Marks had "some difficult conversations" in the wake of latest Chastain incident

Matthew T. Thacker/NKP/Motorsport Images

Marks had "some difficult conversations" in the wake of latest Chastain incident


Marks had "some difficult conversations" in the wake of latest Chastain incident


Justin Marks spent his Monday having difficult conversations in the aftermath of Ross Chastain colliding with Kyle Larson at Darlington Raceway.

The Trackhouse Racing founder made clear to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the organization supports Chastain, but there are things to clean up. Chastain leads the NASCAR Cup Series points standings but lost an opportunity to win on Sunday at Darlington when he turned himself up into Larson off a restart with six laps to go as they battled for the lead.

“Ross drove a great race,” Marks said. “He made good decisions in the first and second stages in not racing guys super hard, letting a couple of people go, just kind of managing that give and take and everything. And then it all kind of fell apart at the end.”

Chastain and Larson had been trading blows over a few restarts before the crash. Wanting to push Larson up the track and squeeze him near the wall, Chastain ended up making contact with Larson and getting turned across the nose of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He finished 29th after leading 93 laps.

“(If) Ross clears Kyle and makes that pass and wins throwback weekend at Darlington seven days after getting into a scuffle on pit road, the guy is a legend,” Marks said. “He’s got the skill to do that. He’s got the ability to do that. The result was just bad. It was just bad for everybody. It was bad for Hendrick, it was bad for Chevrolet, and it was bad for Trackhouse and Ross as the points leader.

“This has been my life (today). We have addressed it. We’ve had many conversations with different people today – some difficult conversations and I think the important message here is that we are a believer in Ross’s talent. That’s obvious.

“He’s very fast. But he’s got some things he’s got to clean up, I’ll be totally honest with you, and we today started the process of more aggressively handling that with our partners, with Ross, and with our team. Not because we’re necessarily mad at him, but there is so much opportunity here, and we are addressing it.

“I’m going to take a more active role in it. I love the kid and I love the opportunity of giving every single person that works at Trackhouse to be able to put a championship run together. But there’s just stuff that needs to be cleaned up, and it’s a process he’s going to have to start going through sooner rather than later.

“We are very supportive of him, we’re very supportive of this team, and we are addressing it.”

Some of his peers have scrutinized Chastain over the last year about how hard he races. On Sunday night, Rick Hendrick, Larson’s owner, said Chastain does not have to be that aggressive and if nothing changes, it will be hard to win a championship with so many enemies.

Larson and Chastain, pictured at Talladega, have come together more than once this season. John K Harrelson/Motorsport Images

Hendrick also addressed the common denominator of both drivers racing for Chevrolet, sternly saying that he’s told the manufacturer it doesn’t matter if Chastain is driving a Chevrolet because if he takes out a Hendrick car, he will get it back. The Hall of Fame team owner wants his group to hold its ground regardless of the competitor.

Cliff Daniels, Larson’s crew chief, also mentioned Chevrolet in his heated comments on the No. 5 car radio. Daniels said, “Good job, Chevrolet,” and referenced three races Chastain’s actions have affected Larson (Talladega, Dover, Darlington).

“The fact of the matter is, a huge part of what Trackhouse is able to do on the racetrack is fundamentally not only our relationship with Chevrolet but with our key partner teams at (Richard Childress Racing) and Hendrick,” said Marks. “We all work hard together to try to make the Chevys go fast, so when you look on the racetrack, and you see the speed Trackhouse has that’s not 100% Trackhouse speed.

“We can’t own that speed 100% because a lot of that speed comes out of a working relationship with RCR and with Hendrick, where we’re all communicating and putting data and information, and ideas onto the table together.

“Ultimately, we are partners. We don’t want to see our partners or anybody have really bad days – people that we work with – have bad days off the front of our bumpers. It makes those conversations difficult, and I think it’s at a point where today, specifically everybody in that partnership group has weighed in, and I have worked hard to try to do the best job that I can do.”

Marks said his week will continue to be about relationship management. He also revealed he’d received calls from individuals with other manufacturers to offer their thoughts on Chastain, who everyone admits has talent and potential.

“There’s a lot of emotions; emotions are high in the 24 hours past, but it doesn’t threaten our relationship with those guys now,” Marks said. “But they have to know we are working on it. That we’re not sitting here going, ‘Oh that’s him. Deal with it.’ We’re not at all.

“But we have to be doing the work now to make sure there is a market and noticeable improvement there so we don’t lose the opportunity that we have as Chevrolet and Hendrick and RCR has, and all the Chevy team has.”

Chastain, per Marks, understands what happened on Sunday and said there were good discussions between the driver and owner.

“He’s got a lot of speed, obviously,” Marks said. “We’ve just got to clean this stuff up so we can really put together a championship race team.”