NASCAR is entering a new era of their sport for 2021. Between schedule changes, a new car coming out in 2022 or the new involvement from some famous partners, NASCAR is certainly on the rise again. One thing that’s not going to be left behind though is their fight to include all in their march forward.
Last year was a tumultuous year for this country. How NASCAR responded to that has garnered them a lot of positive attention as a result of those efforts. From being able to race successfully during a pandemic, to banning of the Confederate Flag to how they’ve handled social injustice, NASCAR is doing and saying all the right things. Despite that feat, they know that what they’ve done so far is far from over.
Part of being sort of a pioneer on that front has led more eyes to the sport too. For this season alone, we have Michael Jordan as a team owner now. He’s co-owning a team with Denny Hamlin. Their driver is the lone African American driver in the Cup Series in Bubba Wallace. That’s just one new team.
Another has a Latin feel. Justin Marks decided now is a great time to start a new team. He’s always wanted to own a Cup team and has gathered enough resources to do so. Two of his main parts of the new Trackhouse Racing team is Mexican driver Daniel Suarez and Cuban co-owner Pitbull. That’s by design. His goal is to raise NASCAR awareness in the Hispanic community.
So, how did this whole thing come together? How did a dream make it from Marks’ brain to getting implemented to showing up next week to Daytona for the season opener in NASCAR’s premiere series?
“This is just a vision kind of coming together,” Marks said. “I mean, this has been in the works for probably really two years now. So for us to be able to put all the pieces together, to stay steadfastly committed to that vision and the goal of what we’re trying to build, to see it all come together here as we prepare to get ready for the Daytona 500 is pretty awesome, pretty special.
“I mean, I made no secret from day one that what we were trying to accomplish here has to be a team that’s unique in its branding, that’s unique in its mission and the narrative around our activities, to try to communicate with fans and try to create content, try to create visual elements around this team that are unique and captivating and compelling for lots of fans.
“I think we’ve done that so far. We’ve got some great partners and sponsors of the race team. Everybody’s excited to be a part of it. Yeah, it’s really nice. Seven days till unloading the cars down there so it’s getting pretty real.”
That’s the same vision that both Suarez and Pitbull feel as well. They each feel like the best sport to grow this vision for the Latin American population is NASCAR in fact.
“NASCAR has no limits,” Suarez said. “Already we want to make this sport as wide as possible. We are not just talking about Mexico. We’re not just talking about Latin America. We’re talking about worldwide. Actually that’s Pitbull’s nickname, Mr. Worldwide. So why not?
“Pitbull is a Latino, like myself. I was amazed to know that his biggest fan base is actually not in the United States or not in Latin America. That tells you how big his impact that he’s going to be able to get for this racing, for this organization. Hopefully we can do an amazing things together.”
While that sounds great, the first step for Marks was actually getting Suarez and Pitbull to join his time. For how that relationship with Suarez and Pitbull came, both Suarez and Pitbull actually said on Tuesday that they’ve known of each other for a few years now.
First came getting Suarez. Then came the courting of Pitbull through a good source.
‘I have known Pitbull for a few years,” Suarez said. “We have some friends, good friends, in common, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with him at all.
“When Justin mentioned to me the possibilities that there were out there, I tell you it was just amazing. I’m just extremely excited to have somebody like Pitbull part of this race organization, Trackhouse Racing, to help us take out of what Justin’s ambition is for this race team. That’s actually the reason why I am here as well.
“Justin’s vision in the racetrack and outside the racetrack is extremely important. If Justin was only focusing in everything that is going on outside the racetrack with the STEM programs, helping the Latino community, et cetera, and not really caring much about the competition, I wouldn’t be here. Probably if he was only focusing on the competition without everything else that is outside the racetrack, probably I wouldn’t be here either.
“It’s just a combination of things. I know Pitbull share the same ambition than Justin to try to help others and to change the way that people actually view the sport. Pitbull say something that I totally agree with, I didn’t even think about that in the past, is that NASCAR, other than an amazing sport, it’s also a culture thing. It’s extremely culture on how different generations, different families are so involved into the sport, not just as a sport.”
For Pitbull, he felt like NASCAR was a way to show Latin American’s that there really is a bright future for them. This initiative also is a two way street though too. While exposing Latinos to NASCAR, he also wants to expose NASCAR to the Latin world as well. He wants to show us just how challenging of an upbringing it is in some of these Latin American communities and bridge that gap together.
NASCAR he feels is the perfect place to marriage that new bond.
