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.”

2019 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award finalists announced

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Comcast has announced the three finalists for this year’s Community Champion of the Year Award, which recognizes the philanthropic efforts of individuals within the NASCAR industry.

Through the award Comcast has donated $600,000 to 15 different NASCAR-affiliated organizations to honor their efforts and help further the impact of their causes.

The three finalists are:

  • Artie Kempner, NASCAR on FOX Coordinating Director and Co-Founder of Autism Delaware
  • David Ragan, Cup Series driver and Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children
  • Mike Tatoian, President and CEO of Dover International Speedway and USO Delaware Chairman

The award winner will be selected by a panel composed of Comcast and NASCAR executives, as well as defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano, who won the award in 2018. Comcast will award $60,000 to the winner’s affiliated charity, and $30,000 to each of the two remaining finalists’ selected charities.

The winner will be announced Nov. 14 at W. South Beach Hotel in Miami in conjunction with the NASCAR Championship Weekend.

Artie Kempner (Wilmington, Delaware) – In 1998, a small group of parents got together in the living room of Marcy and Artie Kempner’s house in Wilmington, Delaware. The Kempner’s had three boys and their middle son, Ethan, had been diagnosed with autism a year earlier. All of the parents at the table had children on the autism spectrum. That gathering was the beginning of Autism Delaware and Artie became the group’s first president. The organization started as a simple support group, but 20+ years later it’s a statewide service agency, fielding more than 1,500 calls from families annually, offering lifespan services, as well as social and recreational program for families in a safe and welcoming environment.

Kempner’s work on the Drive for Autism Celebrity-Am Golf Outing, helped the group raise the necessary money to launch its critically acclaimed adult vocational and employment program known as POW&R, Productive Opportunities for Work & Recreation. Now in its 11th year, POW&R assesses an individual’s strengths and vocational goals, and matches them with community-based employment, volunteer and recreational opportunities. Today, the program serves over 150 adults with autism in paid employment.

David Ragan (Unadilla, Georgia) – Since 2012, Front Row Motorsports driver David Ragan has been dedicated to supporting Shriners Hospital for Children as a part of their ambassador program. Ragan spends much of his off-time visiting hospitals, fundraising, as well as inviting patients to the race track for once-in-a-lifetime experiences at NASCAR events. Ragan’s passion for the hospital goes beyond just the bare-minimum appearance, he makes an effort to remember each patient’s name + story and will continue to stay in touch long after he meets them. Ragan knows the children and families he meets are likely struggling and wants to do what he can to put a smile on their face. His association with the Shriners, as well as being a Shriner himself, has not only brought attention to the hospitals and the great work they are doing, but has increased donations from race fans and team partners. Many people aren’t aware of the great work that the Shriners do, but Ragan has been a strong voice for them for the past 10 years and has changed countless lives because of his great work.

Mike Tatoian (Dover, Delaware) – Mike Tatoian has been a staple of the Delaware and mid-Atlantic charitable communities, particularly with local military organizations at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base, since he began his tenure at the “Monster Mile” in 2007. One of his longest commitments has been with United Service Organizations. Established during World War II, the USO supports U.S. service members wherever they are, including on-base, deployed abroad, passing through an airport or in local communities at more than 200 locations around the world. One-particular duty that distinguishes USO Delaware is it’s the only USO in the world that shares the responsibility of bringing home fallen service members, working alongside other units such as the Air Force Mortuary Affairs, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, the Joint Personal Effects Depot and the Families of the Fallen. For 13 years, Tatoian has assisted USO Delaware with countless programs and currently serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Council for the organization.

NASCAR America’s The MotorSports Hour live at 5 p.m. ET

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s The Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Krista Voda is joined by Parker Kligerman and AJ Allmendinger as they discuss the major storylines in multiple racing disciplines, including NASCAR.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch 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.

Clint Bowyer returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday afternoon that it has extended its deal with Clint Bowyer through the 2020 season.

Bowyer, 40, will drive the No. 14 Ford for a fourth season after joining the team in 2017.

Bowyer joins teammate Aric Almirola in recently renewing deals with SHR.

