Justin Marks is more than a part-time driver

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For Justin Marks, no two weeks are the same.

One week, the 34-year-old is in Knoxville, Iowa, with the World of Outlaws team he co-owns with Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson.

The next, he’s in Mid-Ohio, driving the No. 42 Chevrolet for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi. His second Xfinity Series race of the year, he finishes 15th.

Then it’s on to Virginia International Raceway. Competing for a Lamborghini team, he and a teammate both earn podium finishes. The race ends under caution, the leader rolling across the finish line with a flat tire.

“We didn’t get lucky there, but two podium finishes is all right,” Marks told NASCAR Talk in a phone interview, later saying, “All seat time is good seat time.”

Marks says this on Monday, five days before once again driving the No. 42 car at Road America. It will be his fifth Xfinity Series race in two years.

“I probably get more excited and focused on these races more so than I have traditionally the last few years when I’ve been running full-time or close to full-time,” Marks says. “Because it’s only a couple a year and it’s at tracks that are sort of my specialty, road racing.”

The Other Job

When not doing all of the above at the track, Marks “plays accountant.”

GoPro Motorplex
GoPro MotorplexStreeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images

Marks can be found at his office at the GoPro Motorplex, a go-kart facility in Mooresville, N.C. There, instead of dealing with terms like “loose,” “tight” or  “off-throttle time,” Marks works with “auditing expenses,” “doing the books” and “accounts payable.”

It’s the terminology that comes with operating the Drylake Group, “an investor and a creator of businesses in sports entertainment,” which owns the Motorplex. It also owns Kartsport North America, an importer and distributor for the largest go-kart engine manufacturer in the world out of Italy.

In December, Marks, who has 50 career starts in NASCAR’s top three series, added another bullet to his resume: co-owner of HScott Motorsports’ K&N Pro Series East team. He’s the co-owner with Harry Scott Jr., who also owns two Sprint Cup cars and the No. 42 Xfinity car.

HScott Motorsports’ current form came out of the remains of Phoenix Racing in 2013, but Scott had previously been co-owner of Turner Scott Motorsports with Steve Turner. Marks drove for the team in two Xfinity races in 2014.

“When Harry came in, getting to meet him and getting to know about his approach to the sport, I ended up having a lot of respect for that,” Marks said. “When Steve Turner exited the sport, that created an opportunity there at a number of different levels.”

That included the K&N team, which has five drivers, including Rico Abreu and points leader William Byron.

William Byron in his K&N Pro Series East car.
William Byron in his K&N Pro Series East car.Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

“I started talking about seeing if there was an opportunity for me to get involved in the ownership side to start learning more about what it takes to run an effective business in the sport and it was just a good level to come in and get involved.

“Racing is fairly simple at that level. You don’t have big, multi-million dollar sponsors and contracts and huge personnel and work forces and all that. And it’s just a good group of guys who worked together and had been working together efficiently, so it was kind of plug-and-play for me.”

Marks was once a young, aspiring driver like his five K&N charges. He caught the bug while living in St. Louis when his grandfather, who lived near Fort Madison, Iowa, took him to dirt tracks.

Marks’ setting changed in 1989 when he was 8. His father, Michael Marks, had been working at a small phone company when he answered the call of the wild west.

“In much the same way aspiring country singers move to Nashville or aspiring actors move to Los Angeles, my father recognized very early on that Northern California and Silicone Valley was sort of the next place to be a hotbed of innovation and growth,” Marks recalls.

Without a job waiting for him, the elder Marks packed his family into a Volvo and drove more than 2,0oo miles to Menlo Park, Calif. There, he bought a “tiny house” and began looking for a job.

Over the next 20 years his father helped grow multiple companies in the technology industry. For much of the last decade, the Marks’ family business has been investing in private equity.

It was in California, after exposure to NASCAR at Sonoma and IndyCar at Laguna Seca, that Marks jumped into racing. At 16, his first ride was a 1969 Dotsus 510 in the Sports Car Club of America, a long ways from the dirt track racing he saw in Iowa.

