The Cup Series weekend at Watkins Glen International marks the debut of Trackhouse Racing’s Project91. The special entry dedicated to drivers from other disciplines will feature Kimi Raikkonen first, but there will be several others that compete in 2023.
Team owner Justin Marks provided some details prior to qualifying at Watkins Glen. He explained that Trackhouse Racing hasn’t hired any new employees for Project91 and that the 2022 season is more of a test for the program. In fact, Raikkonen’s start will be the only one for the entry this year. Marks then provided some details about Project91’s future.
“So with that being said — ultimately Project91 is a program that operates at all of the road courses during the season and then potentially some of the major events, like the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, or something like that,” Marks explained, transcript courtesy of General Motors.
“I think at some point, you get so many races that you have to look at just actually fielding a third full-time car. But I think for Project91, it’s a six to eight race program potentially next year and beyond. It’s a brand extension of Trackhouse. I think we can get really unique on the content side, on the merchandise side, and just create great stories. That’s sort of where I’d like to see it go.”
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The 2022 Season Presented the Perfect Opportunity
Marks has long been a supporter of bringing in stars from other racing series so that they could test themselves on the NASCAR circuit. He even tweeted about the idea back in 2018, three years before Trackhouse Racing made its Cup Series debut.
Marks did not make this idea a reality until 2022 due to multiple reasons. One, he first had to grow his own Cup Series team. Two, the 2022 season and the introduction of the Next Gen cars just served as a fitting time to create this special entry.
“I definitely think it was possible,” Marks said about the Next Gen cars being better for guest drivers. “But I think what this car represents is a lower barrier of entry for drivers from other disciplines because this car is much more consistent with other road racing cars globally. So the transition to learn the car for someone like Kimi is just a lot more simple.”
The Attention Will Now Turn to a Crown Jewel Race
With Raikkonen set to make the lone Project91 start in 2022, there will now be multiple questions about the future. Specifically, which driver will be the first to suit up for Trackhouse Racing in 2023, and will they do so at the Daytona 500?
Marks specifically mentioned the Crown Jewel race as a possibility, which creates some intrigue heading toward the season-opening race. The reason is that there is a decorated competitor seeking a ride for the big show.
Helio Castroneves, a four-time Indy 500 champion, won the Camping World SRX Series season opener over the summer. This win was part of a deal with series CEO Don Hawk and it meant that he would use his connections to find Castroneves a seat for the Daytona 500.
Trackhouse Racing and Project91 stand out as the logical destination for Castroneves for the Crown Jewel race. Marks also previously acknowledged that this partnership could be a possibility.