Long: New generation of NASCAR Cup car owners already making an impact

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Justin Marks admits the move was “calculated but ambitious.”

After he lost bids on three different charters last year and could only lease a charter this season, Marks took a different approach to securing his organization’s future.

He’d buy another Cup team.

Such is the mindset of a new wave of Cup car owners, who will transform the sport with ideas backed by healthy bank accounts and, in some cases, world famous partners.

Marks called car owner Chip Ganassi about two months ago to lay the groundwork to purchase Ganassi’s two-car NASCAR operation — a deal announced Wednesday.

The transaction is part of a dizzying change in Cup team ownership and leadership in the last year.

“It’s fresh blood, and fresh blood is good for any industry,” the 63-year-odl Ganassi said of the recent movement.

Marks, 40, and Kaulig, 48, have been at the forefront of the changes.

Marks said Trackhouse Racing will operate from Ganassi’s race shop in Concord, North Carolina, next season but still has hopes of moving to Nashville, Tennessee, for the 2023 season.

Kaulig entered the sport as a sponsor, then became a car owner in the Xfinity Series in 2016 and will have a full-time Cup operation next year, following the mantra that built his LeafFilter North, Inc. into a $1.5 billion corporation with 130 offices in the U.S. and Canada:

“Either you continue to grow or you begin to die.”

Those words are on the wall at Kaulig Racing as a daily reminder.

Also seeking to grow is 23XI Racing. The new team co-owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin seeks to expand to a second car as soon as next year, giving Bubba Wallace a teammate.

Jordan’s presence is making an impact off the track, Wallace said this past weekend at Pocono Raceway after his first top-five finish of the season.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps chats with 23XI Racing co-owner Michael Jordan at Pocono Raceway (Photo: Dustin Long)

“He’s hooked,” Wallace said of Jordan, who was at Pocono for both Cup races. “Having Michael Jordan hooked to NASCAR is huge and that’s getting a lot of other big names hooked as well and that’s what the sport needs.”

So is Pitbull, the world renowned entertainer and co-owner of Trackhouse Racing with Marks.

“Michael Jordan was somebody I looked up to and I still apply his mentality not only when I play ball, but in life,” said Armando Christian Perez, better known at Pitbull.

Now he’s competing against Jordan and also seeking to bring new fans and new ideas to NASCAR.

“I’m always looking at things that people are not looking at,” Pitbull said. “Therefore, that to me, is we’re living in a world of followers and likes. I like to be a leader, unique, and make a difference.”

These new owners face the challenge of upending stalwarts Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Richard Childress Racing among others. Each continues to be led by its namesake. Hendrick is the youngest of those four car owners at age 71. Childress is 75, Gibbs is 80 and Penske is 84

Hendrick Motorsports has Gordon in position to take over the organization whenever Hendrick decides to step away.

“I’m really excited about this challenge and this role,” Gordon said. “I feel like I’m at the place in my life where I’m really, ready for it. And most importantly, I’m just fortunate to work side-by-side with a guy that’s shown us all how to do it right for so many years and will continue to do that for a number of years to come.”

Said Hendrick: “The two things I love in my life other than my family is the car business and racing. I’ve been fortunate to be able to make a living doing both of them. I don’t see retiring any time soon.”

If so, he soon could be dueling new car owners for wins on and off the track.

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