“It was really, really slow … but it was really cheap to go run,” Marks said.

It was in college, halfway through his third year at California State University, that he chose to commit to the racing life, signing as a BMW factory driver.

“I decided I was going to just focus on that and college would always be there,” said Marks, 14 credits shy of graduating. “I ended up racing for 10 years after that and then building these businesses and never went back.

“I don’t have a degree on my wall, but I don’t regret it either,” he says.

Now Marks’ part-time racing career helps build the foundation for his business ventures, including the K&N team.

“It brings, I guess, a fresh perspective or a relevant perspective to the competition side of those businesses because I’m in the seat and I’m involved with the sport at that level,” Marks says. “From an experiential standpoint, I have the opportunity to coach the kids a little bit and kind of share my experiences in the car and try to impart a little bit of advice.”

Harry Scott Jr.
Harry Scott Jr.Bob Leverone/NASCAR via Getty Images

As a young team owner, veteran driver and a business owner, he watched as Michael Waltrip Racing announced it won’t field a full-time Sprint Cup team next year.

Marks says he would love to own a competitive Cup team, but not if that involves sacrificing everything he’s built in his career.

“It can be a very fickle sport,” Marks says. “Everybody has to be on the same page and realize that there is a small group of people that are making the finances available for us to run this company and we all understand if that changes, if they find different partners or find different ways to spend their marketing money, we could be in a position where it’s difficult to keep our doors open.

“You learn a lot about the person from spending the time with them, knowing how they speak about people, how they treat their employees and what about their personality has made them successful and I think that’s all you can do.”

NASCAR America: Aric Almirola replaces grim Kansas memories with fond ones

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The 2017 crash in the spring Kansas Speedway that seriously injured Aric Almirola and kept him from competing in seven races that season continues to define his career.

“Breaking my back was obviously not in the plan,” Almirola said in an interview on NASCAR America. “I didn’t anticipate ever being injured in a racecar. Everybody always thinks, ‘that’s not going to happen to me.’ ”

But it did and each time Almirola returns to Kansas – like he will Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC) – he is met with memories of the accident that will not go away. That’s because his crash continues to be part of the highlight reel for this track as one of its most dramatic moments.

As it turns out, his thoughts about the track have become fond ones.

Later in 2017, Almirola finished ninth in the fall Kansas race after finishing fifth the week before at Talladega. He finished ninth again this spring.

“Something that really stuck out to me there is how his perception has changed,” Parker Kligerman said on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Sometimes you have drivers who ascend to the top very quickly and they don’t have, maybe, a respect for what they’re doing and what they’re getting to do week in and week out. And when they’re … forced to watch the sport from another angle and … just observe, a lot of time they come away being faster, better, more appreciative.”

This week, Almirola goes to the track with an even better feeling after winning last week’s race at Talladega.

For more, watch the video above.

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Kansas Cup race could make elimination era history

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NASCAR is five years into the elimination era of the playoffs and a bit of history could be made with Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

The Cup Series enters the second-round elimination race with five different winners in the first five races.

There has not been six different winners to begin the playoffs since the elimination era began in 2014.

The five winners so far have been Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas), Kyle Busch (Richmond), Ryan Blaney (Charlotte Roval), Chase Elliott (Dover) and Aric Almirola (Talladega).

The last three races have each seen a driver earn their second career Cup win.

This five-race stretch only saw one win by a member of the regular season’s “Big 3” with Busch’s victory.

Martin Truex Jr. has gone 12 races since he last won at Kentucky Speedway. Kevin Harvick is winless in the eight races since his Michigan victory.

But with the arrival of Kansas for the elimination race chances are good to the two drivers could make playoff history.

Harvick claimed the win in the May Kansas race, leading 79 laps from the pole. Three of his seven wins this year have come on 1.5-mile tracks.

If he wins Sunday, Harvick will also continue his six-year streak of winning in the playoffs, which is the longest active streak.

