April 17, 2021

Passion pushes Marks as driver, owner

Justin Marks drives Xfinity Series car, is K&N Series team owner

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Justin Marks has his racing roots in Iowa. Marks wears two hats as he comes into this weekend of racing at Iowa Speedway.

He is the driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Katerra Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 on Saturday. Marks also wears the hat of team owner of four cars in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, which will be competing in Friday’s K&N Pro Series East-West combination race.

The K&N Pro Series Casey’s General Store 150 presented by Vatterott College features East leader Justin Haley, who drives for Marks’ HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks team. Along with Haley are series rookies Hunter Baize, Harrison Burton and Tyler Dibbel. In the K&N East driver standings, Baize is sixth, Dibbel is seventh and Burton is eighth.

“My racing roots started in Iowa,” Marks said. “My passion for racing began as my grandfather took me to dirt track races all over the state of Iowa. My family lived in St. Louis, but my grandparents and extended family are from southeast Iowa.”

That passion continues to burn strong for Marks, which led to his collaborating with Harry Scott Jr. the past two years with a K&N Series team.

“The K&N Series is a valuable place for young drivers, who are following their passion for racing,” Marks said. “I’ve always been interested in team ownership and passionate about the business side of racing also. This team was an opportunity for me to spend time with young people embarking on their careers and help them realize their goals.”

Marks is focused first on driving in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 on one of his favorite race tracks — Iowa Speedway. There are two practice sessions Friday, qualifying Saturday afternoon and the race at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“We struggled at Iowa in June. We got through the race weekend then looked at it with our notes. I know what we were struggling with then, so we believe we know how to get the car balanced better for this weekend’s race at Iowa,” Marks said.

Marks is one of the drivers who raced on Iowa Speedway’s track when it was brand new. He said he ran an ARCA race in fall of 2006. Iowa Speedway held its first races at the facility in September 2006.

In 2011, Marks competed in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa. After 10 years of being a full-time driver in several different racing series, Marks said he went to part-time driving in 2012 to focus on building a career beyond driving.

“In 2015, I drove in several races, but this opportunity to be a full-time driver again with Chip Ganassi Racing was one I couldn’t turn down. My business interests have great people running the day-to-day operations and I felt I could devote more time to driving again,” Marks said.

Marks has 10 starts this season in the Xfinity Series. He shares driving duties in the No. 42 CGR Chevrolet with NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson. Larson and Marks co-own Larson/Marks Racing, a World of Outlaws Sprint Car team. Larson will drive for the sprint car team at the Knoxville Nationals, Aug. 10-13.

In June, Marks finished 18th in the Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway.

“Being away from oval racing for five years, I’ve had to reacquaint myself to them. We’ve had highs and lows this season as a team. The good thing is most of the tracks I drive on this season, I go to twice,” Marks said. “The first half of the season has been a learning session for me and we’re looking to run better in the second half of the season.”

Marks said he was looking forward to getting back on the Iowa Speedway track and have a better run. He said the size of the bumps on the track took him by surprise in June.

“I’m one of the few drivers I know who has come back a decade later to see how the racing surface changed and the track has matured,” Marks said. “After the June race, I realized how I need to handle the car over the bumps and we’re going into this race with a better plan, which will help me have a better outcome for the team.”

Marks said driving for a big team such as Chip Ganassi Racing is a tremendous opportunity. The team is into all levels of racing and has talented people working for it in all departments, he said.

“As a driver, to be able to have equipment that good every time you get behind the wheel is a great feeling. It is a lot of fun. It’s an opportunity as a driver to see just how good you are and where you need to be,” Marks said.

Battling on the track with Marks will be Xfinity Series leader Daniel Suarez, who had a 14-point lead over Elliott Sadler. Ty Dillon sits in third place and Erik Jones is in fifth. Rounding out the top 10 coming into Saturday’s race are Brendan Gaughan, Brandon Jones, Brennan Poole, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed.

Suarez and Sadler join Erik Jones as the only drivers to officially clinch spots in the 12-driver, elimination-style playoff that will be used in the Xfinity Series this fall. The drivers must start the remaining eight races of the regular season.

Jones has two wins (Bristol and Dover), while Suarez and Sadler have one each (Suarez won at Michigan, Sadler at Talladega). The seven-race Xfinity Series Chase opens on Sept. 24 at Kentucky Speedway.

