Trackhouse Racing will celebrate its 100th NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend at the Charlotte Roval while looking for both cars to advance into the next round of the playoffs.
“Time has really flown by,” founder Justin Marks said of the milestone. “It’s amazing that we actually started talking about this project over three years ago. Not only has the time flown, but we’ve packed so much into those three years creating a brand and entering the sport with our friends at [Richard Childress Racing] and then obviously, the [Chip Ganassi Racing] acquisition and becoming a fully autonomous organization and all that. We’ve packed a lot of business development into a short period of time.”
Trackhouse debuted in 2021 as a single-car entity with Daniel Suarez. It was based on the Childress campus and relied heavily on its technical partner for support and resources. Suarez’s cars came off the Childress shop floor.
Marks then branched out and bought Ganassi’s stock car program late last year, giving him room to expand his program. With two charters came a second car, the hiring of Ross Chastain, and moving into the Ganassi building to stand independently.
In 100 races, Trackhouse Racing has three wins.
“I feel very fortunate that a lot of people believed in something that I think would have been a difficult thing to believe in,” Marks said. “Especially with me out there saying I’m going to start this race team, we’re going to be a winning race team, we’re going to be a championship contending race team. That gets met with a lot of sort of eye rolls like, yeah, we’ve seen this story before.
“So, for us now at 100 races this weekend and that milestone of competing to put both of our cars in the Round of 8 is a testament to all of the people that trusted me and the vision of Trackhouse and decided their professional lives to that cause. It’s pretty awesome.”
Suarez and the No. 99 team showed flashes of success last season but ultimately finished 25th in points. By going to two cars and standing on its own, the pressure ramped up for Trackhouse to show it was serious about competing at the sport’s highest level.
But Marks didn’t start a team just to start a team. It has to be a competitive team, so the entrepreneur and former driver and made it clear to all of his employees that success had to be shown pretty quickly if they were going to have a future in the sport.
“I think when you come into this sport, it’s so expensive and it’s so sponsorship-driven, and you have to have the support of all your partners, and you have to have the support of the OEM like we do with Chevrolet,” Marks said. “I couldn’t float this thing financially, personally, in perpetuity. There comes a point where we have to get great marketing partners to invest in this company and make sure we’re delivering for Chevrolet in a certain time frame to really be insurance for longevity for the enterprise.
“There was not a, ‘Hey, we have to win a race in 2022.’ It wasn’t anything like that. It’s not easy street. We’re not just going to do the Trackhouse thing and if we win, great. This organization had to establish itself as a winning organization quickly to give us the best opportunity to really have longevity for the future.”
Trackhouse is one of Chevrolet’s key partners, and Marks said the team has multiyear commitments from its sponsors. Those things are made possible by Trackhouse showing it is on an upward trajectory.
Chastain and Suarez can continue that trend at the Roval. Both made the playoffs for the first time in their careers and are above the cutline going into the postseason’s second elimination race. Chastain is third on the playoff grid (up 28 points), and Suarez is seventh (up 12 points).
Chastain won at the Circuit of the Americas road course for his first career win in late March. Suarez earned his first victory on the Sonoma road course.
Whether being in this position is an expected mindset for Trackhouse is something the organization is still learning.
“We are a small organization,” Marks said. “I struggle with the underdog thing a little bit and it’s just the fact that when I look in this building, I look at all these people, and I go, these aren’t underdog people. These are elite talents in everything they do. So, if we can unlock their full potential, then that’s what we are. We’re a winning organization.
“I’ve said this many times, I didn’t start Trackhouse to run 10th. I started Trackhouse to build a company that could contend for wins and championships. It just happened really quickly. The good thing about us is a lot of the noise stays out of the building. A lot of the what is Trackhouse going to be? Is this a moment? Just all the stuff around us stays out of the building because we really just focus week to week on the job that we have to do that week.
“Right now, the entire building is about how do we do well at the Roval? And getting excited about the Roval. It’s remarkable how loose everybody is right now and how much everyone is smiling and doing our thing because we work hard and we’re good at what we do, but we’re also really committed to just having fun and enjoying the process. I think everybody in the back of their mind knows if we just stay committed to that, there will be success for a long time in our future.”