Special from Speed51.com – It’s very organic to the heritage of the All American 400 that Kid Rock would want to attend and support the marquee Late Model event at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, but it made even more sense for Justin Marks and Trackhouse Racing to want to join the party.
Marks has entered the Super Late Model main event in the No. 78 entry prepared by BJ McLeod Motorsports with Travis Braden with support from Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse.
That’s a proper noun, by the way.
When Kid Rock agreed to serve as Grand Marshal of the 37th running of the Super Late Model crown jewel, the 50-year-old pop culture mainstay also wanted a car to cheer for, leading to a sponsorship with McLeod, Braden and their No. 78.
They also needed a driver.
“This whole thing actually started with the Tootsie’s (Orchid Lounge) partnering with the No. 99 Cup car at the Nashville (Superspeedway) weekend,” Marks told Speed51.com. “The owners of Tootsie’s (Al Ross and Steve Smith) are business partners with Kid Rock and they’re big supporters of racing in Nashville.
“I think everyone kind of knows there is a big push to support racing across Nashville right now and they’re a big part of it.”
Ross and Smith reached out to Nashville Fairgrounds promoter Bob Sargent, who made the connection with Braden and McLeod, and it became a full-circle moment with the addition of Nashville resident Marks.
“Bob recommended us and kind of facilitated everything,” Braden told Speed51. “That really meant a lot to me because we’re still a new team. Newness also means uncertainty.”
The team made its debut with Cup Series driver Erik Jones in August during the Blizzard Series doubleheader at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola with a fifth-place finish in the Saturday night finale. It was also running inside the top-10 in the closing laps of the Friday race before having to pull down pit road with a vibration.
With Braden, the 2019 Snowball Derby winner calling the shots for a brand-new FURY Race Cars chassis, there is all the makings of a successful team moving forward.
Just don’t put pressure on Marks to contend for the win.
At the same time, most of those starts have come at Fairgrounds Speedway, and Marks contended for a top-five in the 2020 Master of the Pros before having to pit with a mechanical gremlin. Marks says he’s impressed with what McLeod and Braden have built and knows the team will put him in position to contend.
“I’m a competitor and I’m going to treat this like any other race,” Marks said. “I want to do well for our partners. I think the length of this race plays into my past experiences, but at the same time, this is the top competition in this discipline, and I want to be measured in laying out my expectations.”
Beyond the results, Marks and Braden are both excited to contribute to the All-American 400 in ways beyond the entry list.
Kid Rock is a big get for a Super Late Model race at an important moment in time for the future of Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Throughout the summer, various groups have met with the Metro Fair Board of Commissioners to determine what comes next for the venerable speedway.
That future very well could include expansive renovations the preclude a NASCAR national touring weekend. Marks views this weekend as a chance for the track and racing community to spotlight what the venue could become.
“I believe this place can become an important part of the entertainment landscape of Downtown Nashville,” Marks said. “It’s a connection point between Americana, pop culture and sports, all those things.
Braden is hopeful to have the car prepared and wrapped by the middle of next week for an official unveiling at Kid Rock’s establishment.
“This is exactly why we started this team,” Braden said. “This is the kind of exposure we wanted to create for Super Late Model racing. It’s a case study, right? That Kid Rock wanted to be a part of this weekend and our race team is big, but it has to work.
“We have to do our part to show other teams and other entertainers that this is a viable sponsorship and marketing exercise. We have to set the precedence that this works.
“I’m not old enough to actually remember it but I’ve heard stories about the early days of the All-American 400 or the Busch Series races here in the 90s and how good it was for sponsorship and activation. We need races like this for short track racing and I’m proud that our team gets to be a part of something like this with Kid Rock.”
-Story by: Matt Weaver, Racing America Editor-in-Chief – Twitter: @MattWeaverRA
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo