Justin Marks has been announced as the driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing at Sonoma in June. He will take over the car in place of the team’s usual driver, Dave Blaney, who hasn’t start-and-parked at all this year, but has been involved in four accidents through 12 races.
Marks has limited experience in NASCAR. He has a total of just 43 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series. In those two series, Marks hasn’t produced much results. He has four top-10 finishes, each coming in the Truck Series, two with Germain Racing in 2007 at Homestead and one in 2008 at Daytona and one at Charlotte in 2011 with Turn One Racing. He may not be too great on the oval tracks, yet he does have decent experience on the road courses.
Marks made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at the road course in Montreal, a track that they won’t be returning to this year. Driving for the now defunct Braun Racing, Marks had a strong qualifying run and ran competitively until his transmission failed just 19 laps into the event. The next year, he raced at Watkins Glen and Montreal. He ran well in both races, but he had failures ironically with six laps to go in both events. Even though he was never able to close the race out in NASCAR, Marks is an eight-time winner in the NASCAR Grand-Am Series.
His road course experience can provide Tommy Baldwin Racing a sense of competitiveness which they’ve lacked since they expanded from one to two cars last season. He won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2009 in the GT class with The Racers Group (TRG) and nearly won the championship back in 2004. Marks hasn’t been inside of a NASCAR stock car since 2011 though, which should make him require an intense round of testing before he hits the track.
With his limited experience in NASCAR, Marks has never proved that he has what it takes to compete for wins. Even when he’s been given decent equipment, he just hasn’t been able to close the deal. Yet, he isn’t the only driver that Tommy Baldwin Racing hired for that weekend. They hired road-course ace Victor Gonzalez Jr. to drive the No. 36 Chevrolet in the same event, replacing J.J. Yeley who’s struggled mightily this year.
Blaney’s experience on the road courses is beyond lengthy. He’s been racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on a full-time basis since 2000 and knows how to get around every track. Neither of these drivers have ever raced on the sandy hills of Sonoma. Though his best finish at Sonoma is 19th back when he drove for Richard Childress Racing in 2005, Blaney can get still get around the track. After struggling at the road courses last year, it’s safe to say that maybe Blaney is better off sitting out that race.
As for Marks, he should be locked into the race as Blaney has kept the car around the top-30 in points all year long. His consistency of taking that equipment and driving it into the top-30 has been more than the team can say of Yeley. It’s just one of those cases where they’re better off with just one team. It should be interesting to see how Marks does at Sonoma.
He’ll have Go-Pro on as a sponsor as they will be making their NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut as well. That’s probably one of the main reasons why the team is enabling him to go forward with this. Introducing new sponsors to the sport is always a good thing. Since Blaney and Yeley have barely attracted sponsorship, they’re better off without those two drivers for that weekend. Who knows, maybe they’ll even lock up some big time sponsors and have the team become more competitive.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.