Former NASCAR driver Justin Marks is starting a new Cup Series team called Trackhouse that is planning to start as soon as ’21 and will have a unique cause-marketing focus around promoting STEM education, Marks revealed to THE DAILY. Sources said Marks was a bidder for the Leavine Family Racing team assets that were eventually sold instead to Spire Motorsports. Marks said he is planning to go racing next year and is currently in talks with different teams to try to acquire a charter and strike an alliance to buy cars and share technology. Marks’ vision is to build a team that “is going to be able to serve America’s minorities and underrepresented youth population” with a mobile experiential STEM program that will travel to different public schools and other community groups in markets around the country. Marks, a 39-year-old entrepreneur who owns the GoPro Motorplex near Charlotte, said his family foundation is going to use investment capital to fund 50% of the operational budget of the team in the first year, and he’s looking for sponsors to fund the rest — although he says he has a unique offer because sponsors will get 100% of the promotional assets since he will not be promoting his personal brand or businesses. Marks says he already has a “nationwide family entertainment business” that is coming aboard as a sponsor.
MOVING UP: Marks has dabbled in ownership at the NASCAR K&N and World of Outlaws levels, but he says that the Cup Series “represents the pinnacle of North American motorsports, so … it made sense to define success as being able to do it at that level.” Marks is partnering with longtime motorsports exec Ty Norris, who has prior stops at Michael Waltrip Racing and Spire Sports & Entertainment. Marks says that that the barrier of entry has been lowered for team owners, specifically how NASCAR is trying to make for a cheaper team ownership model in the coming years with the introduction of the Next Gen car in ’22, which will have significantly more single-source supplier parts that teams will buy instead of having to build themselves, so teams will not have to hire as many employees. The team has not yet found its HQ, but Marks made clear that he is trying to break the mold of teams being based in industrial parks, and instead wants to build a smaller but more fan-friendly interactive shop in a downtown area of a city. He added, “We really want to wipe the slate clean of the traditional model and create a lifestyle entertainment company that competes in sport but does so much more.”
TIME TO SHINE: Marks says his pitches to sponsors have been well received because “it’s a good time in America to make a commitment like this” to STEM-related cause marketing. Marks: “There is more and more pressure on corporations to invest in the community and to make investments in minority, under-represented communities along with energy sustainability, responsible governance, all those things. So what we want to do with this race team is satisfy that need and create a meaningful platform where partnering with our team can be cause and impact marketing.” Marks said he has built out an activation program for Trackhouse to interact with more than 10,000 kids a year through its STEM activation program, which it will take to markets that NASCAR races in in the days before race weekends. Marks said he has had some early discussions with drivers about racing for the team but the talks were not yet advanced.