NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 2, 2021
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: I would like to welcome you to today's media availability with Trackhouse Racing.
Pitbull, the Grammy-award winning superstar and co-owner of Trackhouse Racing is running a few minutes late. We're also joined today by Justin Marks, the co-owner of Trackhouse Racing, and driver Daniel Suarez.
Justin, a lot of great news surrounding your race team as we head here into the 2021 season. Can you just talk a little bit about what you have going on and all the great developments that have taken place over the last few weeks.
JUSTIN MARKS: Thanks, everybody, for taking the time today.
This is just a vision kind of coming together. 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.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for both Justin and Danny. Pitbull will join us soon.
Q. Daniel, I wanted to ask you how this deal all came about involving Pitbull. He was quoted as saying NASCAR is not only a sport but a culture. How much of an influence do you think he will have as an owner with you and the Hispanic community as far as attracting new fans?
DANIEL SUAREZ: Yeah, well, it was extremely cool to hear how this was actually getting into shape. I have known Pitbull for a few years. 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.
I really think that he hit it right on the point. I'm really looking forward to doing amazing things with Trackhouse Racing, Justin, Ty Norris, and of course now Pitbull is onboard.
Q. Specifically, opening the door to the audience of the Hispanic community, which is more in line with F1 racing, to bring those fans to NASCAR.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Yeah, of course. NASCAR has no limits. 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.
Q. Could you discuss what it's been like to be around Pitbull, how involved has he been so far, how involved does he expect to be going forward, your interactions with him.
JUSTIN MARKS: He's one of these guys that really commands a room. He's got such a big personality. He's so passionate about his mission, the things he's dedicated to, the places he's trying to carve in the world.
He's been fantastic from day one. Really from the first moment we sat down, started talking about it, it became apparent that our missions were aligned. There were so many elements of what both of us were trying to achieve that were consistent with each other, that it just felt so natural, serendipitous almost.
He's been asking questions, he has been engaged and excited. I've been sending him pictures of the equipment coming together, the pit crew practicing, all that. He's very, very excited. He's looking forward to really helping out a lot, being an asset, being someone that can kind of take our platform to as many people globally as possible.
Obviously he'll be at Daytona, at Miami, a few more races this year. I think he's kind of in a mode where he wants to learn. I think he's humble enough to know that he's got a lot to learn about this sport. But he's been very engaged. He's going to be a great partner.
Having somebody like that come in, sometimes it's transactional in its nature. This has truly been a partnership among people that are passionate about the sport, passionate about the Trackhouse brand, and really want to contribute to seeing it all the way through, trying to make it as big as possible.
Q. Justin, along the lines of what you were saying, we have seen a lot of celebrity owners come in. They're here to kind of generate sponsorship. Some of those work out, some of those don't. Is this one aligned with trying to get sponsorship? Why should this one be different than some of the others we've seen?
JUSTIN MARKS: Well, like I said, I think a big part of it is the fact that we both have aligned passions and missions. I mean, one of the core components of Trackhouse is trying to find a way to make an impact in America's minority youth communities. That's through a STEM program that we're putting together.
We want to cultivate great stories that inspire people. I mean, we're storytellers, right? I think that's evidenced by the fact that we're turning impossible into possible. It's that message that resonates with a lot of people. That's something that's important to Armando through his music and partnerships as well.
It's so consistent with what we're doing that it's really about something bigger than sponsorships. It's bigger than the race team, bigger than just the sport. It's about storytelling, it's about inspiring people.
Look, we have a driver who moved to America, whose dream it was to be a NASCAR driver in a sport where there had never been a Latino champion ever. He did it. You have Armando who grew up from very humbling beginnings in Miami, wanted to be a global icon, transcend his community, take his message to the world. Against great odds, he did that. That's just kind of who we are, the story we're trying to tell.
I think because it resonates so deeply with all of us, it's going to be different than I think what you've seen in the past and I'm excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Worldwide has joined us now. We will continue on with questions.
Q. Pitbull, in an interview with NPR a couple years ago you noted that you never looked at your life like it was rough because it was just your normality. As you've done various things to improve what some might think of their normality, how do you feel your role as a team owner in NASCAR can contribute to that and help drive that?
PITBULL: For one, I apologize for being a little late. Got caught up in a jam on the way here to the school. Good to see all the kids back in school, a lot of traffic out here.
Number two, I want to say thank you to Justin and Daniel for the opportunity to be able to be a part of this.
When I was speaking about what my normal was, I thought that everybody was around violence, drug abuse, killings, murders, things of that nature. 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.
Q. Pitbull, you've done so many different things with your school and with SLAM. Why get involved in NASCAR now? Was there something about Daniel or Trackhouse that attracted you, or had you always wanted to be a sports team owner or specifically a NASCAR team owner?
