How did Trackhouse and Suarez play defectors in NASCAR

forget Top Gun MaverickIn the NASCAR world, Team Trackhouse feels like a great summertime movie. In the cup series where he loves giants Hendrick MotorsportsAnd the Joe Gibbs Racing And the Penske team Track House is the brave little squadron who puts them all in his sights and shoots them into flames.

formed by Justin MarksA former race car driver in GTs, ARCA, Trucks and the Xfinity Series, and in partnership with Armando Christian Perez, aka Pitbull rapper, and former DEI man Ty Norris, she’s come a long way in just 18 months.

Marx put his faith in Mexico Daniel Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity Series Champion and the only non-American born driver to win a major NASCAR title. Joining the cup streak with Gibbs, Suarez struggled to make an impression, and his top-level career seemed to falter as he jumped from team to team and slipped further over the net – before starting Track House.

Daniel Suarez, Gaunt Brothers Racing, Toyota Camry Toyota Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

Daniel Suarez, Gaunt Brothers Racing, Toyota Camry Toyota Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

Photography: Russell Labonte/NKP/ motorsports pictures

“I knew in 2020 I had hit the bottom,” Suarez admits of his season with the minnow Gaunt Brothers Racing team. “I’ve only hit rock bottom a few times in my life, and that was one of them. In my opinion, it couldn’t be any worse.

“Since I joined the Cup Series, after winning the Xfinity title, it was never quite stable, it was never what I wanted. I just didn’t feel comfortable. So 2020 was the year I reset. It was awful on the racetrack, but it made me What I am now, and it made me tougher. I knew it couldn’t get any worse. Then, Track House came to the table.”

Trackhouse was starting from scratch as a start-up team, in the final season of the Gen-7 NASCAR Machines. After a frustrating start to the 2021 Daytona 500, when Suarez came out on the first big wreck of the race, fourth place on dirt in Bristol showed this team’s slim appetite for running with the big guys.

This was followed by a handful of top 10 performances that were absolutely fantastic for a one-car team – a huge improvement over their ‘rock bottom’ season. Things were getting better.

After a tough few years in the cup, Suarez has taken a leap of confidence with Trackhaus

After a tough few years in the cup, Suarez has taken a leap of confidence with Trackhaus

Photo: Nigel Kenrad/NKP/ motorsports pictures

The real game-changer came in August, when Marks announced that Trackhouse had bought Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR operation ahead of the 2022 season. Team Ganassi’s team has always performed below par in the Cup (compared to Chip’s massive success elsewhere) and this was a deal that fit right in. All Parties. After the operation from the angle Richard Childress RacingShop, now the Trackhouse will have its own crib.

Shortly after this deal was struck, I spent this past September 500 in Darlington in the Trackhouse pit square. I got amazing insight into how it works, and in particular, what struck me was the communication between Suarez, his chief of staff, Travis Mack, and the second observer, Frank Kimmel.

The challenge for them was to stay on top of an ever-changing path. The race started under the hot sun in the late afternoon and ran until midnight. Obviously just staying on the first lap wouldn’t be easy, as the pace up front was flat around the ‘Lady in Black’.

“I’ve only hit rock bottom in my life a few times, and [2020] One of them was. In my opinion, it couldn’t be worse than that.” Daniel Suarez

Suarez may have been alone in the cockpit but at Kimmel he had an extra set of eyes above the runway, to train his line as well as inform those around him. Owner Marks spent most of his time at ground level – sometimes jumping up the ladder to check in with Mac, who was staging the entire show right in front of me, and you could get nervous as every decision was crucial the next day as a result of the run.

Tracking tire pressure changes the old-fashioned way was achieved, with Mack using a whiteboard and marker, as well as a laptop and notebook as reference from previous races. Eyes were glued to the timing screen as much as a racetrack, but the two sides that caught my eye were both strategic application – indicating whether the next stop should be four tires or two – and SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT) data, where Suarez’s car is comparable to any other competitor. In real time to show whether it is trending positively or not.

