Justin Marks was frustrated.
Outbid on three different charters he tried to secure in 2020 for his Trackhouse Racing team, Marks had to take a step back and look at things differently. Then Marks and team president Ty Norris went to work.
“I told Ty, let’s not lose sight of where there might be charters or business opportunities for Trackhouse where nobody is looking,” Marks said. “A lot of these owners are toward the end of their careers, and I was just thinking, maybe there’s somebody out there that is ready to make a change, is ready to step away or ready to move on and focus on other things.”
Marks started with Chip Ganassi because the two have a relationship. Not only has Marks known Ganassi for quite some time, but won in a Ganassi car in a 2016 Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio.
Marks was confident he could pick up the phone and see what Ganassi had to say. He made the call in mid-April.
“He was wonderful,” Marks said of the initial phone call. “He was charming. He just said, ‘look, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve got a lot of projects going, I’ve got a lot of future projects in the pipeline right now, and I’m always willing to have a conversation with somebody who has a desire to talk to me about what’s going on. About what your vision is for the future.’ He was great. He was wonderful.”
After hanging up, Marks bought a plane ticket and flew up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He spent the day with Ganassi, which included lunch at Ganassi’s favorite seafood spot. Marks didn’t leave thinking a deal would happen but wanted to have the conversation to see where Ganassi stood.
The deal for Trackhouse Racing to purchase Chip Ganassi Racing’s operation was finalized last week. Wednesday morning, Ganassi informed his employees before the public announcement.
Trackhouse will take control of the Ganassi assets, including equipment and assets, at the end of the racing season. The organization will expand to fielding two full-time cars (a second driver alongside Daniel Suarez is TBA) in the NASCAR Cup Series and operate out of the current Ganassi shop in Concord, North Carolina.
Marks anticipates a continuation of an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. Trackhouse Racing is based on the Childress campus, with Suarez’s cars built on the Childress shop floor.
“They have a lot of resources that they’ve made available to us that’s allowed Trackhouse to have some of the great days that we’ve had,” Marks said. “We’re sitting two spots out of the playoffs right now, and a big part of that is RCR opening their doors to us.”
Terms of the deal were not released, and neither Marks nor Ganassi would take about them.
“I’m not leaving motor racing,” Ganassi said. “Instead of being in a NASCAR race, I’ll be at a sports car race or an IndyCar race or Extreme E race or something. I’m still in racing. There’s a lot of other racing out there.”
Ross Chastain and Kurt Busch are competing under the Ganassi banner, and both are in contention for playoffs spots. Marks said that both drivers would be considered for his second car.
Ganassi began fielding Cup Series cars in 2001 and has won some of the sport’s biggest races, like the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. However, Ganassi has never captured a NASCAR championship, and the closest he came was in 2001 when Sterling Marlin finished third in the standings.
Any perceived lack of success played no role in Ganassi’s decision to sell. When Marks came calling, Ganassi talked to his closest advisors and sought different feedback. The Ganassi team was never explicitly for sale, but Ganassi admitted that Marks made a great offer.
“It’s never easy to stop doing something you’ve been doing for 20 years, I wouldn’t think,” said Ganassi, who admitted he would miss the camaraderie of NASCAR. “I wouldn’t call it easy.”
As the torch was passed with Wednesday’s announcement, Ganassi spoke highly of Marks and his outlook as a team owner.
“It reminds me a lot of myself 20 years ago, and that’s the kind of energy you need, and that’s the kind of vision and thought you need,” Ganassi said. “You need to think outside the box. We all get closed down into worrying about what’s next week’s race. It’s nice to have somebody come in with some fresh thought.”