Bob Leverone | Getty Images
Bob Leverone | Getty Images

Yearning for Year 2: Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse look ahead to next chapter

Daniel Suarez has driven for a different NASCAR Cup Series organization in each of the last four seasons, a nomadic career arc of whistle-stops with teams large and small.

This year, Suarez has found solid footing after his first campaign with Trackhouse Racing, gained a new teammate for 2022 in Ross Chastain, and carved out his spot as a thoughtful voice and contributor within the growing start-up team. For the first time in a long time, the 29-year-old driver has no need to pack his bags for a new destination in the offseason.

RELATED: Silly Season Tracker | Power Rankings 2022 look-ahead

“I don’t think people really understand the difference that it makes, every single time that you have to start from zero again with people, with mechanics, with engineers, that communication. It’s almost like resetting the clock,” said Suarez, set for his sixth Cup Series season next year and his second in Trackhouse’s No. 99 Chevrolet. “If you if you think about it, all these things that are very, very successful, I mean, just go back and look at the Championship 4 right now. All these guys, they’ve been working together for a long time, for years. So they know each other very well and they have built a team, they have gotten the best people possible, and I haven’t been able to do that since I went to Cup.

“So I feel like now with Trackhouse, I’m able to build that slowly and I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”

One year in, there’s modest performance to show for the team’s first go-around — highlighted by a season-best fourth-place result on Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt. But the organization — headed by car owner Justin Marks and megastar partner Pitbull — has made an aggressive push for its next chapter with its summertime purchase of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR assets.

Suarez will remain at the center of that evolution to a two-car team, with Chastain joining in the No. 1 Chevy for next season, and he intends to remain an active contributor to the team’s direction.

“I guess what gets me most excited is just how the team is growing with me, and I’ve been able to influence how I can make the team better for me,” Suarez said before last weekend’s season finale at Phoenix Raceway. “You know, I’ve never had that before. Pretty much in the past, ‘this is what you got and good luck’ and that was it. And if it was good, great; then if it was not so good, too bad. But that was it. My voice wasn’t loud enough to make adjustments.

“I feel like with Trackhouse, they listened to me a lot, and we’ve been making a few adjustments here and there and we’ve been growing together, and I really like that a lot. I feel like the future of Trackhouse Racing is extremely bright and I’m very, very happy to be along for the ride with them.”

Chastain’s relationship with Marks pre-dates CGR’s transition to Trackhouse ownership. Both shared driving duties in the Camping World Truck Series for team owner Stacy Compton in the 2011 season, when Chastain made his national-series debut. And both went on to win Xfinity Series races for Ganassi — Marks at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2016 and Chastain at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two years later.

So their careers have been intertwined — or entangled, with an emphasis on “tangle,” depending on the viewpoint.

“He’s still the same guy, and that’s what’s crazy,” said Chastain, who netted three top-five runs last season. “I told him years ago that he was too nice. He’s too nice to race in the Xfinity Series on those road courses, man. He’d be so fast and then we’d all just run him over. I’ve wrecked him, and he’s been wrecked by half a dozen other guys and girls. I told him then, and so I’m glad that he’s on my side, and I’m glad that he didn’t hold a grudge because they very easily could have written me off because I crashed him — several times — just driving over my head. So he’s still the same good guy that he was back then.”

Marks has made it clear that he is not a fly-by-night investor into the sport, positioning Trackhouse for the longer haul. While others have come into NASCAR with big plans, big dreams and more talk than action, Marks has intended to make good on the team’s mission.

In addition to the on-track product, Trackhouse has made strides in the entertainment industry and the philanthropic space, striving to reach a broader audience. So far, Suarez said it has been more than just buzzwords and unfulfilled hype.

“Sometimes, in the sport and in life in general, sometimes you don’t really know when somebody is going to actually do what they what they tell you they’re going to do, right?” Suarez said. “They promise you something, you don’t really know if they’re gonna do it or not. Justin, he is one of those guys that he actually delivers more than what he promised me the first time.

“You know, a lot of people were calling me dumb for trusting another new team at the beginning of the year, and I guess I don’t look that dumb right now, right?”