The soon to be expanded Trackhouse Racing has its second driver in the form of Ross Chastain.
The confirmation comes within a month after team owners Justin Marks and Pitbull purchased the assets of the Chip Ganassi Racing NASCAR operation. That team currently fields Chevrolets for Chastain and 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch.
Chastain became a free agent to be when Trackhouse acquired the Ganassi assets, but a deal was struck to keep him within the current infrastructure and pair the 28-year-old with 29-year-old 2016 Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez.
Suarez will continue driving the No. 99 with Chastain driving a rebranded No. 1 to replace the No. 1 and 42 entries fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.
“The No. 42 has a great lineage in this sport, but we just really loved the idea of having the No. 99 and the No. 1,” Marks said, “and having the highest number and the lowest number and the opportunities to brand a company around that and the uniqueness of that.
“So that was exciting for us. I’ve always loved the No. 1. It’s got a history and we can start a new era with that number and put the Trackhouse brand behind it and Ross can grow with it, so that really kind of was a business decision.”
Even though Chastain was technically made a free agent and could have had a market for a contending car in other divisions, it was a no-brainer for both parties to a reach a deal.
“When the acquisition happened, I told Justin, I just texted him, and said, ‘I want this’ and it was just simple,” Chastain said. “I didn’t ask anybody. I didn’t confer with anybody. I knew Justin on that level, and I wanted it.”
Chastain had known Marks for several years, and it wasn’t a difficult sell job for the driver, but there was a natural due diligence for Chevrolet and expected or current Trackhouse partners in advance of next season.
Chastain has overcome a well-documented lack of funding to make it to the highest level of the discipline, and that adversity was something that attracted Marks to his new driver.
“To me, I’m a huge fan of people that have had to work hard against adversity and against odds to try to get there they have gotten in their careers,” Marks said. “And I think it’s that fight in those years of working hard toward something, when it’s very difficult along the way, that pays dividends at the Cup level, especially late in races when you’re sitting in good equipment.
“Sometimes you see these guys that on a green-white-checkered and they have to top the field for their first win, which is one of the most difficult things to do in all of racing. But it’s more than just those two laps. That driver has to dig down into everything he’s fought for in that moment to deliver. And Ross has that personality profile.”
In Chastain and Suarez, he has two dynamic young drivers with an ability to perform on the track, but also away from it.
The Trackhouse credo includes a platform that exists at the cross section of sports, education and entertainment. The team hopes to one day open a shop in Nashville, Tennessee, an international entertainment hub.
It wants to use its profile to appeal to minority and use motorsports as a teaching tool for STEM education.
“At Trackhouse, we’re trying to build something really special for the future and that means really recognizing talent that is an important point in the career, where they’ve got experience, but they’re young and they’re still building their career and that’s what we feel like we have with Daniel (Suarez) and now with Ross,” Marks said. “Ross has a number of Cup starts under his belt.
“Just like Daniel, Ross is one of those guys where when he’s been sitting in race-winning equipment, he’s gotten the job done. And that’s the talent and the skill that is independent of just how fast you can go. There are a lot of guys who have sat in real fast stuff and not figured out how to close. We’ve got two winners on this race team now, two closers on this race team.”
Meanwhile, there’s a lot for Marks and Pitbull to work through in advance of Daytona Speedweeks in February. In merging with the current Chip Ganassi Racing infrastructure, Trackhouse also has the opportunity to extend partnerships and relationships currently on the No. 1 and 42 cars.
The Chastain announcement did not come with a sponsorship confirmation.
“That was an important element of the acquisition, obviously to just try to make sure we get an audience with all those partners and tell them our story and what we’re trying to build and the assets that we have to contribute to the marketing platform,” Marks said. “And we’ve had a lot of great conversations. I think you’re going to see some of those companies stay.”
Kurt Busch and his Monster Energy sponsorship will not be one of them. The expectation is that the elder Busch brother will land at 23XI Racing to pair with Bubba Wallace.
Very happy for @RossChastain. He’s a young, talented, motivated, self-driven driver who’s going to win many times in Cup. He reminds me a lot of me when I was younger, only with a SLIGHTLY cooler temperament 😜😜. pic.twitter.com/HYYbbxmePO
Meanwhile, Trackhouse is also working towards constructing its first Next Gen car. The team has an alliance with Richard Childress Racing, who developed the car alongside NASCAR, and is confident that partnership will pay dividends next season.
“I think our progress so far is consistent with most everybody else in the series,” Marks said. “What’s nice with us is that with our relationship at RCR, they’ve been instrumental in the development of this Next Gen car. The car has been in the shop all year long. So, we’ve had an opportunity to for the Trackhouse group to familiarize ourselves with how that car is built.
“There are times when I’m in the shop and Travis (Mack, crew chief) and I just look at the car and try to think about ways that we have to do quick repairs at the race track and how we’re going to change an engine and how we’re going to prepare the thing for a swing of West Coast races and all that. I like where we’re at because we’re constantly thinking about it.”
Thus, Trackhouse now has all the puzzle pieces for what Marks expects to be their first season competing at a championship caliber level, and it’s just a matter of putting them together.
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