Monday, May 23

Justin Marks - Press Conference GEICO 500

THE MODERATOR: We're moving on to the race-winning owner, Justin Marks.

Justin, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on that second win. Take us through the final laps from your spot on the pit box.

JUSTIN MARKS: I wasn't on the pit box. I was on the bus. I was trying to keep my world a little quiet at the end. These things end up being so circumstantial at the end of the races.

What was interesting about this race, and we talked about this in the bus about 15 to go, everybody is in a single file line. We're all kind of cruising. Everybody is thinking about what they're going to do at the end. Then you see a whole bunch of plans try to be executed at one moment. But they don't all jibe with everybody else's plans. It's just madness.

I really liked where Ross was. He was painting the bottom, being patient, riding with some Chevrolet friends there. When things got crazy, Ross is in a spot right now where he's making pretty intelligent decisions.

I mean, I'm a fan alongside the other 150,000 people here on the property at the end of the race just cheering for my guy. He did a great job.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Justin.

Q. Ross won this race with patience. Did you think he would win a race with patience?

JUSTIN MARKS: That's a very, very interesting question.

I've said this a number of times. Ross has spent a number of years in his career fighting every lap of every race because tomorrow wasn't given because next week was not guaranteed.

I've seen and continue to see so much talent in him that my goal was to put him in a position where he didn't have to do that, where he had some job security, he felt like he could build this team around him.

I told him this year that if he slowed down a little bit for me, just took a deep breath, slowed down 5%, that we can do great things. I think that's where that comes from, right?

He's now comfortable in his job and skin, understands and knows this team is being built around him. He can take a breath, be more calculated, not try to get it all right now in this moment.

I think at a place like Talladega, there's equity in that. You have to be really intelligent and cerebral about how you approach the end of these races. He just did a perfect job today.

Q. You have two wins. How do you start preparing this team for a significant Playoff run? Do you not even start thinking about that?

JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I don't even think we begin to have those conversations. I mean, I think that we're here today, and we were where we were at COTA, the races leading up to COTA, just because we have a process that works. I think we just have to fundamentally stay committed to that process.

I think when you start talking about Playoff strategy, how you're going to mount a run for the championship, that kind of mental bandwidth is reserved I think at this point for the teams that have been there a long time, right? That's something that Gibbs talks about, Hendrick, and Penske talk about.

Trackhouse is so new, we can't start thinking that way. We just have to focus on what we're doing every week, just the execution of what we're doing every week, that's putting us in that position.

Obviously we're contending for wins week in and week out. We just have to commit to that. I don't think there's going to be any conversation about Playoff strategy for the foreseeable future.

Q. The objective in this sport is to win anywhere you can. Talladega, there's a certain cultural hold, mystique. As you continue to build Trackhouse, what does it do for your team as an organization, as a brand, to have staked your claim to having won at this racetrack?

JUSTIN MARKS: That's a great question, an important question, because Talladega is so important in the history of this sport. It's hallowed ground.

We were flying in here 10:00 this morning looking at all the campers, all the people here, going, Man. I flew with Tim Dugger. He said, When I close my eyes and think about America, I picture Talladega Superspeedway on NASCAR weekend.

How important this place is for Trackhouse, a new team. Obviously we won at COTA, sort of a new track. To come to hallowed ground like this and win, I mean, winning at Talladega, it's just incredible. It's incredible.

Q. I know you're not thinking about how to manage the Playoffs yet, but where does Ross fit in right now in terms of title contenders? Only a couple guys with two wins.

JUSTIN MARKS: Things can change really quickly in this sport, right? We have a lot of momentum right now. Everybody is doing a great job bringing fast race cars to the racetrack. Things can change quickly, right?

Other teams, other manufacturers, they can find something really quickly. We've seen Tony Stewart do what he does through summer stretches, through the Playoffs. Resurgence or momentum can sort of come from anywhere, at any time.

I'm being honest when I say that "Playoffs" isn't a word that's uttered in our building at all. We still have to go to a lot of tracks with this race car that we've never been to before. We still have a lot to learn. We're committed to the process of learning this car, figuring out the right approach to this car.

