Justin Marks worries a key next-gen benefit hasn’t materialized

Season 2 of life in the NASCAR Cup Series couldn’t have gone better for Trackhouse Racing. Part-owner Justin Marks’ team has already picked up two wins from Ross Chastain and one from Daniel Suarez, elevating the organization into the championship conversation.

It’s an amazing rise for a young team. The vision and execution of Credit Marks after the Chip Ganassi Racing takeover, as well as the organization’s ability to adapt to the Next Gen car better than anyone else.

Still, Marks sees a problem that can slow the trajectory. If NASCAR can’t resolve it in the coming months, then racing fans can say goodbye to the new Cup Series parity.

The Next Gen Car Fulfilled a Major Intent

Justin Marks, co-owner of TrackHouse Racing, during the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 on June 26, 2022, at Nashville Superspeedway. | Jeffrey Jacket/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Austin Cindric. Chase Briscoe. Ross Chestnut. Daniel Suárez.

This is the list of drivers who earned their first NASCAR Cup Series victory this season. Don’t rule out Tyler Reddick joining the roster in the next four months.

Eighteen months ago, betting on one of them breaking through in 2021 or 22 would likely have gotten the bettor odds of 25 to 1 or more. But this is year 1 of a new era in which the Next Gen car has leveled the playing field. Yes, Hendrick Motorsports still reigns supreme, but Trackhouse Racing has climbed into contention, and other new or lesser regarded teams have also been successful.

The new car arrived as part of a paradigm shift in which teams assemble parts supplied by NASCAR rather than manufacturing their own. We don’t have absolute parity, but the overall level of competitiveness has improved since the last few years of the Gen 6 car.

Justin Marks fears a key Next-Gen promise hasn’t materialized

The conversion of NASCAR Cup Series teams to the Next Gen car came with a promised trade-off: short-term financial hardship to retool, but a cheaper car to run over time. So far, however, Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks is only seeing the first half of the equation as he remains hopeful and figures out what to do with the remaining 46 Gen 6 cars.

“At this point, it’s not cheaper. It’s not. It’s just a different line item,” Marks told Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Valley. Download Jr. podcast. “I think we will get there, we have 17 races, we can’t expect some sort of instant reset.”

Money previously spent on manufacturing parts is now spent on replacements. NASCAR doesn’t let teams just hammer out dents on panels and refurbish interior components.

“The car is very expensive and the parts are very expensive. And we have a lot of crashes,” said Marks, who will race an SRX race on Saturday in Connecticut. “Warnings are up 72% or something this year because a lot of drivers drive these cars like they’re cheap old cars. They just send it. And one of the problems , is that it is very, very expensive to repair.

A simple example:

“Guys always run them like their latest models or something. And that is going to become a problem for these teams. You know that the underbody of these cars costs $28,000? And every time you get brought into Martinsville or anywhere, you have to replace the left side. It’s like $7,500. Before, it was a steel door.

Justin Marks

Justin Marks expects improvements in year two and beyond

Discussing the high start-up costs of the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car, Justin Marks said he expects suppliers to be able to develop cheaper parts down the road. The combination of the late start of manufacturing after Next Gen testing and supply chain disruptions make this impossible at this time. Add fuel costs and inflation in general, and it’s likely that most teams will go over budget in 2022.

Trackhouse Racing has tried to mitigate these factors by remaining disciplined. When the order banks opened for the Next Gen car, teams could order more of certain parts than they needed. Justin Marks said he wondered why 15 pieces were showing up at the workshop when the team needed less to get started.

“Can you get in a van, drive over there and buy it any day of the week?” He asked. “Yeah? Well, we’re going to buy five. Because we’re not going to be the sellers’ bank. … It’s not cheap. It’s being efficient. It’s two different things.

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