helps raise energy around the new team.

Well, Mark found out. A year later, wow, does Trackhouse feel good.

The second-year team returned to the pseudo-home hot with Daniel Suarez’s first career victory. Only the fifth Cup Series winner to be born outside the United States, the Mexican sent Trackhouse the only off weekend in NASCAR’s 38-race schedule where both Suarez and Ross Chastain qualified for the playoffs.

You see, when Marks lost in June to those charters – Spire Motorsports sold them to others – he got tired of playing the game and he bought his life. He bought the entirety of Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR operations last July and he got himself not one but two charters and an organization with two decades of experience.

Trackhouse overnight went from startup to bona fide contender.

The team’s emergence centered on two underdog drivers who entered the top NASCAR series, then spent years searching for a team that believed they could win races.

At the end of the 2020 season, Marks selected Suarez, who was with his third different team in three years.

“I knew in 2020 that I had fallen to the bottom. In my mind, it couldn’t have been worse than that,” Suarez said of his one season with underfunded Gaunt Brothers Racing. “It was horrible on the racetrack, but it made me who I am now, it tortured me. I knew it couldn’t get any worse. After that, Trackhouse went to the table.”

Marks saw the potential and built the Trackhouse around Suarez and Travis Mack, a crew chief who said last week he was fired during the NASCAR off-week four years ago. Now he is on vacation as a first time winner.

Much has changed for a team in a calendar year, and Suarez is expected to announce a contract extension before the race on Sunday.

Marks still hopes to be Nashville’s hometown NASCAR team; his first plan was that Trackhouse would operate out of a downtown tourist area in 2023. The purchase of Ganassi’s turnkey operation changed the plan.

“That was the approach when we were just buying a charter, then buying the charter became the acquisition of Chip Ganassi Racing, which changed from building the company in Nashville to pulling out the company and moving it to Nashville, which is no longer viable. , ”Marks said.

Location is less important than what Marks and Pitbull are trying to build. Trackhouse is racing on Sunday with Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge re-sponsoring No. 99 Chevrolet by Suarez in a strong partnership between a popular Nashville establishment and a rising sports and entertainment entity.

Meanwhile, Jockey’s will debut in Chastain’s car for the first of six races as Trackhouse continues to add marketing partners to its portfolio and seeks creative opportunities to showcase its team. Trackhouse will host an hour of live pit stop on Thursday in front of Tootsie’s.

“Trackhouse is more than just a racing team,” Marks explains. “It’s a brand where we’re trying to inspire, we’re trying to activate at the intersection point between entertainment and motorsports. Having a brick-and-mortar presence in Nashville is still in the business development strategy. It’s a matter of figuring out what it looks like in our scaling goals as a career team.

“Nashville is very important to us. I think we have the momentum to have a special go there. ”

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