Justin Marks has called time on a career that has produced memorable wins in sports cars and NASCAR.
The 38-year-old Missouri native contested more than 400 races over a 20-year span, capturing numerous victories, including a class win at the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona, an Xfinity series win for Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio in 2017, and took his most recent trip to victory lane with Meyer Shank Racing at IMSA’s Sahlen’s Six Hours at The Glen. Marks’ run to 12th at the 2018 Daytona 500 driving for the under-funded Rick Ware Racing outfit ranks among the other key accomplishments in an incredibly diverse career.
“These things kind of just run their course,” he told RACER. “Honestly, my career for really 15 years has been kind of half in stock cars and half in sports cars — just back and forth, back and forth. Last year, I made the commitment to end my NASCAR career, and was still enjoying my time with Meyer Shank Racing in the Acura NSX, and didn’t really want to completely call it, just because I felt like I had some races left to win in that thing, in that car.
“I just I feel super, super fortunate to be able to end my racing career on my terms, because I’ve got so many friends that are just so incredibly talented and should have successful careers, but due to funding issues or whatever it is, their racing careers have fizzled out against their will. So I recognize just how lucky I am to be able to just say that I’m walking away.”
From 150hp Mazda MX-5s to 850hp NASCAR Cup machines, Marks’ time behind the steering wheel will be remembered for his versatility and willingness to accept new challenges.
“I’ve gotten to do a lot — when I started this journey, all I wanted to do was try to find enough money to race one SCCA race in a Datsun 510, like that’s it,” he said. “I just was like, ‘Man, if I could just drive in one race.’ It was the biggest goal in my life.
“Fast forward 20 years, and I won the 24 Hours of Daytona, raced in the Daytona 500, won a bunch of sports car races, got to drive for a lot of great teams. I’m not 40 yet, but to have two decades of professional racing under my belt is an incredibly fortunate thing and it was never my desire to drive cars until retirement age.
“It was my desire always to drive race cars until I felt like it had run its course and I was ready to reinvent myself and transcend and do something new. And it just kind of hit me really hard in the last 12 to 18 months that, that time’s just about come.”
Marks intends to focus on a number of businesses he’s started, along with continuing to work with a few charities, and don’t be surprised if his name appears on future entry list in NASCAR as a team owner.
“Well, there’s a lot of things that I’m interested in, a lot of things that I’m passionate about,” he said. “I have my businesses in North Carolina, which continue to grow and do well. I’ve recently become interested in potentially pursuing a career in team ownership — which you know has to be a viable opportunity for me to start pledging a lot of time and capital and assets to it. There’s still some things in racing that I’m interested in doing, but I’ve also got interests very much outside of racing.
“I was just in Nepal last week, spending some time in the Khumbu Valley, which is over by Mount Everest, on some non-profits stuff that we’re doing. And, and I was just thinking, to be able to reflect on a career in a very difficult industry where I started out knowing nothing and nobody, and going through the process of gaining experience, developing talent, and then having success is a process that I want to go through again somewhere.
“It’s just kind of like that quote, ‘At the end of your life, if someone wrote a book about your life, would anybody want to read it?’ And I’m just trying to write an interesting book.”