Truex will try to defend his win in this race last year, which completed a sweep of the Kansas races. He also finished second to Harvick in May’s race.

Of Truex’s four wins this season, he has only one on a 1.5-mile track. But of his 12 wins since 2017, eight have come at mile-and-a-half tracks.

“As far as why we’ve been good there (at Kansas) over the years, I’m not sure,” Truex said in a press release. “It’s a place where I really feel comfortable. Have had chances to win multiple races there over the years with different teams even. It was one of the places I was successful at before Furniture Row so for whatever reason it just points towards my driving style and my comfort level, what I like in my race car and it just seems to work out well there.”

MORE: Truex looks to rebound at reliable Kansas

Here are the winners of the first six races in the first four years of the elimination era.

2014

Chicagoland – Brad Keselowski

Loudon – Joey Logano

Dover – Jeff Gordon

Kansas – Joey Logano

Charlotte – Kevin Harvick

Talladega – Brad Keselowski

2015

Chicagoland – Denny Hamlin

New Hampshire – Matt Kenseth

Dover – Kevin Harvick

Charlotte – Joey Logano

Kansas – Joey Logano

Talladega – Joey Logano

2016

Chicagoland – Martin Truex Jr.

New Hampshire – Kevin Harvick

Dover – Martin Truex Jr.

Charlotte – Jimmie Johnson

Kansas – Kevin Harvick

Talladega – Joey Logano

2017

Chicagoland – Martin Truex Jr.

New Hampshire – Kyle Busch

Dover – Kyle Busch

Charlotte  -Martin Truex Jr.

Talladega – Brad Keselowski

Kansas – Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kansas preview, Pete Pistone

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and gives you a final preview of this weekend’s races at Kansas Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut. They will be joined by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Pete Pistone.

Tune in to get the latest on Chip Ganassi Racing deciding to appeal the penalty against Kyle Larson‘s team from Talladega.

Also on today’s show:

Aric Almirola had one of the feel good moments of 2018 with his victory last weekend at Talladega. In his own words, Almirola tells the story of how his Kansas crash 17 months ago put him on the road to where he is today.

— As NASCAR America prepares for its 1,000th episode tomorrow, we’ll show you some of the best moments from our first 999 shows. Today, we’ll feature the best of the NBCSN iRacing Simulator. Parker then hops in the sim to show us what challenges await the Playoff drivers at Kansas.

— Carolyn and Parker also reveal their Kansas fantasy picks for this weekend.

Tune in after the show for the latest episode of the “Dale Jr. Download” at 5:30 p.m. ET.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Chip Ganassi Racing appealing Talladega penalties against Kyle Larson’s team

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Chip Ganassi Racing announced Thursday it will appeal the penalties brought against Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 Chevrolet after Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR confirmed the appeal will be heard Friday at 8:30 a.m. CT at Kansas Speedway. Here is a primer on how the appeals process works.

During a postrace inspection, NASCAR found that team violated Section 10.9.9.d in the rulebook, which notes: “Damaged vehicle repair, regardless of how the damage occurred, is permitted to have original body parts removed or reattached in their original location with fasteners and/or tape only.”

The L1 penalty, which was announced Wednesday, resulted in Larson losing 10 driver and owner points. His car chief, David Bryant, also was suspended for a race. Crew chief Chad Johnston was fined $25,000.

Chip Ganassi Racing was granted a deferral of Bryant’s suspension. He will be allowed in the Cup garage Friday until a decision has been reached by the appeals commission.

The team issued a statement Thursday afternoon:

“After reviewing the penalty, the rule and the procedure that we used during the race in Talladega, we feel strongly that we did nothing wrong.  Subsequently, we have decided to appeal the penalty.  Despite going through the appeal process, we will do everything in our power to keep our team focused on the race this weekend in Kansas and the balance of the season.”

With the loss of 10 driver points, Larson will enter Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC) 11th in the standings and 36 points back from the cutoff spot to advance to the Round of 8.

With or without the penalty, the race still is essentially must-win for Larson.