GRAND FORKS, ND – Heading into his rookie season with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series in 2017, Brent Marks had limited experience in a sprint car on smaller tracks. After all, he cut his teeth racing in Central Pennsylvania, which is dotted with bigger tracks, mainly half-miles.
Marks has been adapting pretty well to the smaller tracks and learning the nuances of “bullrings,” which was well evidenced on June 2 when he scored his first-career World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series win at Wilmot Raceway in Wisconsin. Marks will return to one of the most famed bullrings in the country this weekend, as the Outlaws make their first of two appearances this season at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., on Friday, June 15 for the 1st Leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour.
“We have a track back home, Path Valley (Speedway) that is a small track,” said Marks. “I used to race go-karts there and we raced sprints cars there from time to time. I was kind of able to relate to that track, the first time we went to River Cities (Speedway). It’s a really cool track and I had fun up there last year. I’m really looking forward to going back.”
Marks finished eighth in his debut at River Cities Speedway last June. The native of Myerstown, Pa., started 21st in the 40-lap race and powered his way into the top-10, which earned him the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that the track was extremely fast, due to rain earlier in the evening. Marks points to a delicate balance that is needed when racing at River Cities Speedway, especially when in traffic.
“If you are too patient, there is someone right there behind you ready to pounce,” he explained. “I liked it a lot last time we were there and it got slick. The first time it was wet and heavy and a bit trickier. I’m more of a slick track fan. When it’s wet and heavy and that fast, if you make a mistake, there is a guy right there, ready to take your spot. You have to really be smart at these little race tracks.”
Marks has passed plenty of cars in feature events this season and is near the top of the leaderboard in that statistical category. He also has earned the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award four times this year. The sophomore driver is quick to point out, though, that it means he has been starting further back in main events, which stems back to time trials and heat race finishes.
“We’ve had really good cars comes feature time,” he shared. “We just have been struggling the first half of the night. We’ve started a lot of nights out with not a lot of speed and then adjust as the night goes on and usually we hit on something. Hopefully, the next time we go back to a particular track, whether it’s later this year or next year, hopefully we’ll start the night out faster. It’s been a huge learning curve this season and last year was, too.”
One of the biggest battles that Marks and his fellow World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series competitors have had this season is with Mother Nature. Nearly 20 scheduled events have been impacted by rain this season, with a number of those being re-scheduled. Marks recently welcomed a second crew member to join Jesse Lentz, on the road with him. For the first four-plus months of the season, it was just Marks and Lentz grinding it out against teams that have three full-time crew members.
“We’ve had issues with the rain all year and other issues with equipment that we are trying to work out,” noted Marks. “It’s been a rough year in some aspects, but we are still having fun and enjoy racing with the World of Outlaws. We’ve gone back to tracks this year that we were really bad at last year and have been good at them this year, come race time. That’s a big improvement.”
Entering this weekend’s pair of races in North Dakota, Marks is just 30 points out of the top-10 in the series standings. He has nine top-10 finishes, of which three are top-five performances, including his win.
“We just have to keep doing what we are doing,” said Marks. “Getting a win at Wilmot was a huge morale boost for both Jesse and myself. We have to make sure everything is running good and our cars are handling well and our equipment is staying fresh. If we can accomplish those things, we’ll have a good summer stretch with the Outlaws.”
Tickets for the 1st Leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour at River Cities Speedway on Friday, June 15 can be purchased in advance online at slspromotions.ticketforce.com or by calling 815-344-2023, as well at ticket outlets in the Grand Forks area. Tickets can also be purchased on race day at the track.