I'm being totally honest with you. We don't talk about that at all because it's so new, everything is just so new. We're just trying to do a good job every day, you know what I mean?

Q. This morning Trackhouse Racing announced another new partner for the 2022 season and beyond. How much inventory, if any, do you have left for 2022 available?

JUSTIN MARKS: We don't have any left in '22. Honestly, we probably don't have anything left in '23. We've got a lot of momentum right now. What we're doing is resonating with a lot of people. We're authentic, we're real. Obviously we're winning, which is important.

This is a great sport. I mean, this is a sport where companies can come in and they can build brand awareness, they can grow their business. We're just trying to position ourselves at Trackhouse as the most viable place for companies to come and do that.

I take a lot of pride in bringing two new companies to the sport, not only Worldwide Express, but Jockey that we announced on Monday. Tootsies, all the other stuff we have going on.

I just think that what we're trying to do here is being successful, because I think this is a partnership-based business, and the partners are seeing that Trackhouse is a great place to be.

Q. Two wins in 10 races. You call yourselves disruptors. That's quite a disruption in the sport. Is that what you expected at the beginning of the season?

JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I mean, I get that question a lot. My answer to that is, you know, all of us would not have put the work in to starting Trackhouse to just be here also, right, to be here, try to contend, try to do this.

We're trying to establish ourselves, Trackhouse, as a company that can contend for championships in this sport for decades to come.

I would say that the expectation was that we would be here, but it's happened quickly. Obviously it's happened very, very quickly.

What comes with that, a lot of responsibility comes with that, too. Like I said earlier, it's not going to be like this forever, right? There's going to be a trough that we go through. There's going to be times when -- and it can happen at any point -- other teams are strong, other OEMs are strong. We have to build a strong foundation so when those headwinds come, we can navigate them. We're not a flash in the pan, we're not, Remember when Trackhouse showed up and they were good for this period of time.

That fundamental work comes in just establishing what's working right now, which is the fact we're building a great culture. Everybody that works for Trackhouse loves working for the company, they're excited about this car, they're excited about the opportunity. That ends up being speed in the race car I believe with this new car. So yeah.

Q. (No microphone.)

JUSTIN MARKS: No, no. I had success, right? But my goals in 2022 were not in numbers of wins, points positions, one car makes the Playoffs. It was, and continues to be, making sure every week we get better and that we invest in each other and we learn this race car and we constantly improve. Those are the goals every week at Trackhouse, right?

The wins are nice, the results are nice, but that's a by-product of the work we put in Monday through Friday. That just continues to be where we focus our attention.

Q. Do you think of yourselves as a model organization for any new ownership groups coming in?

JUSTIN MARKS: I hope so. I mean, I think that an element of what Trackhouse is doing feels a bit of a responsibility to do everything that we can to elevate the sport, right, to amplify the sport, to be good stewards of the sport.

If we're doing great things out there, and it attracts people to emulate or inspires new ownership or other teams to do things, then I think that's all good, right?

Everybody says, I spent a ton of money making the haulers look good, right? People have come up and said, Your haulers look awesome, haulers look amazing.

In a way it doesn't really matter. But it does matter, right? If everybody comes in and goes, Your haulers look incredible, if that inspires every other team in the series to get super creative with how they manage their branding and their optics, and how they wrap their haulers, their pit boxes, their toolboxes, it's sort of a rising tide. Raises all ships.

Trackhouse exists fundamentally because we freaking love NASCAR racing, love it. I love it. Like, I want to do something in this sport that's great for Trackhouse. If I can contribute something that inspires all the other teams, new owners, then great, awesome, c'mon.

Q. Your relationship, friendship, with Kid Rock, how did that come to be? What is his involvement with the team?

JUSTIN MARKS: He just hangs out because he likes to go to the races. He's just riding our coattails (laughter). I'm kidding.

We have a great partner in Tootsies. That partnership is so much more than just a bar on Broadway. Steve Smith, who owns Tootsies, owns Kid's Rock, Honky Tonk Central, Rippy's, The Diner. He's a major hospitality powerhouse in Nashville. So being able to be partnered with somebody like him really brings the Nashville connection to what we're doing. Bob is a huge supporter and friend of what we're doing. Obviously him and Steve have that honky-tonk, Kid Rock's Honky Tonk on Broadway.

