Trackhouse and Pitbull are bringing a very different kind of brand strategy to NASCAR


By Jeff Beer

When it comes to graphic designs on NASCAR race cars, there is a formula we’re all pretty familiar with: the big numbers and the sponsor names and logos plastered in a varyingly creative collage. But this past weekend at Delaware’s Dover Motor Speedway, there was a new approach.

For what might be the first time ever, one of the Cup Series race cars featured album art from an upcoming record. Global music star Pitbull’s new album drops in July, and he used Daniel Suarez’s car this past week as a promo billboard. Pitbull happens to be an ownership partner in Trackhouse Racing, which Suarez drives for, and just so happened to name the new album Trackhouse.

“I think Trackhouse is just such a positive disruptive force in NASCAR,” says Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Pérez. “The way Trackhouse is branding is why I named my album Trackhouse; there’s a story behind it. Every time I go to the studio, they count me out. ‘Pit’s over. He’s done.’ That ignites my fire. That’s what makes me want to keep going. To me, that’s why fans are connecting with Trackhouse.”

Started by former racer Justin Marks, Trackhouse Racing has been competing on the NASCAR Cup Series for three years, with a goal to bring a whole new kind of brand strategy to the sport. Marks looked around and saw how teams were branded in Formula One, the team-centric identity branding across major leagues like the NBA and Major League Baseball, and wanted to disrupt what he saw as a pretty homogeneous look and feel of NASCAR. So in building Trackhouse, Marks and his partners have approached it as a brand from the start, looking for ways to stand out and do things differently, from designing the team logo to painting all its car-hauler trucks matte black and installing vertical digital boards on the back to display highlights and content.

“There just has not been a team in this sport that is brand centric,” says Marks. “Most of the teams have been the namesakes of their owners, and there just hasn’t been any equity built or story told around that team. So that’s what our opportunity is. We’re constantly looking at ourselves, and looking at our fans, about how to effectively and authentically tell our story.”

Marks points specifically at merchandise and apparel. “It’s been done the same way for 30 years in this sport, with just recycled designs,” he says. “So we wanted to blow that up and think of ways we can put merch out in the world that fans are proud to wear away from the track and still feel a part of it.”

Style and branding are one aspect, but another major aspect is content and entertainment. Trackhouse has launched new social content like Open House, where it brings in entertainers, athletes, and artists from outside the sport, such as UFC champ Miesha Tate and artist Blanco Brown. Marks does a Twitter check-in during races called Just-In, where he gives race updates directly to fans. But even beyond the formal efforts, Marks says the team’s commitment to making its racing as much about entertainment extends all the way down to its pit crew.


“When the pit crews are all cleaning their guns, and waiting for the race to start, our guys are out there dancing, shooting videos with each other, and we’re just trying to set that vibe,” says Marks. “It’s just about approaching everything we do from a visual and narrative standpoint that says we’re new, we’re exciting, and we’re trying to be something different.”

Last August, Trackhouse introduced Project 91, a program in which the team’s third car would be driven by a guest driver from another discipline, featuring 2007 Formula One champion and 21-time Grand Prix winner Kimi Räikkönen, racing at Watkins Glen International. Marks says NASCAR’s new car rules—which focus more on driver ability than vehicle modification—has leveled the playing field significantly and presents a unique opportunity.

“We want to expand beyond the NASCAR bubble,” says Marks. “We set up Project 91 as a brand offshoot of Trackhouse to help open the door to global stars of motorsports and invite them to try NASCAR.”

The Trackhouse brand is still in its infancy, but it’s already making noise on and off the track. Pitbull may be setting it all to music, but Ross Chastain brought his signature driving style to Dover this week and took second place, while also riling up opposing drivers.

Pitbull says the overall approach is designed to build passion in fans. “Uncle Luke from 2 Live Crew, who gave me my first opportunity to make a record, told me a long time ago that you want to make work that gives fans energy and passion,” he says. “The kind of energy and passion that if they hear someone talking smack about you, they get fired up because they’re so vested in your story and your journey. That’s the same thing we want to create at Trackhouse, where you have that passion, and people are with us whether we win or lose because they respect what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

Trackhouse and Pitbull are bringing a very different kind of brand strategy to NASCAR

Fast Company