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Ross Chastain, driving Trackhouse’s No. 1 Chevrolet, gained the lead, lost the lead then earned his first series victory – all in the final lap of Sunday’s race at the Circuit of the Americas.
Chastain, in his first season driving for Trackhouse, clashed with noted road course ace A.J. Allmendinger in the final turns to pick up the win – which served not only a validation of Chastain’s journey to the top level of NASCAR, but also for Trackhouse.
“This was an ambitious thing to sort of dream up, and I asked a lot of people that had a lot of experience in this sport and seen a lot of teams come and go to trust me and to commit to Trackhouse,” team co-owner Justin Marks said of the formation of his team in fall 2020.
“And so to be here not even a year-and-a-half really into our existence, I’m just proud of everybody that committed. Every single one of these people, they own a piece of this victory.”
Trackhouse started as a one-car team with former Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez driving the No. 99 Chevrolet in the 2021 season.
During the middle of last year, Marks and team co-owner Grammy award-winning rapper Pitbull announced they had purchased the assets of Chip Ganassi Racing and would expand to a two-car team in 2022, adding former Ganassi driver Chastain as Suarez’s teammate.
It was only about one year ago Saurez got Trackhouse’s first top-five finish in the Cup Series, with his fourth-place finish in the Bristol (Tenn.) Dirt Race.
In a sport typically dominated of late by the legendary organizations of Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske, Trackhouse is now one of four organizations to have won races this season – the first with the Next Generation race car.
“Trackhouse is an investment in the people. The thing is this car – I really believed since day one that this car delivers an opportunity for these companies to feel like real teams and to really invest in teamwork,” Marks said.
“The way the Nos. 1 and the 99 (teams) work together and how everybody feels motivated and empowered. The pitch was, ‘Let’s build a great team together, let’s do all of this together.’ That was the inside of the building pitch.
“The outside of the building pitch is this sport is ready for challengers. It’s ready for disruptors. It’s ready for people to come in and challenge the status quo and how we do things, have some fun, look good, try to be fast, win races and have a good time doing it.”
The combination of Suarez and Chastain had already been paying big dividends prior to Chastain’s victory Sunday as both drivers have been in contention for wins in the season’s first five races.
In fact, Suarez started the race leading the first 15 laps and claimed the Stage 1 win but spun out at the start of Stage 2, which left him fighting from behind the remainder of the day.
While Suarez dropped out of contention, Chastain appeared to take his place and ended up leading 31 of the 69 laps.
“This is big business racing, and this is a huge industry,” said Chastain, who now has four consecutive finishes of third or better this season. “You don’t just get the ride because you want it. I get that.
“But I don’t know how I could have ever scripted my career and the people that I met along the way, the people that I hurt along the way, the people that I wronged along the way, but it’s all got me here one way or the other.”
With its first win secured, don’t expect Trackhouse Racing to start raising expectations.
It took a lot of hard work to get to this point; it will take even more to continue the journey.
“We feel like – I don’t want to use the word ‘championship’. We just got here, so it’s like we still have a lot to learn,” Marks said. “And we haven’t been to a short track yet. We still have a lot to learn with these race cars.
“We’ll just keep fighting along and doing the best that we can, and we’ll see where we end up at the beginning of the fall.”