It's the power of Trackhouse in that town a little bit. People just love it and want to be a part of it.

Q. Chip Ganassi Racing only got two wins in its final two seasons. Since you brought over pretty much a majority of people who worked under that banner, different car, do you measure what you're doing now compared to what Ganassi was able to accomplish in its closing days?

JUSTIN MARKS: It's easy to do that. That's pretty low-hanging fruit. In a time of transition you're trying to measure yourself against what was before.

But honestly, I don't really think about it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Chip Ganassi. I mean, I've raced for him for a number of years. I've been inspired by watching him and his teams race.

Things are just so different. I mean, we've kept a lot of people, but it's an entirely new culture. The building looks different. We have this new car, new schedule.

That doesn't really ever come to mind just because we're just trying to do -- our business strategy, our business model, is just so different.

To your point, it's important to recognize, Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing, they have some ownership in this win and in our win in Austin. We have so many people that work for Trackhouse that worked at Chip Ganassi Racing, out of that building and everything.

But, you know, Trackhouse just can't compare to Chip Ganassi because what we're doing is just so different.

Q. I confirmed with Andy Pitre today the No. 33 skull car sitting at Trackhouse is the one that got the four wins in September of '91. What drove you to get that car?

JUSTIN MARKS: I'm a huge fan of the sport. I want to be a steward of the sport's history and the sport's future. I'm fortunate enough at my house to have a Tim Richmond Blue Max Racing suit hanging on my wall. Liz Allison gave me one of Davy's suits from '93 that I have in the house.

If Trackhouse can make investments to help preserve the history of the sport, that's kind of what we want to do. We want to honor the history of the sport.

Mr. September, here again, won all those races in that car for Andy Pitre. I told Andy, If you ever want to sell that car, I'll buy it. It's sitting right there.

I want NASCAR -- I want to ask NASCAR if they'll let me take a couple laps in it at Darlington on throwback weekend. I haven't asked that question yet, but I'm asking it now (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: We'll make sure it gets to the right spot.

Q. You've been preaching about balancing, building the culture. You know other teams are coming. How do you balance allowing your organization to enjoy and celebrate these successes but not getting too high?

JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I mean, I think celebrate it quick and get over it quick, right? After we won COTA, I told Ross, we were doing a bunch of media in the shop Tuesday afternoon, I'm like, I'm over Texas. I'm all about Richmond right now.

Just like we're all going to be, what's next, Dover, we're all going to be Dover this week, right?

I think it's what I've said about the fact that we're super, super committed to just the day in and day out process. Our model of doing the work. That's proven to be successful.

It's a challenge. I mean, managing success is every bit as difficult. There comes a lot of responsibility with success. That means committing fundamentally to what got you there and the process of getting there, not expecting to be the team every week. Just basically us waking up, going to the shop on Monday morning, going we could suck at Dover this weekend, both cars could suck. The competition is out there to crush you every single week. That's kind of how we think.

Q. (No microphone.)

JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, for sure. That just comes with how we support each other and how we manage the narrative in the shop of just going, We're doing something special here, but it's an exercise in managing expectations too, because we have a lot of experience at Trackhouse. We're a new team, but we have a lot of experience.

The cumulative experience of people that work for this team is hundreds of years in this sport. There are a lot of people in the company that would say, We've been on this ride before, too. We've won races, then just gotten crushed for a while.

We're all doing a good job of how we manage the highs and the lows. I don't think we get that low, and we don't get that high. Today is fun. But this week we'll be focused on Dover, know that's an entirely different challenge again.

Q. Armando missed another win.

JUSTIN MARKS: When Armando said, I'm going to be at every race, that was an expression of passion, not scheduling, right? Look, I mean, it's Pitbull, right? He's touring, recording songs, releasing a song in two weeks, they're doing a bunch of press around that.

I promise you that I will again call him this week and give him a bunch of shit for missing a race because he needs to be in Victory Lane with us.

Q. Has anyone heard from him?

JUSTIN MARKS: Oh, yeah, we were on the phone with him in Victory Lane.