PITBULL: Always wanted to be a team owner one way or other no matter the sport. 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.
Q. Daniel, how focused, how locked in have you been in this off-season to prepare? Justin told me a couple weeks ago that he's very pleased with your focus, you doing everything you need to do to get ready for this opportunity.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Let me start with that question saying that this off-season has been probably the most productive I have had in a very, very long time. If we think back for the last few years, through the off-season, I've been trying to put my racing together, to work with a new people I'm going to have.
For the first time in actually a few years, I already knew since before the season was over exactly what I was going to be doing. When you are with that much time ahead, you can actually organize yourself, you can work hard, and you can put everything on perspective.
For me was extremely important obviously to get together with Justin, with Ty Norris, that made this happen, and put everything, our goals, perspective, how we're going to be able to achieve these things.
As I mentioned before, everything that Justin, Ty, Pitbull now, want to do outside the racetrack is amazing. I love all those things. At the same time competition is extremely important for me. I know I can win races. I've done it before. Championships as well. I want to do that in the Cup level. That's actually what I'm having for breakfast, lunch and dinner right now because that's what I want to do. I want to prove out there what I'm capable of. That's all I'm thinking right now.
I really want to go out there, compete, have fun, enjoy this time, and just enjoy the ride. You don't have this opportunity to have an amazing team owner like Justin, with Pitbull now, Ty Norris, and Chevrolet, to go there and have fun and be competitive. So I really feel like I'm in a very, very fortunate position. I'm really looking forward to make the most of it.
Q. Pitbull, you have such an incredibly powerful presence. Anyone who follows your music knows that. As I read the quotes about what you plan to do with the global demographic that's ready to be inspired into action for themselves, I was motivated. When I hear you speak of it, it's just unbelievable. What do you feel about being the grand marshal for the Daytona 500 and can you use that with your presence for the global initiative that you talk about?
PITBULL: I have a quote that I always say: why dream when you can live it? It just goes to show you. Justin was saying when he was speaking, he said we're taking the impossible and making it possible. It's something that my daughter taught me. She said if you take the word 'impossible', you put an apostrophe in it, it's unpossible. You space it out.
It goes to show you through inspiring, no matter what, we're always going to find a way to bring people together. That's what I'm all about.
Especially in these times we're living in right now, as you can see in these times we're living in right now, the most important is to let everybody know out there there's only one most important race, it's the human race. It was these races are about at this point, bringing the sport, creating the culture, letting everybody out there know through the races, through the cars, through our stories, we just want everybody out there to enjoy and we're going to utilize it as a form of uniting everybody out there.
When Daniel, Ty and Justin and I sat down, clearly there's no hidden agenda here, it's all about winning, it's all about creating a successful team, it's all about creating sponsorship around Daniel, it's about believing in Daniel. We all sat at the table wanting more than that. That to me is priceless. That to me is what this is all about.
That's why I wanted to get involved, because I see it's a higher calling. It's about utilizing the culture, creating the culture through NASCAR to bring people together. I know it because I live it, I've seen it. Music is a universal language. When I'm out there performing for everybody, it doesn't matter whether you speak English, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, if you are black, white, pink, purple or orange, it doesn't matter. We all speak music when we're there.
When it comes to NASCAR, we watch the cars race, it's about letting everyone know no matter what in life, if you focus, you work hard for it, you can achieve it. That's my story and Daniel's story. That's why we appreciate Justin and Ty investing in us as far as believing in us. And we're here to win and show everybody in the world how to bring everybody together through NASCAR and Trackhouse.
Q. Pitbull, back to the STEM aspirations. Was that really the selling point for you in this partnership? How do you hope the STEM program aligns with your STEM schools?
PITBULL: It was absolutely the selling point. If you've seen what I put in the last eight years in education, I never put my face next to anything for propaganda. There has to be the grassroots of it, something that's real. Because if it's not real, clearly we're going to see that in the near future, which is not going to be the case. We're all here, we're all on the same page, all about an initiative of bringing everybody together, utilizing, like I said before, our stories of basically from nothing to something, from negative to positive, and how we can utilize the platform of NASCAR to do so.
Now, one of the neighborhoods I come from in Miami is Wynwood. There's a big slogan in Wynwood that says: Don't talk about it, be about it. There's one thing, I'm always here to be about it. That's why I'm having this conversation/interview from one of our schools in Miami, in one of my old neighborhoods. On this block we have close to three thousand kids right now just in this one school.
It's to take the same thing we've done in education, music, business, apply it to what we're about to do in NASCAR and Trackhouse and watch Daniel win some races and bring it home (laughter).
