Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Shawn Marquez Jr. caps strong year in SportMods

SHERMAN, Texas — Across the landscape of North Texas, racers young and old wheel their IMCA Southern SportMods all season long at a handful of tracks. It’s a hotbed division in an area loaded with rising stars, seasoned veterans and top-notch race cars. There are no free rides to stardom here. 

Yet for 18-year-old Shawn Marquez Jr., it’s an ideal place to showcase his talents. This year, he earned five wins, 19 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes in 32 starts, highlighted by the IMCA SportMod points championship at Grayson County Speedway. It took a lot of hard work, but paid dividends in the end. 

“In the first three races of our season, we started off pretty strong,” Marquez explained. “Then I was messing around at my house and broke my ankle. So I missed six or seven weeks of the season at Grayson County. 

“After that, it was a grind and battle to fight our way back into contention. We put in a ton of hours at the shop, and worked hard in the pits to earn the best possible finishes. Every night out we worked to find that extra tenth of a second it takes to keep up with the competition.” 

When Marquez and his team worked on the car, it wasn’t to just hang out with his buddies. 

“We were in the shop every night with the car on scales; trying to figure out what numbers worked best for the car, what shock valving and springs were the best, that kind of thing. That’s what it takes to win. I’m a student of the sport, and love to experiment with the setup to gain an advantage.”

With over a decade of racing under his belt, Marquez has paid his dues coming up through the ranks. 

“I got my start in Karts when I was just six years old,” he said. “After the Karts, I got into an entry- level class of cars that were similar to a Stock Car but had a 305 engine. I got into that when I was 13, then moved into an Eco Stock and won the points championship in that division. 

“After that, I ran an Eco Mod for two years, then moved up into the SportMod and still love it today. Even in those Eco Stocks, it was an ideal training ground since I was competing against adults and getting bounced around. They tend to use those cars up during the course of a season.” 

When Marquez unloads his machine at any of the tracks in North Texas, the competition is stiff. 

“This is easily one of the toughest classes in Texas,” he said. “It’s definitely more of a driver/technical division; one where driver skills and team chemistry are more important than how much you can spend. I feel like our SportMods are often overlooked, and don’t get enough attention.

“Modifieds are ruled by money; but it takes hard work, skill and some luck to do well in a SportMod. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that Grayson County has some of the toughest competition in Texas you’ll find in this division. They run hard every week, and don’t hand over a single position out there.”

When Marquez puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he climbs into a well-crafted machine. 

“We have a 2021 IRP chassis powered by a motor from Big Dave’s Racing Engines,” he explained. “They made some nice improvements to IRP cars in 2020, so from then on they’re all fast machines. We had ours pretty well dialed in this year, and that motor from Big Dave has all kinds of power.”

Along with his 12 years of racing experience and top-notch race car, Marquez has plenty of support. 

“I didn’t have such a strong year without a lot of help,” he said. “I need to thank several people, including my Dad, Shawn Marquez; my buddies Clay and Barret, who help turn the wrenches down in the pits; Jeramy Hansley at Holiday Auto Group; and Scott at C&L Natural Stone, Incorporated. 

“I also want to thank Corey Robertson at Robertson Welding Service; David Phillips at Big Dave’s Racing Engines; Loni Richardson at TRC Race Cars; Trent Wyrick at Rush Race Gear; Bryan W. McCollum at SherDen Roofing & Construction, LLC; Mark and Marilyn Brum Williams at Watermark Custom Homes, LLC; Cafe Blackbird, the Law Office of Luke Motley, and NAPA Auto Parts of Sherman, Texas. I appreciate their support, and couldn’t do this without them.” 

With the 2023 season now in the books, the Marquez family will enjoy a nice Thanksgiving holiday. When a new season rolls around, this young racer will try his hand at something a little different. 

“We’ve been tinkering around with a Modified a little bit,” he said in a low-key fashion. “We’re going to hit a few races with it early on that aren’t sanctioned, that way it won’t hurt my future run at Rookie-of-the-Year honors. If we like it, we’ll roll with it. If not, I’ll just jump back into my trusty SportMod.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Debra Hix