Here are a few things that are undeniable about Trackhouse Racing:
As Cup Series operations go, Trackhouse is still young — just one year and three races into competition. Trackhouse does not have a trophy case because it’s a new organization under the leadership of Justin Marks and Armando “Pitbull” Perez.
Trackhouse has qualified people working in its shop and two talented drivers. It is also an organization that has turned heads early in 2022.
Hard to argue those points, right? Ross Chastain is confident about something else when folks think of Trackhouse Racing.
“We are no underdog,” Chastain said. “We don’t have the legacy of winning and it’s a big deal right now. We win a stage, and we’re proud of that. I think the plan is, and the preparation we’re putting in, is to get to a point where that’s just, yep, OK, we won another stage but did we win the race?
“I don’t view us as an underdog. I know walking around the shop, we don’t feel like we’re lacking anything. The supply chain is the same for us as it is a single car that’s running part-time, and it’s the same for a powerhouse that has alliances. Our buddies (Richard Childress Racing) have the same stuff, and they’re building cars for Kaulig, and they have a whole campus up there for everything. They’re in the same boat we are, and we’re in the same boat as the smallest team when we go to races.”
With Chastain’s performance Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he led 83 laps, Trackhouse has now led more laps in one race than it did all of last season (74) and has its first stage win. Chastain and teammate Daniel Suarez both grabbed top-five finishes the previous two weekends and even looked like they might pull off a race win.
Suarez was fourth in Fontana after being out front with three laps to go. Chastain, in his career day in Vegas, not only led the most laps in the Pennzoil 400 but that he ever has in a single race. He finished third.
It’s easy to look at Trackhouse as an underdog or one of the little guys on the Cup Series circuit. Being new and with a small resume of success, some simply look at the numbers. Whereas Trackhouse has 128 employees, there are over 300 or 400 at some powerhouse operations.
But Trackhouse is showing early season speed and improvement. Or, as team boss Marks told RACER earlier this week, his two team’s recent performances are “proof of concept.”
Chastain is just doing his part. Last weekend resulted from taking to heart a recent sit-down with Marks, who reminded Chastain sometimes less is more. There is no more fighting for your job every week; instead, Chastain’s out to show everyone that he’s as much a serious player as Trackhouse Racing is.
“It’s huge,” Chastain said of his owner’s confidence and recent conversation. “We’ve been talking about it, and I know when I signed my contract, it was longer term. When I get in the race car, though, I struggle to bring it all back to anything more than just going as fast as I can. Vegas was a total reset for me, and a very fast race car definitely helped. But I had to constantly talk to myself in the car all weekend what he (and others have) talked about with me.”
Chastain and Suarez can put Trackhouse further into the big-time player discussion by making the playoffs — something both drivers confidently stated coming into the season was a realistic expectation.