Q. An update on your plans for Nashville. Now that you're in the Ganassi shop, you're changing things, where does Nashville stand?

JUSTIN MARKS: Look, the idea very, very early on was to try to build a race team based out of Nashville. That was the strategy when we were just shopping for a charter, then shopping for a charter became an acquisition of Chip Ganassi Racing, which changed from building a company in Nashville to uprooting a company and moving it to Nashville, which was no longer viable, especially the relationship we have with Chevrolet and the tech center they're building in Concord.

Trackhouse is more than a racing team. It's a brand where we're trying to inspire, we're trying to activate in the intersection point between entertainment and motorsports.

We talked about it today. We had a number of conversations. It's very much still in the business development strategy to have a brick-and-mortar presence in Nashville. It's a matter of figuring out how that looks with our goals scaling as a race team.

A lot of it's up in the air, but Nashville is so important to us. I think we've got some momentum in getting something special going there.

Q. How vital and how important has Ty been to just the infrastructure, the organization? Obviously his résumé suggests he's done this before.

JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, thank you for that.

Ty was the first person that I called when I really needed to have a meaningful discussion about what my ideas for this vision was. I needed to bounce it off of somebody that's seen the highs, the lows, people come and go.

How many times have we seen in this sport, somebody comes in, they're going to be the next great thing, it ends up not working out. I was business partners with Harry Scott for four years, right?

When I called Ty, I said, Look, I have this idea, it revolves around this new car. I need like a real bullshit meter. I need somebody to tell me this is a bad idea.

Ty saw it really, really quickly. He's been instrumental because he knows so much about how this garage works, about how this business works. He continues to contribute so much to this company because he just has such a great understanding of how the sport works.

But he's also at a point in his life where he's not getting any younger, he's about to be 57. He sees Trackhouse as his swan song in the sport. He worked for Dale Earnhardt, NWR, and Toyota. I think he gets really excited about this Trackhouse project really challenging him. Everything that he's done in his life, that final kind of thing in his career that he really makes an impact in this sport.

He's a soldier, super loyal. The guy works way harder than I ask him to work. He's super, super vital to us.

Q. He said everybody has brought up the glory days with Jeff and the 3 car. He said right now these are the glory days, he's going to look back on it like that.

JUSTIN MARKS: I love hearing that. I want everybody that works for this company to feel like they've got a great job and feel like they're doing important work.

Q. We talked in L.A. about when you were first brought onboard, overriding the underdog mentality. You said you're no longer the underdog, you're a contender. Could you provide me insight into that conversation, how important that was into getting into a championship mindset?

JUSTIN MARKS: I'm going to answer that first and then let you have the stage because I'm going back to Nashville.

ROSS CHASTAIN: Can I go with you?

JUSTIN MARKS: Yes. You got to talk quick, can't do the long answers.

I don't even remember the question.

Q. (No microphone.)

JUSTIN MARKS: Thank you.

I met Ross 10 years ago, 10 or 11 years ago. I'm a huge, huge fan of his talent. What I told him when the Ganassi acquisition happened, when I offered him the job, was that Trackhouse sees an opportunity, that my goal for Trackhouse, what it's doing, is an opportunity to be great in this sport, and you are a championship driver.

I've seen the whole time I've watched him race, raced against him, watched him come up, this is a championship-contending talent at the NASCAR Cup Series level, period. This new car represents an opportunity for us to make a statement quickly to where if we came in with a Gen-6 car, the Gen-5 car, we're up against teams that have so much engineering depth and money. Now we're all kind of playing with the same ball. I say if we can build a team around this ball, give you control of it, we can really, really do great things.

So it's like we're not an underdog in the sense that I feel like we can go on any weekend and win. But I have so much respect for these organizations that race in this series. We can't come in here and say, We're better than Hendrick or Gibbs.

Like I said earlier, any one of these teams have so much talent and engineering depth, at any point they can find momentum and we can get knocked back a little bit and have to find our way out.

I do believe that Trackhouse is here to stay, we've arrived, and what we're doing is investing a lot of money, time, and resources into establishing ourselves as a championship-contending team for decades to come.

THE MODERATOR: Justin, thank you.

JUSTIN MARKS: That was the short answer (laughter).

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