Tarso Marques is perhaps best known as Fernando Alonso‘s first team-mate in Formula One when they raced for Minardi in 2001. Over two decades later, he will try his hand at the NASCAR Cup Series.
On Tuesday, Team Stange Racing announced it will field the #79 Ford Mustang in the Cup Series with an eight-race schedule beginning at Road America on 3 July. Later runs will come at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (31 July), Watkins Glen International (21 August), Daytona International Speedway (27 August), Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (9 October), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (16 October), Homestead-Miami Speedway (23 October), and Phoenix Raceway (6 November). Fitting with Marques’ résumé, four of the starts will come at road courses. Dignity Gold, LLC, a blockchain security company, will sponsor the car. According to a team release, the sponsorship was fully paid using the firm’s DIGau security token.
Marques raced in F1 for Minardi at the turn of the millennium, which included the final ten rounds of the 1997 season and first fourteen of 2001. The latter saw him record the team’s best finish of the season with a pair of ninths in his native Brazil and Canada, though he was consistently outpaced by his rookie team-mate Alonso. With the team being one of the smallest and frequently plagued by funding issues, Marques lost his seat ahead of the last three races.
Between his two F1 stints, he went to the United States in 1999 to compete in CART (later Champ Car) for Team Penske as an injury replacement for Al Unser Jr. A year later, he joined Dale Coyne Racing for all but the first three races in 2000 for the latter. His best finish was seventh in the season finale at Fontana. Marques returned to Champ Car in 2004 and 2005 for four races with DCR, finishing outside the top ten in each.
While NASCAR is a different code from open-wheel, Marques has prior stock car experience. Since 2006, he has competed in Stock Car Brasil with two wins. Off the track, he runs Tarso Marques Concept, an automotive customisation and design business.
“Very happy and proud to announce that in 2022 I will be representing Brazil competing in the NASCAR Cup Series on the Dignity Gold team with Team Stange Racing,” Marques posted on social media. “It will be a new challenge, a new category where it has the most disputed races in the world and I can’t wait to be there!!!! We have a lot of work ahead of us with @digauofficial and @teamstangeracing to build the cars, the team as a whole to début in the category and start the development of the car and the whole team.”
Located in Chicago, Illinois, Team Stange Racing sporadically races in the ARCA Menards Series. In 2019, the team entered the NTT IndyCar Series to field the #77 for Oriol Servià in the Indianapolis 500, where he finished twenty-second. The effort was a partnership between Stange, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (now Arrow McLaren SP), and MotoGator that was branded as MotoGator Team Stange Racing with Arrow Schmidt Peterson.
“With an experienced driver like Tarso behind the wheel, we’re very optimistic about competing in the NASCAR Cup Series this year, with additional races and series to be announced,” said team president John Stange Jr. “I look forward to teaming up with Dignity and my friend Tarso on the racing programs, as we continue to build a dream team, leading exciting projects outside of racing.”