The news comes after Bowyer made his 500th career Cup start last weekend at Talladega and ahead of the Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC), which is Bowyer’s home track.

“I’m proud to be back with Stewart-Haas Racing next year and very happy to announce it the week leading into my home race,” Bowyer said in a press release. “This is a team filled with racers who love to compete, and as a racecar driver, it’s exactly where you want to be. Great equipment, great teammates, and we’re all backed by great people, which starts at the top with Tony and Gene. They know how to build some fast Ford Mustangs and I’m the lucky guy who gets to drive ‘em.”

Said team co-owner Tony Stewart: “Clint Bowyer is a racer to his core who brings passion and energy to our race team. He’s exactly who I wanted to drive my No. 14 car and we’re very happy to have him continue with Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Bowyer enter’s Sunday’s race facing elimination from the playoffs. He is 11th in the standings and 24 points behind the cutoff line to advance.

Through 31 races this year Bowyer has no wins, seven top fives and 15 top-10 finishes.

Xfinity Playoff primer for Kansas Speedway

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Did you miss the Xfinity Series last weekend?

While Cup and Truck Series teams battled it out at Talladega Superspeedway, Xfinity teams were enjoying a much deserved week off after 15 straight weekends of racing.

Now it’s time to go back to work this weekend at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC),as the Round of 8 begins. Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway complete the round.

Here’s how things looks for the eight remaining playoff drivers.

TOP GUNS

The second round begins with the “Big 3” of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick still holding sizable points advantages over the rest of the field.

In the reseeded standings, Bell is 48 points above the cutline and leads Custer (+36 points) and Reddick (+30). Bell and Custer padded their playoff point totals (62 for Bell and 50 for Custer) with their respective first round wins at Richmond and Dover.

Reddick (44 playoff points) will try to rebound from a lackluster first round where he only had one top five (Charlotte Roval) and finishes of 10th and 12th.

Bell earned his first career Xfinity win at Kansas in 2017 but was eliminated in a wreck on the first lap of this race last year.

While Custer was also involved in the Lap 1 crash and finished 26th, he rebounded in the Texas race to earn his first win of the year. Entering this weekend he has finished 10th or better in the last seven races.

“I think we need to go in the same way we have all year and that mentality is that we will have one of the cars to beat when we unload,” Custer said in a press release. “All year we have had speed off the truck and that has shown in practice speeds along with our seven wins. If we keep our heads up at these tracks that haven’t been kind to us in the past, then our luck is sure to turn around at some point and our goal is for that to happen this weekend in Kansas.”

NEEDING A LITTLE MORE

Outside the prolific “Big 3”  – who have won 19 of 29 races so far – the most consistent drivers this season have been Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

Cindric (+3 points above cutline) remains the only non-“Big 3” Xfinity regular with more than one win this season. He earned the most points in the Round of 12 with 146.

Allgaier (-3 points from cutline) is winless in his last 37 starts. He earned the second most points in the first round with 145. In this round last year, his best result was fifth at Texas, sandwiched between a 38th at Kansas (Lap 1 wreck) and a 24th at ISM Raceway.

Briscoe (-4 points) enters Kansas with tops 10s in 12 of the last 13 races. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver finished ninth or better in all three first round races.

“We’ve been running pretty well recently and have really shown a lot of speed, so hopefully we are fast right out of the box when we get to Kansas,” Briscoe said in a press release. “We have had two straight poles (Charlotte and Dover) and probably should have had two wins in those races. It’s all about sealing the deal now and capitalizing on the speed that we have shown these last few weeks. I feel like Kansas and Texas are my two best tracks in this round and we’ll look to have a couple great runs, ideally a win, and get ourselves in solid position for the championship round.”

WORK TO DO

The last two spots in the Round of 8 are occupied by JR Motorsports’ Michael Annett and Noah Gragson.

This is the deepest in the playoffs that Annett (-8 points) has reached since returning to the Xfinity Series (two visits). He had two top 10s in the first round and has not finished worse than 15th in the last 13 races.

Outside of Allgaier, Gragson (-12 points) is the only other remaining playoff driver without a win this season.

He had one top five in the first round (fifth at Charlotte Roval) and two seventh-place finishes.

Playoff standings