Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BETHEL, CT – No driver who’s ever strapped into a race car has thought of something other than making it to victory lane. That moment of coming off the last corner, seeing the checkered flag flying and knowing it’s for them.
That is what every racer strives for, and Lebanon Valley Speedway Big Block Modified racer Josh Marcus is no different.
However, his drive to be on top of the mountain isn’t just paved with desire for himself. This young man from Bethel, CT has a purpose, and that purpose is stitched with family ties.
Marcus’ lineage in the racing world was paved by his uncle, former multi-time Lebanon Valley champion George Marcus. The Marcus name has been synonymous with the West Lebanon, NY oval since the 70’s.
Unfortunately, George passed away last July after a courageous battle with Cancer. Now, Josh aspires to not only win for himself, but to bring his family back to the top.
“To finally get the 91M back into Lebanon Valley’s victory lane would mean the absolute world to me,” Marcus said. “I’ve been picturing winning my first race there since I knew I wanted to race cars.”
What did that picture look like? What did he see?
“I can see everyone who pushed me to that moment going nuts,” he said. “Once I park the car in victory lane, I don’t even have the patience to take my helmet off or what not. I climb on the roof with the checkered flag in hand and know my uncle’s looking down on me and smiling.”
It’s that drive that has pushed Marcus and his father, legendary crew chief Robbie (the other half of the infamous Marcus Bros. Racing Team) to improve the performance each time they go on the track.
The team had their best season to date in 2021, finishing 17th in points at Lebanon. With that has come several challenges, but every lap he makes, Josh learns, and it all focuses on giving him more seat time.
“With our very limited budget, I’ve developed a bunch of bad habits due to parts failing and my inexperience with the Modified,” he said. “We struggled a lot in 2021 with brake issues. We finally go those solved and after that, I feel like I finally had a car to learn with and improve my driving.”
That’s why, late last year, the team made the decision to visit other tracks with their PMC Modified to search for answers as well as experience.
Did it work?
I feel that going to places like Albany-Saratoga definitely helped a lot,” he said. “Traveling to other tracks is always exciting but it’s also an eye opener. It helps because you learn how to work with different track conditions, how to adapt to different driving styles and setting up the car. It was all a huge help for me as a drive and I’d love to get out and try more places this year so I can keep improving.”
This coming season, the Marcus’ have their eyes on venturing out to other speedplants when time allows, but their primary focus remains rooted in their history.
“Our main priority is going to be Lebanon Valley with the Big Block so we can continue the tradition of the 91M,” he said. “Hopefully, if the budget lets us, we want to venture out and see more tracks towards the end of the year, but our goal is to put together the best program we can for the Valley.”
It’s the push to be the best driver possible which is a driving force for Josh. It’s something he thinks about more times that not, and knows there are people that wouldn’t understand the fire that burns within him.
“To some, it may seem like racing is something for us to do on a Saturday,” he said. “However, to my father and me, it’s our lives. We live and breathe race cars.
Even with that desire, exactly how important is it for Josh and his dad to keep the tradition of the 91M, started by his late uncle, going?
“I absolutely want to carve my own path in this sport,” he said. “There’s no question about that. However, continuing the legacy of the 91M keeps pushing us to do our best each time we pull into the track. Without out my Uncle George, we would never be where we are now and that’s one thing I could never thank him enough for. That’s why I want to make him proud.”
There’s no doubt Uncle George was, and still is, extremely proud of his nephew.
Josh Marcus is doing exactly what he loves. From the day he first sat in a Slingshot to the most recent laps he’s made in a Big Block, this young man is living his dream while helping others remember just what the Marcus name and that number means to the sport of auto racing.
It’s safe to say that when, not if, he does get his first Big Block win, people will know the 91M is back. They’ll also know that the kid holding the checkered flag isn’t just holding “a flag.” Josh would be holding a dream come true.