Q. Pitbull, you've talked about you like the movie Days of Thunder. That drew you to NASCAR. Other movies about NASCAR, they tend to be stereotypical, southern, white. What did you like about the movie? What do you like about NASCAR and why it appealed to you?
PITBULL: What I love about NASCAR is the ultimate underdog story. I'm your ultimate underdog, you know. When you're an underdog, you got a chip on your shoulder. You're a fighter, you're a champion, and you welcome failure. What I mean by that, failure becomes the mother of your success.
I tell people all the time there's no losing, only learning; no failure, only opportunities; no problems, just solutions.
When I saw the movie, I love documentaries, when I saw a documentary that was actually called Blink of an Eye, I relate to that fight. I relate to being in those positions where people think there's no way you're going to make it out of this. Not only do I relate, I respect for what those drivers go through, how they have to be so mentally fit, that no matter what, look at it and go, We're going to get through this one way or another. That is the sign of a true champ. That's why I relate to it the most. And the negative-to-positive story.
Q. How involved do you think you'll be with the team? How will you maybe be more successful than other celebrity owners? You and Daniel, can you team together and further broaden NASCAR's audience?
PITBULL: Oh, we definitely will, as we already have to a certain extent.
Number two, we are fully involved with the team and committed to the team since the minute that we ended up doing this deal and it was signed, sealed and delivered. All we've done basically is each team speaking to each other on how we're going to continue to move this forward, coming up with innovative, untraditional and unconventional ideas and ways to go back to take it from a sport and create a culture around it.
I'm going to circle back because I want to make sure by the time we finish this interview, it's programmed in you guys. The reason that I got involved in this is because there was a greater initiative. The greater initiative is what we need more than ever, especially in these times. I'll say it again: One race, one race only, the human race. If we can do it through music, through NASCAR, by entertaining, motivating and inspiring them, then that's what I signed up for.
Just to make it clear, I'm far from a celebrity. That I'm not. I'm a hard, hard worker. Big difference. Celebrities will sell anything. I'm not here to sell anything. I'm here to help the culture, help unify, more than anything help motivate and inspire those through my story, through Daniel's story, Justin's story, Ty's story and NASCAR's story.
Q. Justin and Daniel, can you talk about that. You want the team to be bigger than racing. Daniel, how does Pitbull help you with your platforms?
DANIEL SUAREZ: For me, like I said before, I just feel extremely fortunate. Actually I mentioned this in Spanish. I'll repeat my answer in English.
The people that know me closely, they know that I've been working extremely hard throughout my career, not just to be successful in the racetrack, but also to be successful outside the racetrack. What that means?
Seven, eight years ago I was thinking to myself, okay, I'm the only Mexican, the only Latino in NASCAR, the only guy that can speak Spanish. If I don't try to do something to bring Latinos to the racetrack, who is going to do it?
In that day I start working with NASCAR to try to do different things, to try to bring Latinos in the racetrack. That's when Daniel's Amigos was born. That's what we started to try to do different things, programs to bring Latinos to the racetrack.
At the same time competition is number one. Competition for me is the first step that everything has to come after that. If you're successful on the racetrack, you can do everything else. It makes your life easier everything else.
All this work I've been doing with NASCAR, with some of my sponsors that have helped me through all this, especially Coca-Cola, now having Pitbull onboard in a race team with Justin Marks and Ty Norris is something huge. He's not called Mr. Worldwide just because of nothing, you know. He's extremely well-known worldwide. The Latino community love him.
I think he's a huge plus, a huge help to have someone like Pitbull super close to a race team to help us in many, many things. But obviously just to bring the community together and to bring more Latinos to this racetrack, to this team, make this team something different, something young, something cool, something modern, that's something we are trying to do.
JUSTIN MARKS: You asked about aligned visions. In the early stages of sort of envisioning what Trackhouse is going to be, how we were going to be different than traditional racing teams, how we were going to build a platform that was viable for the future long-term, it became very clear early on that we wanted a cause marketing, a philanthropic community involvement element of our team that wasn't an afterthought, that was really deeply intertwined in the DNA of the company.
I think as sort of Armando alluded to, people talk about here, we're entering an era where it's becoming more and more important for companies in this country to make sure they're giving to the community, they're empowering the next generation of people, an element of what they do makes America a better place. That goes from the sandwich shop on the corner to Amazon and everything in between. Everybody shares a responsibility.
We're like the luckiest people on earth because we get to go to a racetrack and put racecars on the racetrack. I think if we're going to have such a tremendous opportunity to do that, we need to make it a core fundamental element of our team that we're doing some good in the world, we're giving back to the world.