Sam Hornish Jr. returns to Iowa Speedway on Saturday after winning at Iowa as a substitute driver for Joe Gibbs Racing in June. Hornish is back but driving the Richard Childress Racing No. 2 Chevrolet. Last year’s U.S. Cellular winner, Ryan Blaney is competing in the Sprint Cup Series.

“Coming out of a layoff of driving, I’m learning more and more each time I drive this season. This is a highly competitive series, and I love it,” Marks said. “This is what I’ve wanted to do since the racing bug bit me when I was young and going to the Iowa dirt tracks with my grandfather.”

Marks’ family moved from St. Louis to California when he was 8, but the desire to be a race car driver never faded. He said in high school, he decided to go to racing school. He began racing locally in northern California while he was in college earning a degree in sports marketing.

Marks drove for a Porsche racing team and a BMW racing team mainly in road course racing while living in California. In 2006, BMW decided to take a hiatus from racing, Marks said, and he made a big decision.

“I’ve always been a big fan of NASCAR and stock car racing. I decided to move to North Carolina to make a shift in my racing career. I’ve raced in ARCA, the NASCAR Truck series, the Xfinity Series and even had a couple of Sprint Cup starts,” Marks said.

“I love driving with speed and the challenge of taking a high-power, high-performance car and pushing it as hard as it will go. Racing is an incredible technical and mental challenge.”

Working with a diverse group of people in the racing industry is one of the great things about the sport, Marks said. He said he has been fortunate to race in different series and different types of cars.

All of that led up to him investing in HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks. Marks said he has been friends with Harry Scott Jr. and when Turner Scott Motorsports decided dissolve its K&N Series team, Scott and Marks saw an opportunity.

“We wanted the K&N East team to stand on its own, so I made the investment. This is our second season as a team. We had five cars and won the championship last year with William Byron and we’re leading the East right now with Justin Haley,” Marks said.

In 2015, the HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks K&N East team members were Byron, Scott Heckert, Haley, Dalton Sergeant and Rico Abreu.

“Justin has been a great mentor and owner for me in the past while I was in the K&N series,” Byron said. “I was able to learn from him not only on the race track, but with off track things as well. He runs a great operation and I’m glad that we could win the championship together in 2015.”

Byron and Abreu moved into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series — Byron with Kyle Busch Motorsports and Abreu with ThorSport Racing. Byron has won four races this season in the truck series.

“Driving for Justin Marks has been a huge asset in my racing career. Not only was Justin really helpful a season ago when I raced for his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East team and we were able to win a race at Columbus, but he is still a huge help today,” Abreu said. “I know if I have a question or need advice on something he is always someone that I can turn to and look for more information. Justin has been a huge help to not only me, but all of the up and coming drivers who have raced for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks. He is a great ambassador for the sport of NASCAR.”

Marks said as an owner his management style is to find good people and put them in position. He said he empowers those people to do their jobs and run the team.

“We have Mike Greci managing the K&N team and he does a great job. I just want to make sure they all have everything they need to be competitive. I check with the kids every once in awhile, making sure they feel good with the cars underneath them,” Marks said. “I just put the pieces together, step back and watch them do their jobs.”

Haley has two K&N Series East wins and Dippel has one victory this season. With four drivers in the top eight spots, HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks is running well on the circuit. It had four drivers finish in the top five spots of the East series in 2015.

“Justin has been a great team owner and friend since we meet in early 2015. The program he and Harry Scott Jr. built is beyond great and truly phenomenal,” Haley said. “He provides great cars for me to compete in the NASCAR K&N East Series. It’s cool to have a team owner that runs in the Xfinity Series to learn from and watch as a mentor. He’s built a great program to raise kids up through the grassroots of NASCAR and evolve them into NASCAR champions.”

Iowa Speedway presents one of the few times this season Marks is driving in an Xfinity race at the same track as the K&N Pro Series is competing on.

“I’ve gone and watched them race a couple of times this season. It will be great to be at the same track and see them perform,” Marks said. “Iowa is a fun place for me to race because racing in Iowa — dirt track racing — planted the seed in my heart for this sport. My family can come out and watch me do what I love to do.”

Marks is also the owner of The Drylake Group, which owns several successful businesses including the GoPro Motorplex, a premiere go-karting facility in Mooresville, N.C. and Kart Sport North America, an importer and distributor of kart racing products.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535
or jsheets@newtondailynews.com