“When I was speaking about what my normal was, I thought that everybody was around violence, drug abuse, killings, murders, things of that nature,” said Pitbull. “Growing up, I thought that was everybody’s normal in everybody’s city.
“It’s when I started to venture out in different parts of my city to see that clearly wasn’t the normal. If I hear me in certain interviews, I’ve always spoken about I’ve grown up in good neighborhoods, bad neighborhoods, worse neighborhoods. The worst things I saw actually was in the good neighborhoods. What I mean by that is that’s where I saw most of the FBI when they would show up, ATF when they would show up, DEA when they would show up. Growing up like that is why I always speak about taking my life from a negative to a positive.
“Getting involved in the team, I was hearing Justin speak before, this is deeper than sponsorships, this is a movement. This is a revolution/taking a sport and creating a culture because when we first opened SLAM, we had brought a NASCAR car to SLAM the first day eight years ago. If you would have seen the look on those kids’ faces when they saw that car, they just had no clue that it was actually something that was tangible.
“Since that day is when I say, Wow. I’m a big believer in the law of attraction, I want to be involved. There’s no better time to be involved in NASCAR with Trackhouse, Daniel, Justin and Ty than now. It is all about creating awareness. In the same way that music is a universal language, I also see NASCAR as a universal language. Everybody loves a fast car and a great story, you know.”
So what about Trackhouse was attractive to Pitbull? With this vision, he could have went to North Carolina and walked into any shops front door and formed an alliance?
“I’m a big believer in the law of attraction,” he said of why Justin Marks’ team. “I happened to be up in North Carolina having a conversation with someone named Pam Miller. I was talking to her about what NASCAR meant to the kids when they first saw it here in SLAM in Miami eight years ago. She was talking to me about a documentary she was working on.
“As we kept talking about different ways to be able to educate the public on NASCAR and hearing about how they wanted to diversify as far as when it came to culture, utilizing the sport on bringing everybody together, that’s how it all came about. Really Pam is the one that connected us, seeing that our visions aligned.
“I would say about a week later we were all together in Miami, sat down. Daniel, I knew through the a family years ago and was spoken to me about him and his career from Carlos Slim Jr. which is a friend of mine down in Mexico. When all of this came together, we sat down, it was just bigger — it wasn’t just we have to have a winning team, we got to do the sponsorship, got to create this. I was like, Look, we’re going to do that, okay? Really what this is about is this: How do we make this something more powerful? How do we make this so it’s historical and how do we make this so we break barriers, boundaries, limits, bringing everybody together through this?
“That’s what made me think, this is what I want to be involved in. I tell people all the time, I wouldn’t want a billion dollar business and have a trillion dollar headache. It’s all about the people that you are with, it’s about the journey.
“Daniel was saying this in Spanish. It’s about the team, the environment that you’re around. If you’re around a great environment, a positive environment, a winning environment, but an environment that wants to give back and understand that’s what life is really all about. They say: Why say that the sky is the limit when you know there’s footprints on the moon? We’re on the way to the moon with Trackhouse (laughter).”
Many may not know this, but Pitbull admitted to being a NASCAR fan long before this. In fact, it was the classic movie Days of Thunder to what started his racing fandom in fact.
“Always wanted to be a team owner one way or other no matter the sport,” he continued. “NASCAR, I’ve been a fan of NASCAR since the movie Days of Thunder when I got a chance to see what it was about. I would say from that perspective.
“As far as with Daniel, by default or design, I heard about Daniel 10 years ago through a friend of mine in Mexico named Carlos Slim Jr. He was talking to me about Daniel when he was about 17, 18 years old. He is a big, big fan. The Slim family are big racing fans.
“I go back to law of attraction. Here I am 10 years later when I’ve also met Daniel at different concerts through a family that we also know, which is the (indiscernible) family. Now to be here next to him making history with Justin, Ty and Daniel.
“For him I would say coming against all odds into the United States of America, coming from humble beginnings over in Mexico, to coming here and winning a race, which actually happened to be in Homestead, the stories run parallel. They coincide. It just makes sense because we’re all here for one reason and one reason only: to create awareness clearly for NASCAR, clearly for Trackhouse, but more than anything to show this brings people together.
“If there’s anything we need in these times right now is something that unites people, not divides people. That’s what we’re here to do with this platform/opportunity.”
This team will certainly do that in 2021. The attention is going to be great while the success on track is going to be a process. The team will be aligned with Richard Childress Racing. They’ll have good equipment. It’s just not an easy feat to start in a sport as a first year team and become an instant championship contender.
But, this team has will. They have fight. They have resolve and purpose. This team is just the start of a bright future for this sport.