I think that aligns so well, you've heard how passionately Armando talks about this with what he's doing with his SLAM schools, wonderful schools in their own, but part of a bigger nationwide network of schools that allows us to build a STEM education experience for underrepresented minority youth or youth in general in this country that wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to be exposed to that. We can really scale that over time.
Using NASCAR as the platform, Trackhouse as the platform, I think we're in the early stages of discussing it. I think the definition of success at least early on will be a STEM discipline experience set up at each and every one of Armando's schools, having thousands and thousands of kids be able to be exposed to this and use NASCAR to say there is so much opportunity in this world, you can be engineers, mathematicians, scientists, build thing. Not just STEM by design, finance, entrepreneurism, all that.
Without being too long winded here, it goes back to the fact that we have a responsibility as people, we have a responsibility as companies in America to make sure not only are we building a successful enterprise, but we're building something to empower the next generation of people and we're leaving a legacy. I think that's so consistent with what's important to Armando, the partnership makes sense. I think there's so much opportunity for us in the future.
PITBULL: Well said.
Q. Justin, what are the biggest challenges you face as a new team to be competitive and win races beyond the message? How is your Spanish shaping up?
JUSTIN MARKS: I told Daniel, I said, You come drive for me, I'll learn Spanish. I'm in the early stages. Not only do I have a driver, but I have a partner. They can't start talking in Spanish at the meetings and me not know what they're talking about.
Yeah, no, look, NASCAR, obviously it's a very competitive form of motorsport, most competitive form of motorsport in the world, I believe. I have experience owning race teams before, never at this level. I'm leaning on that experience in communicating with the guys, with the pit crew, the mechanics, engineers, everybody at the race team, making sure that they're appreciated, empowered, that they have an opportunity to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Having this NextGen car getting delayed to 2022 sort of is a blessing in disguise for us because it gives us an opportunity to really build our team, to build our culture, and to just develop our relationships, Daniel's relationships with Travis, the pit crew finding continuity and working together, so when that new car comes this fall leading into next year, we're a cohesive group, we can focus on trying to make sure that race car is as fast as possible. That's the work right now.
I think we're going to learn a lot. I have to learn a lot. I'm learning every day. I'm very fortunate to have a guy like Ty Norris working at Trackhouse because he's got many years of experience in this sport and can make sure that I'm thinking the right way about certain things, putting stuff on my plate that I didn't necessarily think was an element of NASCAR racing, and helping guide me through that.
Look, we're here for a long time. I'm trying to build one of the next great NASCAR teams. I think that means at this stage making sure that we get a group of people that work well together and we focus on making sure that that group is cohesive and is building relationships with each other. I think that's the most important thing right now.
We start getting to the racetrack, start racing, we'll work on all the racing stuff, but it's about that next car, building the Trackhouse framework so we're successful for a long time.
PITBULL: As far as Justin, he's already halfway there because he looks like he's Canelo's cousin, for real (laughter).
JUSTIN MARKS: That's the first thing he said to me when he walked in at lunch.
PITBULL: Number two, it goes to show you that exactly what we're doing with the team, the diversity through the team, whether it's Daniel being from Mexico, coming over to the United States, me being first-generation Cuban-American, what my family did as far as fleeing Communism from Cuba, for me to enjoy the beautiful thing called freedom here in the USA.
To be with Justin and Ty, it already shows you we're leading by example. All of us are coming from different places, but all of us are aligned on one goal. Obviously there's no hidden agenda, we want to win, we want to make sure we create a very successful team, but creating legacy at the same time that we're all about giving back, motivating and inspiring and creating that culture, letting people know, and also educating folks on what NASCAR is, the history of NASCAR. Also I'm learning every day more and more about NASCAR as well, as I will about the car, as I will about the driver, as we will as far as from the investments and all that.
The reason when we sat down that really motivated me about this opportunity was just that there was that greater initiative. For one, that's priceless. That's how you become living legends and leave behind an amazing legacy. For me bottom line, living is giving.
Q. Armando, I understand the missions with the school and STEM, the desire to unify people, the cultural aspects of NASCAR. There's a lot of race teams out there that you probably could have been a part of. How did you even hear about these guys? How did they get in the same room as you to pitch you on this?
PITBULL: As we started this interview, I told you I'm a big believer in the law of attraction. 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).
DANIEL SUAREZ: Vamos.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time for joining us this. Pitbull, you're going to be saying the command to start the 63rd running of the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. That's got to be cool.
PITBULL: It's an amazing honor. I look forward to it. Like I said, not that I hope, I know what we're going to do is, man, it's history in the making, bottom line. You're going to hear me at Daytona.
Thank you, guys. Stay blessed, God bless. See you all soon.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Stay safe everyone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports