Justin Marks busy in Nashville, presenting pole award; racing TA2 with Daniel Suarez

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NASHVILLE – Justin Marks’ extremely busy summer continued Saturday at the Music City Grand Prix, where the NASCAR Trackhouse Racing owner raced in the TA2 Series race with Daniel Suarez and presented the NTT IndyCar Series pole award.

Marks, who purchased Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR team June 30 and made more news this week in hiring Ross Chastain to drive its No. 1 Chevrolet next year, also is part of the ownership group for the Music City GP. He was joined in the Trans-Am TA2 race by  Suarez, who was tuning up on the 11-turn, 2.17-mile street course before driving his No. 99 Chevrolet for Trackhouse in Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

The presentation of the Bryan Clauson Pole Trophy was special for Marks, who scored his first (and only) NASCAR Xfinity Series victory five days after Clauson was killed in a USAC Midget race. Marks was driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, which also fielded Xfinity cars for Clauson.

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“Bryan was a friend of mine, and when the Grand Prix made the commitment to honor his memory with the pole trophy for the NTT INDYCAR Series race, I saw it as an opportunity to further the legacy that he’s had in racing and run a tribute car for him,” Marks said in a release. “It’s been a number of years since Bryan’s been gone, but his legacy remains alive and well. But, personally, it’s a big moment for me. He’s a big part of my story, and I have just so much respect for him and his family, and his father Tim, and everything they’ve done and continue to do in dirt racing. So it’s just a special, personal thing.”

“Bryan’s one of those guys who never really met a stranger. And from a racing standpoint, I have a tremendous amount of respect for multi-disciplinary drivers – guys who can jump in anything and can race and be fast in anything, and they just want to race and compete no matter what it is, and Bryan was that to a tee.

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“He raced in the Indy 500 and, when the race was over, he jumped in his car and ran a 410 Winged Sprint car that night. They don’t make drivers quite like that anymore, so he was a throwback, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for his talent and his ability, and he was a great human being. He always had time for everybody, really appreciated the opportunity that he had in his life, and that was reflected in his support of the organ donor program and trying to give back and realizing that he had a platform to make a positive difference, and he did so.”

In the Trans-Am TA2, Marks raced the No. 99 BC Forever/M1 Racecars/Fields Racing Chevrolet Camaro for Team SLR, which is owned by the father-son duo of Scott Lagasse and Scott Lagasse Jr.

Marks finished an impressive fourth after qualifying third. Suarez finished 26 laps down in 26th after an incident.

It marked the first Trans-Am street race since the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park, and it’s addition to the Nashville race weekend made it a no-brainer to enter for Marks.

“I’ve been a big believer of this event in totality since the first day I heard about it,” Marks said. “It’s going to be the first year of an event that I think is going to be very special and successful for a long time. It was easy for me to make the commitment to get involved from an ownership standpoint. And personally, driving in the event – I’ve raced basically full time for 20 years but, when I retired, it didn’t necessarily mean that I was going to stop driving. I still love driving from time to time when I have the opportunity to do so, and I love the Trans Am Series. Early on, when there were discussions about Trans Am being a support event to the Grand Prix, I had it circled on my calendar as it was one that I really wanted to participate in because I only live 20 miles away, and it was a great way to totally immerse myself in an investment.”

He also gets an opportunity to race for Suarez, who is in a multiyear deal with Trackhouse.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun on that new track,” Suarez said about Nashville in a release. “I am excited for it. Racing is cool and racing something new is really cool,” said Suárez, who qualified 13th. “I have wanted to run Trans Am with Justin for a long time and we finally get to do it this weekend in Nashville. Justin is really good as are a lot of the drivers in this race.”

Said Marks, who has discussed moving Trackhouse to Nashville: “Every advantage we can give Daniel in this era of no (Cup) practice, no qualifying is worth it. By getting him a ride in the Music City GP, he’ll be able to take the flag at Watkins Glen coming right out of two days of competitive road racing in a similar vehicle. And it’ll be fun for us to race together finally.”

Marks, who also has won the 2010 ARCA race at Palm Beach International Raceway, has road-course experience in Trans-Am but was making his TA2 debut.

“I just think it’s a great format for racing,” he said. “I like hung-body road-race cars, lots of horsepower, and the race formats are great. It’s a sprint race, but it’s just long enough to have an endurance element to it. I think it’s a great series, great racecars and a great format.”