From “Music City” to the “Windy City,” it’s been a tremendous week for Trackhouse.
Fresh off Ross Chastain’s big win in last Sunday night’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway, a super-sized NASCAR Cup Series Trackhouse team arrives in the heart of Chicago for first-ever street race in NASCAR Cup Series history.
Chastain and Daniel Suarez will represent Trackhouse in the Grant Park 220 NASCAR Cup Series race on a 2.2-mile, 12-turn street course. The street course includes Grand Park, Du Sable Lake Shore Drive, Balbo Street, Columbus Avenue and Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue.
They will be joined by three-time Supercar champion Shane van Gisbergen, who will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut Sunday driving the No. 91 Enhanced Health/Quad Lock Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as the PROJECT91 entry for Trackhouse.
The event will mark the third race for PROJECT91 after appearances by 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in 2022 and at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on March 26.
The 33-year-old van Gisbergen drives a Chevrolet Camaro in the Supercars Championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering. He won championships in 2016, 2021 and 2082. He has won 78 races with 47 poles positions – the fourth most successful driver in series history.
He won the Bathurst 1000 in 2020 and 2022.
Van Gisbergen isn’t a stranger to America finishing second in the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona in the GTD class. He’ll have a kindred soul in owner Marks who created Trackhouse Entertainment Group in 2020 after a driving career in sports cars and NASCAR. With the goal of creating a racing brand that transcends the sport, Marks formed Trackhouse Racing that took to the track in 2021 with Daniel Suárez behind the wheel.
Van Gisbergen is keeping his expectation level in check for his NASCAR Cup Series debut.
“I just want to do my best,” the native of New Zealand said. “I’ve prepared as well as I can, and I know the Trackhouse team runs some awesome cars. Meeting everyone and seeing how motivated they are. They’re nothing wrong with the equipment and the preparation.
“So yeah, I have no expectations, results-wise, but if I’m prepared the best I can be, we can achieve anything.”
One of the first people to arrive in Victory Lane at Nashville Superspeedway last Sunday night to congratulate Chastain for his big win was Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suarez.
He hopes to take Trackhouse to victory for himself Sunday night in Chicago.
"I think it is going to be one of the greatest events in NASCAR's 75-year history,” Suarez said enthusiastically. “Nobody knows how the racing will turn out, but as an event I think it is going to be incredible. We just need to get time on the track, and we'll see how the race plays out. I suspect it’s going to be pretty crazy which the fans usually love.
"I have a friend who said it best. Instead of the fans coming to the track, at a street race the track comes to the fans.”
The 31-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico will be one of the favorites in the inaugural event on the 2.2 mile, 12-turn street course.
To do that he will have to avoid the 2,200 barriers, that each weigh 9,500lbs, plus SAFER barriers and tire packs that Worldwide Express delivered to the Windy City in the last few weeks.
"We need walls and barriers to have a safe event, but as a driver we want to avoid the walls at all costs," Suárez said. "I mean only Worldwide Express could pull off something like organizing the delivery of that much stuff, but my plan is to not touch a single barrier all weekend.”
After a 12th-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway Sunday night, Suárez arrives in Chicago 16th in the standings with nine races remaining in the regular season.
Suárez is often one of the faster drivers on road courses and he hopes a practice day at the Detroit street course in a Trans-Am car on June 2 will pay dividends as the Cup drivers have very little time to familiarize themselves with the Chicago track.
“I went to Detroit a few weeks ago and made laps around the street course there,” Suarez recalled. “It's no different for a driver. You start thinking, ‘Where, can I get better, where can I make up some lap times, improve my line?’
“Trust me as race car drivers we are going to race as hard here as on any oval."
Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks will make his first Xfinity Series debut since 2018 when he drives Kaulig Racing's No. 10 Chevrolet in Saturday's Xfinity Series race, The Loop 121.
Marks believes taking NASCAR to the streets of one of a World Class city such as Chicago is a major step forward for the stock car racing series.
“I'm a huge fan of street racing because I think we're living in a time where we have to make what we do as a sport, as a business, we have to make that as accessible and easy to as many people as possible,” Marks said. “We can't have people work hard to try to find us, try to come to our races, do what we do.
“When you go street racing, you take your product to the people. You take it right to a city. You have a lot of people that come to the race that aren't race fans, but they want to see what it's all about, what's going on. From that standpoint, I'm a huge fan of street racing.
“I think it's a big unknown as far as how next week is going to go. I think street racing requires a lot of restraint. It requires a lot of patience and intelligent race craft.”
The Chicago Street Race has all the ingredients to be a major event. But will the style of racing on the track, match the event status?
“My hope is we have an event where there's a lot of green flag racing,” Marks explained. “I think the potential is there that we don't. I think all the competitors in the sport, everybody, is going to have to do a lot of work this week to make sure that everybody is prepared to race in a forum like that, in an environment like that.
“But in general, I'm really excited about the street racing concept. It's kind of how racing -- it is how racing started.
“Automobile racing started 100 years ago, 125 years ago, was putting cars on roads and seeing who could get the fastest from one point to another. That's to me the purest form of the sport. You put souped-up cars on a street and see how fast they can go down the street. I think it's a beautiful thing from that standpoint.
“There's just so many unknowns about where the sport is today and everything. I am hopeful that it's going to be a really, really great weekend. I think it has the potential to be a great weekend. It's why I'm racing for Jockey, Chevrolet on Saturday because I'm excited to be a part of it, because I'm a believer in that concept.
“As far as expectations, how I think it will go, I've talked to a lot of drivers the last couple of weeks. The consensus is nobody knows how it's going to go. That probably bodes well for all of us.”
What also bodes well for Trackhouse is the surge of momentum that the team brings with them from last weekend.
Marks is confident Chastain’s big win at Nashville, the home of Trackhouse Entertainment, is the spark of momentum that will carry the team to greatness the second half of this season.
It was Chastain’s third career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first this season, and came on an “old school” NASCAR oval.
“It’s hard to beat the first, the first win last year at COTA,” Chastain said after the win. “Nashville is where the word ‘Trackhouse’ was formed. Justin moved here with his family. Steve Smith and everybody at Tootsies went to a meeting with them, take a chance on me, I will make it pay off for you. Tootsies was one of the early sponsors of the 99 in 2021.
“Justin told me that story. He still lives here. Ty Norris (Trackhouse President) lives here, Dean Stoyer (Chief Brand Officer) lives here with Trackhouse 360.
“It's incredible the thought that we won here. It's mind-boggling. It's hard to line that up, have a fast car here.
“For us the 1 team, all three years we've been here with our group, has been capable of running in the top five. Tonight, we put it all together. So incredible.
“It's bigger than anything. It's an oval, a circle track. It's lift, slide, hit the gas and brake, turn the wheel. My boys and girls on the No. 1 team have not let me forget that. They have been pushing me on that. Take you seriously when you win on an oval track.
“This 1 team, before Trackhouse and I were a part of it, was very different iterations, but they were winning races in the Cup Series. They've been here and done it. They wanted to see me do it on a true oval.”
Chastain’s win has locked him into the NASCAR Playoffs for the second-straight year. It also proved the tremendous confidence Marks had in the driver from Alva, Florida when he retained him after purchasing Chip Ganassi Racing in July 2021.
All of that flashed through Marks’ mind as he celebrated last Sunday night’s big win at Nashville.
“Just watching Ross do what Ross does, what he's capable of doing out there, what a bright future we have as a company,” Marks said. “Sunday night (in Nashville), I think we just saw what kind of driver he is.
“It's an amazing moment for our company.”