A behind-the-scenes view of Suarez at Darlington in 2021, with Chief of Staff Travis Mack

A behind-the-scenes view of Suarez at Darlington in 2021, with Chief of Staff Travis Mack

Photography: Charles Bradley

After Mack fought back, throwing the dice on strategy, Suarez hung an excruciatingly long distance on worn tires and then struck lucky by taking advantage of the redemption of the free pass under the fortunately timed warning he was praying for. That led to a solid 13th finish, after four hours of grueling racing, while Marks also had something else to cheer about: Ganassi Racing finished third (with Ross Chastain) and sixth.

After the race, there was a quick questioning between Suarez and Mack about what went right and what they could have done better; Daniel’s car looks relatively clean compared to Bubba WallaceA heavily striped Toyota Camry in Darlington is parked next to it.

Daniel Suarez interrogates with Travis Mack at TrackHouse Racing

Daniel Suarez interrogates with Travis Mack at TrackHouse Racing

Photography: Charles Bradley

while we wait Ryan BlaneyThe man back on the golf cart, who had just moved Ryan and his dog to his waiting car, snorted to Suarez about the insight I had just received and explained some of the accidents I saw that shaped the race.

I suggested that twelfth place would be the absolute maximum he could achieve. He smiled knowing, “Just wait until next year.” “You’ll see what positions we’ll be racing for at that time.”

I remind him of this on Tuesday’s call, as he took some time out from celebrating his victory with his family in Monterrey, Mexico.

“I’ve always felt very confident in myself,” Suarez says. “I know what I can do, I know I can lead, and I know I can defeat these other guys. I’ve become stronger, both physically and mentally, but it takes a lot of effort to get to this point.”

“I knew you had to have the right car and the right people. And I knew the next generation car was the perfect storm for someone like me. Because I’m the guy who doesn’t say ‘give me the best things to win’ I say ‘give me the same things as everyone else’.”

“If it wasn’t for the next generation car, I wouldn’t be here [winning], the Trackhouse will not be here. Maybe Russia, too. This is why I had so much confidence in my buddies and excitement about this year.”

and show up. Coupled with the advent of the next generation, the CGR purchase was completely timed by Marks. The momentum built up last year – every acorn grows from an acorn – had somewhere to go. The addition of the #1 car, while keeping the very aggressive Chastain, if not many friends on the right track this season, has come back to Marks’ big investment.

Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez, TrackHouse Racing teammates

Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez, TrackHouse Racing teammates

Photo: Nigel Kenrad/NKP/ motorsports pictures

Chastain won his first cup race at COTA’s Trackhouse in March – after Suarez’s dominant first-stage handlebar failed after being forced into a spin on restart – and The Melon Man immediately repeated the feat at Talladega.

Suarez won the NASCAR Open event in Texas, a prelude to the All-Star race, but a bona fide Cup Series win proved elusive — especially given his teammate’s success — until Sunday’s flawlessly executed race win at Sonoma.

Passion flowed freely, with Marks stating, “Daniel Suarez, Travis Mack helped build Trackhouse. They worked so hard together, they were so focused, so dedicated to getting to Victory Lane – I’m so proud of them.”

“If it wasn’t for the next generation car, I wouldn’t be here [winning], the Trackhouse will not be here. Maybe Russia, too. That is why I had so much confidence in my buddies and enthusiasm this year” Daniel Suarez

With the victory comes a place in the playoffs, and Suarez’s first shot in the NASCAR title since that euphoric night at Homestead in 2016, when he shocked the establishment at the time as well. And for Trackhouse, she adds a second bullet to her rifle in the post-season—providing important knowledge as it speeds up her learning.

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture. As for NASCAR, it now has a Mexican Grand Prix winner in its ranks – very useful if she chooses to pitch to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City – as well as Pitbull’s co-ownership which brings a whole different element to its fan demographic. Suarez’s fan club – Daniel Amigos – has brought more and more Latino fans to the track.

It also credits the investment of Mexican motorsport patriarch Carlos Slim Dumet, the ultra-sharp businessman who has believed in Suarez since day one of his NASCAR ride. Carlos once told me, in his amazing meeting room in Mexico City seven years ago, to keep an eye on him!

And of course, the No. 91 third car at the Trackhouse is coming soon – only 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen will drive it at Watkins Glen. The snowman will have a car at his disposal that is surely capable of doing great things on the road track…

Read also:
Can a particular snowman make it three Trackhouse winners in 2022?

Can a particular snowman make it three Trackhouse winners in 2022?

Photography: Jerry Andre / motorsports pictures