Justin Marks Buys Into Kyle Larson’s Vision for Racing

Justin Marks employs two drivers coming off breakthrough seasons. Kyle Larson works for the most successful team in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series. Racing fans are about to learn what they can accomplish in motorsports by working together.

Kyle Larson and Justin Marks had a busy 2022 season

Justin Marks is entitled to take a victory lap after the year his Trackhouse Racing team had in the NASCAR Cup Series. Ross Chastain (twice) and Daniel Suarez scored regular-season victories to qualify for the playoffs. Chastain then pulled off the racing move of the century by riding the wall at Martinsville for a quarter of a lap to barge into the Championship 4.

Chastain was in his first season at Trackhouse, having come over from Chip Ganassi Racing. Suarez became the organization’s original driver a year earlier. Together, Marks, Chastain, and Suarez made a second-year team the talk of NASCAR. There will be stiff competition from the likes of Richard Childress Racing and 23XI Racing, but Trackhouse enters 2023 as NASCAR’s best two-car operation.

As for Kyle Larson, 2022 didn’t go as well as hoped but was still productive. Larson didn’t match his 10 wins from the 2021 championship season, but only Chase Elliott and Joey Logano scored more than his three victories. Had it not been for a disastrous outcome on the Charlotte Roval, he could have gone to Phoenix with a chance to defend.

Still, Larson, a key part of the Hendrick Motorsports dynamo threatening to log its 300th win, will go into 2023 as one of the favorites to master Year 2 of the Next Gen car and secure a second championship.

Kyle Larson’s pet project gets a boost from Justin Marks

Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson and  Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks. | Getty Images
Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson and Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks. | Getty Images

Sprint car racing is big in Kyle Larson’s family. Though he’s easing up on his schedule this offseason, Larson is accomplished on the short dirt tracks and finished 26th in the World of Outlaws season despite appearing in only a quarter of the races because of his NASCAR obligations. Meanwhile, his brother-in-law, Brad Sweet, finished atop the points list after 59 top-10 results in 69 starts.

Larson and Sweet have been doing more than just racing together. They have formed High Limit Sprint Car Series, which made a brief dry run in 2022. The 2023 schedule is out, and it’s an ambitious 12 races across 10 states from late March to mid-October.

Further, it has $1.3 million in prize money. And now it has the support of Justin Marks. The Trackhouse Racing boss announced his first event sponsorship on Tuesday, revealing his role in Shane Stewart’s Heartland of America Presented by Trackhouse on April 11 at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The series’ first points race carries a $50,000 top prize and $140,000 total purse.

It was just two weeks ago that Marks’ organization unveiled Trackhouse360, a new division complementing the racing operations via merchandising, event promotion, and the creation of original content. Aligning with Larson says a lot about what he thinks of the driver and his business vision.

The new series is encroaching upon a major player

Sprint cars are a staple of small tracks around the country, and it’s the World of Outlaws series that holds much of the clout with competitors and promoters.

WoO runs a tight ship. Teams signing on full-time require permission to race outside its series. Even if there are few or no schedule conflicts that World of Outlaws executives see as an intrusion now, that might not be the case in the future as Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet inevitably expand the High Limit Sprint Car Series.

World of Outlaws, which is also up against a $1,000,023 first prize Tony Stewart is putting up at his Ohio track in July, has been boosting bonus and expense money since the start of last season and seems positioned to fight off a newcomer.

Rather than NASCAR vs. Formula 1 or IndyCar, racing’s potential fight could shape up as WoO vs. High Limit and play out along the lines of the schism between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. But whereas Greg Norman is far removed from past accomplishments and having trouble opening doors at U.S. country clubs, a team of Kyle Larson and Justin Marks likely won’t have trouble getting phone calls returned.

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected]