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A vision realized

Wait a second.

Sitting at his home office desk in California, Justin Marks stopped whatever he was doing – can’t remember, didn’t matter – and grabbed the closest pen and paper. If NASCAR is developing a next-generation stock car, one that is more financially friendly, this could be his ticket into the sport’s ownership world.

Head down, pen poised, the mental wheels started spinning.

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Nascar Cup

“What is a race team?” Marks said, recalling the moment. “Forget about everything you know about racing or everything you thought about racing, and just go: What are we doing? What are we doing during the week? What are we doing during the year? And when you take a step back and look at it from that level, we are designing and manufacturing high-performance automotive parts.

“To me, that’s not a race team.”

Marks started drawing, like he always does when inspiration strikes. A visual thinker, he needs to see the complete picture, not just imagine it. So he sketched what a traditional Cup Series team looks like – the organizational and operational pillars of the company – and then created his vision.

A race team, to Marks, should be like any other sports enterprise: a marketing platform. It should have its own brand, known on and off the track. It should be interactive with fans and an asset to communities.

Looking at the two team models side by side, Marks knew the key to transitioning from one to the other is this new NASCAR chassis. Resources that currently go into engineering research and technology can be reallocated into non-competition areas, such as business development.

“OK,” Marks said. “Let’s start working.”

RELATED: 2021 Trackhouse season preview


That was in 2019. Marks announced the formation of Trackhouse Racing Team in October 2020, and its No. 99 Chevrolet is set to make its official debut in the 2021 Daytona 500 on Feb. 14 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM). The Next Gen car will take over garages in 2022.

Marks brought NASCAR veteran Ty Norris on as Trackhouse’s president of racing operations. Norris was formerly executive vice president and general manager of both Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Michael Waltrip Racing but had been away from the industry for at least six months – dabbling in the music world – when Marks approached him.

“The sport runs through my veins, and just like when you’re in a family, sometimes you know all the good and all the bad,” Norris said. “But this opportunity, Justin put a vision on the table for what a race team, what a brand should be, and he’s like, ‘Will you help me build this out?’ It gave me probably the most adrenaline I’ve had in 20 years since Dale Earnhardt asked me to help him build Dale Earnhardt Inc.”

Together, Marks and Norris handled further team logistics. Charter? Leased. Manufacturer? Chevrolet. Driver? Sponsors would follow a name.

But which name? Who was available? Who did they want?

Marks’ go-to pilot was Daniel Suarez. The two raced against each other in the Xfinity Series in 2016, the same year Suarez won the championship. The issue? Trackhouse would mark Suarez’s fourth Cup Series team in as many seasons.

“It was difficult to believe in another team,” Suarez said. “But talking to Justin, talking to everyone involved and seeing everything they have to make a successful program and a successful team, I decided to take a chance.”

RELATED: Daniel Suarez’s rise to NASCAR

Trackhouse’s higher-level personnel still wasn’t complete.
AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 08: Rapper Pitbull performs prior to the NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Marks added Armando Perez as a co-owner. Yes, the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Pitbull –  also known as Mr. 305 or Mr. Worldwide – is a NASCAR team partner.

“What I love about NASCAR is the ultimate underdog story,” said Pitbull, a first-generation Cuban-American. “I’m your ultimate underdog, you know. When you’re an underdog, you got a chip on your shoulder. You’re a fighter, you’re a champion, and you welcome failure. What I mean by that, failure becomes the mother of your success.”

A brand-new team at NASCAR’s highest level definitely qualifies as an underdog, and Trackhouse has 36 races to prove its first-year worth.

OK, so, four different men; one common goal.

“It’s just the desire,” Marks said. “I think it’s the love of racing, the love of NASCAR. But it’s the desire to do something new, exciting and different.”


The Next Gen car was originally supposed to debut in 2021. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced NASCAR to postpone its first on-track season to 2022.

When that decision was made, Marks paused, debating whether he, too, should delay Trackhouse’s timeline. It was only a fleeting thought.

Because if the Next Gen car impacts NASCAR the way it’s supposed to, the sport may forever be changed, and Trackhouse wants to be an immediate part of that change.HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - JANUARY 15: Erik Jones tests the Next Gen car at Homestead-Miami Speedway on January 15, 2020 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) | Getty Images

“If you look at the way NASCAR exists right now in the context of football, every team is designing their own football that only they get to play with when they have the ball,” Marks said. “Some teams have a lot of money to spend on designing a football that’s light, aerodynamic and fits the hands perfectly of that particular quarterback, and some teams don’t have that money.

“But what we’re going to do now, essentially, conceptually we’re all going to bring the same ball to the field. So then it’s going to be about how we’re all going to do the job and compete as athletes.”

Until then, Trackhouse has its partnership with Richard Childress Racing. That alone enables Trackhouse to utilize the technology, intellectual property, human capital and engineering RCR has developed over decades. It also adds Trackhouse to the Chevrolet fold with ECR Engines, which merged with Hendrick Motorsports.Suarez Chevy

The alliance will help jump-start Trackhouse in 2021.

“It’s the difference between trying to scale Mount Everest on your own or using experienced Sherpas,” Norris said. “We hired what we believe are amazing Sherpas to get us to the top of the mountain through RCR. Now, we still have to do the work, but they’re helping us get there.”

So is Spire Motorsports. Trackhouse is leasing one of Spire’s Charters until it can purchase its own. A Charter guarantees a team entry into all 36 races on the schedule.

CroppedcarThere are 36 Charters in the Cup Series. Every race allows up to 40 cars. That means four non-Charter teams – also called Open teams – can qualify to complete the field.

