Suárez win in Sonoma punctuates impressive Trackhouse rise


Daniel Suarez burns out after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, June 12, 2022, at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)


Of all the surprising developments to ponder during this week-long break in a highly entertaining NASCAR Cup Series season, the emergence of Trackhouse Racing might be the most unlikely of them all.

That’s right, the 2-year-old team co-owned by Pitbull and ridden by two riders who had never won a Cup race three months ago. Trackhouse has already racked up three wins and 15 top 10s while producing some of the most memorable moments of the year so far.

“To be such a new band, that’s not supposed to happen,” said pilot Ross Chastain. “But we have two fast cars.”

Mr. Worldwide and his deep-pocketed co-owner Justin Marks could celebrate even greater achievements in the months to come with two compelling drivers and two diverse and talented teams behind them.

Daniel Suárez’s inaugural Cup Series victory at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday was the latest superlative in a string of encouraging Trackhouse performances throughout the season. Chastain has already put the team in the winner’s circle with its first two career wins at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega, and both drivers look capable of keeping the Trackhouse versions of the Next Gen race car near the top of the standings all season.

“I’m not surprised we’re a winning race team,” Marks said after watching Suárez raise a celebratory goblet in wine country. “I wouldn’t have started this project if I hadn’t truly believed there was an opportunity to build a new racing team in this sport that could win. It just happened very quickly. It was a surprise. But it also makes sense, because we have great people working so hard, and the promise of this car is delivered every weekend.

Indeed, it’s a remarkably quick return on investment for Marks after buying the Chip Ganassi Racing operation for the new season. The introduction of the Next Gen car has theoretically opened the door for any team good enough to race it, and Trackhouse’s new mix of ex-Ganassi employees has done wonderfully so far.

“We’re just having fun,” Suárez team manager Travis Mack said. “I’ve never been to a place that had so much fun. We build fast race cars and everyone likes to work. It’s just a great place to be right now. The team chemistry is incredible between (Chastain’s number) 1 and (Suárez’s number) 99. It really feels like a team is loading two cars.

Sunday’s win in wine country was also Mack’s first victory as a crew chief. He believes he was Trackhouse’s second rookie, and he exemplifies the team’s willingness to take risks: Mack is not an engineer like most Cup Series crew chiefs, but a former specialist shock absorbers and front mechanic who worked their way up to the lead position.

Trackhouse also hopes to be part of a renewed interest in motor racing in Latino culture when combined with developments such as Sergio Perez’s success in Formula 1 and Pato O’Ward’s rising profile in IndyCar. Suárez and Pitbull, the Miami-born son of Cuban immigrants, are both keen to captivate Hispanic fans who haven’t traditionally seen themselves at the top levels of North American motor racing.

“Trackhouse is a team that anyone can be a fan of,” Marks said. “To me, it’s kind of a representation of what America stands for. It’s a place where you can come with big dreams, and you can work hard to achieve those dreams. … It just shows the incredible place we live in. It’s great to be able to write these stories.

Trackhouse teams are diverse, as anyone who watched Suárez’s joyful victory celebrations could see. Suárez also has a chief engineer from Mexico City, although Jose Blasco-Figueroa missed the Sonoma race due to illness.

Blasco-Figueroa called out Suárez in tears moments after the driver exited the car following his historic victory. They will celebrate with the rest of the squad – after Suárez returned from a trip to Mexico to see his family this week.

Suárez loves being part of this achievement – and he’s even happier after finally picking up a win on his 195th career Cup start. Suárez was Trackhouse’s only driver last year, and Marks confidently stuck with him after a debut season with just three top-10 finishes, none above fourth.

With a new car under him, Suárez says he firmly believes Trackhouse is a championship contender.

“The beautiful part is that we get stronger as we go along,” Suárez said. “If you had asked me that question three months ago, I would have said, ‘Man, we have the potential, but we have work to do. Two months ago, I started to believe it more. A month ago, I would have said, ‘Heck yeah.’ And now we are here, and we continue to grow strong. And I guarantee you that in a month we will be stronger than we are now. We will continue to work.

“Today was amazing. We did a lot of things well, but we think the car could have been a bit better. When you look at the big picture and always try to see what you would have been able to do better or differently, that’s when you become a great team, and I feel like we’re on the right track.


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Lynn A. Saleh