Rain Man: Justin Marks masters the elements, Mid-Ohio for first Xfinity Series win
Justin Marks didn’t have the best car under dry conditions, but he was the best driver when Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was covered in rain.
The part-time driver of the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet used his years of sports car racing to lead a race high 43 laps - the first of his career - to earn his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win on Saturday.
Marks victory in his 25th start came in a race filled with eight cautions for 32 laps and countless cars going off track -including Marks on Lap 32 - as rain came and went over the Lexington, Ohio, road course. It returned in its hardest form on the final lap around the 13-turn road course, as Marks managed a healthy distance over the field to finish with a 3.7 second lead.
It could have been worse. Marks had a 24-second lead when the race’s final caution waved on Lap 72.
“These are as tough conditions as you could put drivers in,” Marks told NBC Sports. “My specialty is road racing in the rain in these stock cars. I don’t get much of an opportunity to do it. When that opportunity presents itself, you really have to take advantage of it.”
Marks gave CGR its second win of the year after Kyle Larson won at Pocono Raceway, a race that was shortened by rain.
“It means the world,” said an increasingly emotional Marks, who has 64 starts across NASCAR’s top three divisions and is co-owner of HScott Motorsports’ K&N series teams. “I’m not a big time race car driver, I’ve had a big career with a lot of rides and stuff. Just means a lot to be able to get an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing and to get a win. I wish my family was here.”
Marks has made 12 starts this season in the No. 42 car. Before 2016 he had never made more than five starts in any of his previous six seasons. His previous best finish was sixth at Mid-Ohio in 2014.
“My hat’s off to Justin Marks,” said Sam Hornish Jr, who started from the pole and led eight laps. “I generally hold myself as a pretty decent rain racer, even given the opportunity there at the end I couldn’t do anything with him.”
The top five was filled by Marks, Hornish, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.
HOW JUSTIN MARKS WON: Justin Marks stayed on-track and sped away from the field in the rain on a restart with three laps to go, finishing more than three seconds ahead of Sam Hornish Jr.
WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Pole-sitter Sam Hornish Jr. fell from second to 20th after spinning twice on Lap 19, the second restart under wet conditions. The Ohio native then went off course into the dirt on Lap 20 and almost got stuck, bringing out the caution. Hornish fought back to finish second for his second top-three finish in his three starts this year … Ryan Blaney finished third in his first start at Mid-Ohio ... Brendan Gaughan finished eighth after being involved in a Lap 33 restart crash that tore the right side sheet metal off his car and being in multiple spins … Erik Jones finished sixth with a mashed up right-rear quarter panel after the five-car accident on Lap 33
WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Owen Kelly, competing in his first race of any kind in three years, took the lead on a Lap 10 restart on rain tires then spun going through the esses. Kelly later briefly led under caution, but finished 16th … TJ Bell brought out the second caution when he was the first driver to get stuck in the dirt after sliding off track on Lap 15. Bell would bring out the eighth and final caution after getting stuck in the dirt … On Lap 29, Daniel Suarez brought out the fourth caution for getting stuck in the dirt. The No. 19 finished 23rd, a lap down … On the restart on Lap 33, Erik Jones made contact with Andy Lally, spinning them both. Jones than was ran into by Nelson Piquet Jr, damaging both cars. Piquet finished 38th … Kenny Habul was involved in multiple accidents before getting permanently stuck in the first with 20 to go, finishing 36th.
NOTABLE: Justin Marks is the fourth different winner in the first four Xfinity races at Mid-Ohio. Marks is also the second first-time Xfinity winner this season after Daniel Suarez’ win at Michigan. In Xfinity Series history, Marks is the 11th driver to earn his first win on a road course.
Quote of the Day: “In the dry, I feel like we could win, but Justin just went out there and was a monster in the wet.” - Sam Hornish Jr. after finished second.
NEXT: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.