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Back in October of last year, Justin Marks made the jump into NASCAR ownership with the goal to reinvent what NASCAR ownership looked like. His Trackhouse Racing launched with big promises about how his business model would disrupt the sport and an unlikely celebrity co-owner in Pitbull. It was a big, splashy debut for a team with relatively small ambitions, and it could have easily been the last time the name Trackhouse was ever noteworthy. After half a season of success on track, it has become very clear that this is not the case.
On Wednesday, Marks and his co-owners (yes, including the guy with the catchphrase and the sunglasses) announced their acquisition of Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR program. Current driver Daniel Suarez will stay on as the driver of one of their cars. The team is fully committed to running a second entry, but that second driver has yet to be announced. In a team that has not had a serious new multi-car operation since Stewart-Haas Racing was created back in 2009, Marks is swinging for the fences.
It is a massive vote of confidence in NASCAR's Next Gen car, a new platform that will greatly change the way cars race and teams operate. The new car is designed in part to greatly reduce the variables that become major expenses for large teams, making the sort of technical alliances that dominate the current grid (like the deal Trackhouse has with Richard Childress Racing this season) less of a necessity for smaller programs. With a large percentage of the burden of building a unique, competitive car eased, the Trackhouse business model focused more on the marketing side of the sport than the competition side suddenly makes a lot of sense.
That is the model that put Trackhouse in position to race this season, and that is the model that has put them in position to expand to a two car operation next season. Their car, sponsored by companies ranging from Coca-Cola to an indoor skydiving company, has been selling sponsorship consistently off the promise that Trackhouse is a unique and memorable team on a grid filled with legacy programs interested in neither element. That consistent sponsorship has kept them fast enough to run a respectable 18th in the series driver standings. Now, that team is expanding to something that will have serious aspirations of winning races and contending for championships.
Chip Ganassi, a legendary auto racing owner in his own right, will still retain his legendary IndyCar and IMSA programs. His NASCAR operation will now be left in the capable hands of Justin Marks and Pitbull, two unlikely partners that may end up being the faces of the next era of NASCAR ownership.
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