“Ideally, one day, Trackhouse is fully autonomous and on our own,” Marks said. “But we’re going to be intelligent about how we get there and spend our money wisely. You have to check the ego at the door to do that, but I don’t think ego is going to win us much races.”

And that’s the goal – always.

Suarez is still seeking his first Cup Series victory. After how last season went – no top fives or 10s to add to his career totals of eight and 32, respectively, that already prove he is capable of running among the leaders – he’s eager to get back out there. Some would say he’s hungry.

He would say 2021 is his year.

“Any time I get an opportunity to jump into a race car, I’m very, very excited,” Suarez said. “But I can’t lie. When you know that you have a competitive and fast car, you get extra excited because you know that you have a shot to win the race.”


With success comes recognition. Success can take time.

Trackhouse doesn’t want to waste any time when it comes to gaining support. Its goal was to garner attention and excitement the moment the team was announced. As a brand-new team, the surprise factor did the trick.

Another thing, Marks hasn’t been worried about gaining NASCAR fans. He wants Trackhouse fans.

Suarez Marks Video Image“When I first started thinking about NASCAR teams, I just thought a lot of teams are missing an opportunity to really create something that has equity with the fan base,” Marks said. “What I mean by that is, traditionally, the race teams have not really felt cool. What I want to do is build a race team that is a brand.”

A household name, more than a sports team.

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Suarez has his fans already. This will be his fifth full-time season at the Cup Series level. Safe to say, he’s fairly well-known within the NASCAR family.

See, there’s the kicker: NASCAR’s family includes those who already follow the sport. Trackhouse wants to attract those who don’t.

“It’s just like songs,” Norris said. “Sometimes you just need someone to listen to it, and it’ll touch people, even if it’s not the genre you’re accustomed to. All we want to do is have people who would not typically watch us, listen to us or pay attention to us, to just pay attention and see what we’re doing.”

This is a young, new team for the young, new generation of NASCAR.

Enter Pitbull. He’s known as Mr. Worldwide for a reason.

Pitbull is admittedly a NASCAR fan. Heck, he filmed NBC’s hype video for the 2020 finale, which happened well before the Trackhouse partnership was even revealed, and now he’s the 2021 opener’s Grand Marshal. Literally closed out one season only to commence the next.

But there’s more to Pitbull’s connection than fandom.

“The reason I got involved in this is because there was a greater initiative,” Pitbull said. “The greater initiative is what we need more than ever, especially in these times, and I’ll say it again: One race, one race only, the human race. If we can do it through music, through NASCAR – by entertaining, motivating and inspiring them – then that’s what I signed up for.”

Those are the words of someone who’s more than an ambassador. That’s just a bonus, especially for Trackhouse.

“We have people in the Middle East, Asia and all across the world who are fans of Pitbull and his music following Trackhouse right now,” Norris said. “We could not have done that on our own. The sport certainly has fans across the globe, but this is just another level.”

Then, to keep people around, Trackhouse has to build a bond with those who give it a chance. Right now, as COVID-19 precautions and protocols continue to limit in-person opportunities, that continues with active social-media platforms. The goal is to interact with followers, make them feel as if they are a part of Trackhouse.

Trackhouse fans aren’t just following the team; they’re along for the ride.

“This is a young, new team for the young, new generation of NASCAR,” Suarez said. “We want to build something cool, something competitive and something the next generations of NASCAR can connect with.”


The Next Gen of NASCAR is coming. It goes beyond the new car body.

NASCAR took a social step forward in 2020, and the sanctioning body has expressed its intent to continue down that path of change for the better. Marks appreciated that. It was a silver lining in a less-than-orthodox year.

Trackhouse intends to build on that and support causes outside of the sport.

“We don’t just race one week to the next to the next to the next,” Norris said. “We’re racing for a reason and taking advantage of the incredible national platform that is NASCAR. What can we do for good? How can we affect communities? And how can we affect young people? The vision has always been to help those who need the help the most. That is a life mission. It’s not a sports mission.”

A large part of the team’s formation announcement focused on Trackhouse’s commitment to make an impact for underrepresented youth by designing and executing an immersive Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program, one that uses racing as an educational spark.

This vision has always been to help those who need the help most.

The Marks Family Foundation is going to help with that initiative, but so is Pitbull. He wasn’t brought on solely to gain new fans. Pitbull has helped the SLAM! Foundation open 12 charter schools across the U.S., serving nearly 6,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade. SLAM! stands for Sports Leadership and Management. Now, Trackhouse can add a roadmap for those who want to pursue a STEM career.

“This is a revolution, taking a sport and creating a culture,” Pitbull said. “Because when we first opened SLAM!, we had brought a NASCAR car to SLAM! the first day eight years ago. If you would have seen the look on those kids’ faces when they saw that car, they had no clue that it was actually something that was tangible.”

And it is, regardless of background.

Having Suarez as Trackhouse’s driver is proof opportunities are out there. Originally from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national series event in 2016. He joined the Cup Series in 2017 at 25 years old.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 20: NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez poses for a photo during the 2021 NASCAR Production Days at FOX Sports Studios on January 20, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) | Getty Images“I’m extremely proud to be the driver from Mexico, the driver from a different background,” Suarez said. “I don’t feel that the sport could have found someone more committed to myself, my culture and my background.”

He has shown that, too. Suarez interacts with a tight-knit group of followers called Daniel’s Amigos who, in a non-COVID-19 world, travel to different race venues. Suarez’s Dia de los Muertos helmet also tends to be a yearly hit.

Trackhouse supports Suarez’s Latino passion. It’s not just the driver who wants to make a difference. It’s the entire organization.

“Everyone is really excited to work for a team that’s got a brand and a name that isn’t tied to one person,” Marks said. “It’s tied more to a story. It’s tied more to a vision.”