The underlying principle of Trackhouse is to always be looking forward, preparing for the future.
It’s that ability to look beyond conventional thinking that has helped the team owned by Justin Marks and Pitbull succeed in the NASCAR Cup Series in such a short period of time.
Case in point came last weekend in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Although it was the NTT IndyCar Series that was the main attraction on the nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit, the Trans Am Series was also on the schedule as one of the support series for the weekend long event in Motor City.
Marks is a Trans Am competitor in addition to owning Trackhouse. He won the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut on May 29 in the Trackhouse Chevrolet Camaro and arrived in Detroit sixth in Trans Am points.
On Friday, June 2, Marks had an additional teammate participate in both Friday practice sessions in another Chevrolet Camaro.
It was Trackhouse NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suarez of Monterey, Mexico, who used the two Trans-Am practice sessions to help prepare him for the July 2 Chicago Street Race – the first ever NASCAR Cup Series race on city streets.
After the second Trans Am practice, Suarez flew to St. Louis to prepare for last weekend’s Enjoy Illinois 300 Presented by Ticketmaster NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
The driver from Monterrey, Mexico started 13th and finished seventh in the No. 99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet.
His time in Detroit could be beneficial in the future.
Testing in the NASCAR Cup Series is restricted, but if a driver has a chance to run laps in another series, that can be quite valuable.
By getting some experience in driving a fendered race car around the city streets can be helpful when the NASCAR Cup Series arrives in Chicago next month.
“I think everything helps,” Suarez said. “If you can get reps in the simulator or in the Trans Am car or in a go-kart or anything related with the street course, it can help. I’m not experienced with street courses. I’ve only done one in my life.
“I’m trying to learn more about these. What you need to go fast. I’m really enjoying it.”
Although Suarez did not compete in the actual Trans Am race in Detroit, he was credited with a 30th place finish listed as DNS (Did Not Start) in the Saturday race on June 3.
This weekend, Suarez returns to Sonoma Raceway, where he scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory last year.
Suarez is the defending winner of Toyota/SaveMart 350.
There is a reason why Suarez has been so successful on road courses and why he hopes he can maintain that success in July on the streets of Chicago.
“I grew up racing go-karts and that helps,” Suarez explained. “I didn’t grow up racing big cars, but I grew up racing go-karts.
“I believe the basics of go-karts is road course racing and that has helped me understand what I need to go fast on road course stuff. It has helped me to be able to apply that regardless of the car I’m driving on road courses, knowing what I need to be able to go fast.”
Suarez is able to successfully focus on the next step in front of him, and not look too far down the road, even if the master plan at Trackhouse is to peer into the future.
“I look at one race at a time.” Suarez explained. “Sonoma is an important week for us going into the road course. At Detroit, I’m thinking of the next Trans Am practice, how can I go faster in corner 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7?
“In the afternoon, I’ll think about Gateway and how I can do better and then I will think about Sonoma.”
Although Suarez was three states away in Southern Illinois when the Trans Am race was held, he enjoyed his experience on the streets of Detroit as he prepares for the streets of Chicago.
“I wish I had an opportunity to run the race,” Suarez admitted. “I was told I couldn’t run the race in Detroit, but I wanted to go myself and check it. I really wanted to do one of the races, but it’s not possible.
“The priority is not here, so we have to focus on the big picture.”
The similarities between the Trans Am car and the NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet helped give Suarez a feel for what to expect in Chicago.
“I don’t think it’s that different,” he said. “It’s a race car. It’s fairly close in my opinion. It’s high downforce, not a lot of power, good forward drive. This is closer to the trucks or the ARCA car or Xfinity car.”
Marks, the Trans Am race driver, finished 13th on June 3 and fifth in the Sunday race on June 4.
Getting into a race car and behind the steering wheel is when the Trackhouse owner feels most at home.
“I did this whole thing because I am passionate about driving,” Marks said. “I love race cars. I love racing events. Even though I retired from full-time competition to start Trackhouse, I have not yet envisioned a year that goes by where I will not drive a race car.
“These Trans Am cars are a lot of fun. Great venues. It’s nice to get in a race car and feel relevant to what Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez are feeling so I can communicate with them as a race car driver, first and foremost.”
Marks, the team owner, saw value in getting some early track time and experience in a race car for Suarez in the month leading up to the first ever street race in NASCAR Cup Series history.
“Everything is helpful,” Marks said of Suarez’s Trans Am track time in Detroit. “The way you approach laps at a street course is so different than at a typical road course. The visual cues that you pick up on and how you drive the car, how you find speed in the right line, regardless of what track you are on, getting some reps and going through that experience will be valuable for him for first practice at Chicago.
“Daniel will have recent experience to seeing vantage points of walls, blind corners and bumps in the road should make him that much quicker to get to work when practice starts.”
It’s that forward thinking and foresight that has kept Trackhouse ahead of the game and made the team and its two drivers, Suarez in the No. 99 and Ross Chastain in the No. 1 Chevrolets, major storylines in every NASCAR Cup Series race.
“That’s very important,” Marks said. “We have a lot of money invested in this and a lot of people working very hard. The whole idea was to build something that was part of the conversation; that’s a real valuable element of this sport, that fans pay attention to.
“We are helping to write our story and write a NASCAR story every week.
“It’s something that is very important to us.”