Justin Marks slips and slides to first XFINITY victory at Mid-Ohio
There’s only one word to describe Saturday’s Mid-Ohio Challenge XFINITY Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course — wet.
Steady rain made for treacherous conditions throughout the event, but Justin Marks was able to handle them the best for his first career XFINITY win.
The No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing driver was able to hold off Sam Hornish Jr. during a torrential downpour after the final restart with three laps remaining.
"These are as tough conditions that you could put drivers in," said Marks while standing in a makeshift Victory Lane after the race. "It’s really hard on everybody when it’s dry and wet. You don’t really know what to do, so strategy plays a big role in everything."
After starting 16th, Marks led a race-high 43 laps on his way to victory.
"My specialty is road racing in the rain in these stock cars, and I don’t get much of an opportunity to do it, so when that opportunity presents itself, you have to really take advantage of it," Marks added. "I about threw it away today, but I knew if the race ended in the rain that we’d have a real shot at winning it."
Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.
It didn’t take long for weather to roll in soon after the race started, as the first caution flew on Lap 3 for rain. Steady rains forced all team to come down pit road and put on Goodyear rain radio tires.
Not long after the race went back to green, many drivers struggled to find grip on a very wet, slick road course.
The second caution of the race came out when T.J. Bell spun off the track and got stuck in a gravel trap on Lap 14.
The caution flew once again right after the Lap 19 restart when Hornish Jr. lost control of his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevorlet, spinning into a gravel trap.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suarez also found trouble in a gravel trap on Lap 29 after spinning his No. 19 Toyota, bringing out the fourth caution of the event.
After a restart following the Suarez spin, Erik Jones lost control of his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, making contact with Andy Lally and Nelson Piquet Jr. in the process. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Brendon Poole also spun trying to avoid the incident.
It was an emotional victory for Marks not only because it was his first win, but also because Chip Ganassi Racing, along with many others in the racing community, are mourning the loss of open-wheel racer Bryan Clauson. Clauson was a former development driver for the team.
"We’re thinking about Bryan and his family, too," Marks said. "Bryan’s short career in stock-car racing came with Chip Ganassi Racing, so it’s great to be able to put this thing in Victory Lane and to honor and think about him. We’re thinking about Tim (Clauson, Bryan’s father) and Lauren (Stewart, Clauson’s fiancée). He was a true American hero racecar driver. They don’t make them like that anymore."
"I wish my family was here. I’m just really happy," added Marks in tears. "It means the world. I’m not a big-time racecar driver. It just means a lot to get an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing and to get a win."