Trackhouse Racing had just one top-five finish last season with Daniel Suarez. Just three races into the 2022 season, the team has already doubled that number. In fact, they eclipsed their total number of laps led all of last season in just one race today by Ross Chastain at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
When Justin Marks and Pitbull expanded to a two-car operation in the offseason, they weren't just purchasing the assets of Chip Ganassi Racing. They were on the verge of building something special. Something that would transform them into threats each and every weekend. This is a team fully capable of winning races this season, and they are inching ever so close to that goal.
Last weekend at Auto Club Speedway, Suarez took the lead on the final restart of the race and nearly captured the team's first victory. The driver from Monterrey, Mexico earned a 4th place finish and made a bold statement after exiting his No. 99 Chevrolet.
"We're going to win a few races very soon here," Suarez said. "We had a fast car, but we went through a lot of adversity. My pit crew, those guys are legends. It's unbelievable. It's the best pit crew I've ever had, and it's a lot of fun to race like that. To be able to be here and perform this way. I'm happy and I'm horror at the same time. I can tell you that I'm going to work very, very hard to go to Victory Lane very, very soon here."
That promise looked like it might be fulfilled today at Las Vegas. Chastain led a race-high 83 laps in the event, and won Stage 2 of the race in his No. 1 Chevrolet. On the final pit stop sequence before the overtime period, Chastain took four Goodyear tires while the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, and William Byron opted for a two-tire stop instead.
Chastain managed to get around Byron, but did not have enough time to get to Bowman and Larson. He still came home with a 3rd place finish. “Two tires, I didn’t expect it to work, but when there’s three of them, they just had us all blocked,” Chastain explained. “Kyle really wanted to get by the 24 on the last lap. Other than that, I think he might have had something for them. He just couldn’t quite clear them with the momentum. That’s what teammates are for. Daniel needed me up there last week and I needed Daniel today.”
All in all, it was a positive outlook for the team as they continue to grow. They put themselves in a position to win, which is all you can ask for.
"Dream come true," he said after the race. "This is what all the work is for. This is why we train, done our whole lives and careers, once we realize we can race at this level is to have race cars like that. Couldn't be more proud of Trackhouse, having ACM on the car, be able to go over and hang out now tomorrow night."
"It took a lot of patience inside the car from our fast racing. It's tough for me to not get too aggressive, a lot of neutral thinking, and Josh Wise, and a book by Trevor Moawad really helped me today. That's progress." After crossing the finish line on Sunday, he thanked his team on the radio. "Good job, guys. That's so cool. Thank you."
This is a place where Chastain has had recent success, too. Chastain won an Xfinity Series at the 1.5-mile oval track with Chip Ganassi in 2018.
Trackhouse Racing is knocking on the door of their first Cup Series victory. Soon, that door will open. Both Chastain and Suarez are fully capable of accomplishing the feat, especially considering how the NextGen car has leveled the playing field.
Suarez was snake bitten early in the race when he was collected by Chase Briscoe after the Stewart Haas Racing driver got loose coming out of Turn 4. He made contact with the right-rear of Daniel's car, which sent him head-on into the outside wall. Fortunately, Suarez was not injured but did finish last in the 37-car field.
Even with that bad luck, Marks was still proud of the team's effort. “Incredibly proud of the 1 group. Gutted for the 99 group. Best moment of the day for me: The entire 99 pit crew in the 1 pit box with 25 laps to go supporting their brothers. This is Trackhouse Racing.”
Chastain's run to the front of the field on Sunday was something of beauty. After starting in 18th position, the 29-year old rebounded quite nicely after last weekend at Fontana when he spun in the race. He took the lead for the first time just past the halfway point, and reclaimed his spot with five laps remaining in Stage 2.
“We’ve come back from last week where I completely destroyed a car and spun out in the race for no reason. Justin took me for lunch this week and told me, ‘Quit trying so hard,’” Chastain said. “A lot of the thoughts that I had today was just neutral thinking. A car that fast makes it easy, but even at the end there where we lined up fifth, I knew it was going to be tough because it was only two laps. I don’t feel like I made any mistakes, will learn to keep up with the track better.”
The question isn't whether or not Suarez or Chastain will ever win a race, but rather when they will win that first one for this rising team.