NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Though NASCAR teams (which are nearly all headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina) traditionally have no regional fan bases, Trackhouse Racing essentially has adopted the Music City as its home.
Though only three of its 130 employees live in Nashville, Trackhouse still has a major presence there. Tootsies, one of the ubiquitous bars that form the neon-drenched “Nashvegas” scene on Lower Broadway, is a team sponsor. Team co-owner Justin Marks and president Ty Norris form the Nashville-based braintrust that has turned Trackhouse into the biggest story of the 2022 season as drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez have qualified for the playoffs with breakthrough victories in the Cup Series.
After buying the assets of Chip Ganassi Racing last year, it became readily apparent that Trackhouse would be unable to become the first major Cup team based outside the Charlotte area since Furniture Row Racing (which won the 2017 championship from its shop in Denver, Colorado).
In addition to Ganassi’s two charters, Trackhouse also took ownership of a 140,000-square-foot shop adjacent to the Concord, North Carolina airport and more than 100 people with homes in North Carolina.
“Nashville is very important to Trackhouse,” Marks told NBC Sports in a sitdown interview (held at Tootsies) that ran during Sunday’s NASCAR on NBC prerace show. “We run our business out of Nashville. But everyone else is in Charlotte because we’ve got to put cars on the racetrack. The idea of the early days was to acquire a charter, build a team from scratch here in Nashville. We put an all points bulletin out to the sport saying, ‘We’ll pay for your moves, build a shop in Nashville, build a NASCAR team.
“That’s actually what I really wanted to do. Well, things changed when Chip Ganassi and I had this conversation about the acquisition.”
There’s no arguing with Trackhouse’s success this season as Chastain in particular has exhibited championship-caliber consistency while competing against stalwarts such as Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske.
But even if its results had been less than sterling, Trackhouse would have been hard-pressed to relocate – especially with Chevrolet opening a new technical center in the Charlotte area this season.
“You can’t take a company that exists and move it very easily, especially in our sport,” Marks said. “A big part of the fact that we had a huge commitment from Chevrolet. We’re fundamental partners. It just became obvious to us that the actual racing operations had to stay in Charlotte, but we’re also building a brand and have a lot of really exciting things in the pipeline, from a brand and marketing standpoint that we’re working on right now that are going to be quintessentially Nashville based.
“So my hope is that Trackhouse grows into a bigger, bettter Cup Series team based in Charlotte, but that bigger stuff will be run out of Nashville.”
Trackhouse is in its second year after being formed last year by entertainer Pit Bull and Marks.
“I grew up in an entrepreneur household,” Marks said. “My father started businesses. That was always something that fascinated me. But my heroes were always race car drivers, so I wanted to drive.”
After pursuing a driving career (which included an Xfinity Series victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2016), Marks shifted into becoming a racing businessman. After opening the GoPro Motorplex go-kart track in Mooresville, North Carolina, and owning a minor-league NASCAR team, Marks decided to take the plunge on a Cup team after learning about the details of Next Gen.
“NASCAR announced they’re bringing in this new car, and all of a sudden I saw an opportunity to go Cup racing in a way that we could be successful and build a brand,” Marks said. “The barriers to entry had come down a little bit. I went and flew to Daytona with Ty Norris, and met with Jim France and said, ‘Is this car real? How are you going to officiate it? What’s the vision for it?’
“I walked out of that meeting and (said) my driving days are over. It’s all about Trackhouse now.”
Marks, Chastain and Suarez sat down at Tootsies last week with NASCAR on NBC’s Marty Snider for the interview during the prerace show on Peacock for Sunday’s Nashville Superspeedway event.