By Terrin Waack
3 Minute Read
Daniel Suárez’s plane ride back from California to North Carolina landed Monday at 5:15 a.m. local, and that marked only the beginning of his travel stress. Suárez didn’t reach his home until after 6 a.m., only to quickly turn around and drive his girlfriend, Julia Piquet, to the airport by 8:30 a.m. His flight to Mexico, where he’s spending NASCAR’s off week, wasn’t until later.
Rather than spending the down time relaxing – after only getting an hour of sleep on the cross-country trip — Suárez added another stop on his already multi-step journey.
“I still had a couple hours,” Suárez said Tuesday in a Zoom teleconference. “I really wanted to go to the shop to thank my team of people who don’t get to travel with us every week. So, I went to the shop and I said thank you and hello to every single guy that works at Trackhouse.”
Suárez had already celebrated his victory Sunday at Sonoma Raceway with the No. 99 road crew, but he knew there were many other Trackhouse Racing members who helped build that race-winning Chevrolet. And he wasn’t about to leave the country – literally – without giving them the recognition he felt they deserved because Sunday’s win was the first of Suárez’s six-year career at NASCAR’s top level.
And more importantly from an opportunity standpoint, Suárez was Trackhouse Racing’s first driver. The team’s formation was officially announced in 2020 by Justin Marks and Armando Perez (better known as Pitbull), who both personally picked Suárez to competitively debut their No. 99 Chevy in 2021. Suárez had been in a tough spot prior to the offer, driving for his third team in as many seasons, and circumstances couldn’t be any different than present day. His contract status, which he admits has been discussed but not finalized, seems to be a non-issue.
“This is my home. I’m not going anywhere,” Suárez said. “So, I’m not too worried about it, but contract today, tomorrow, next month, in a couple months, I feel like we’re in a very, very good place, probably the best place I’ve ever been with a team, so I’m 100% sure things are going to work out.”
Suárez has never spent more than two seasons with a single Cup Series team. He joined full-time in 2017 with Joe Gibbs Racing, where he spent two years after winning the 2016 Xfinity Series title with the organization. He then spent a year apiece at Stewart-Haas Racing and Gaunt Brothers Racing. He’s amid his second run with Trackhouse Racing, with strong hopes of more to come.
Obviously, the win was a first, but Suárez is also on track to break his career-high seasonal mark in top-five finishes. He has three this year, with 20 races to go. His best total was four in 2019.
“It takes a lot to win in the Cup Series,” Suárez said. “I felt that in the past, maybe I wasn’t experienced enough, not just on the race track but also outside the race track, to get the right people in place. I mean, just things were not clicking. And it happens, right? I will say, with Trackhouse, it just felt very good since the beginning. I felt support and trust, honestly, like I have never felt before in the Cup Series. It was pretty amazing.”
Now, in its second season, Trackhouse Racing has added a second driver to its roster in Ross Chastain. He pilots the No. 1 entry and has won two races in 2022. Chastain broke through before Suárez – winning at Circuit of The Americas (his first career win as well) and Talladega Superspeedway – but that didn’t worry or stress Suárez out. Instead, the two internal teams worked together.
In fact, Chastain finished seventh at Sonoma – and then he met Suárez in Victory Lane.
“That was Justin’s vision from the very beginning: to make us work together,” Suárez said. “I mean, many people out there, they say, ‘Yeah, we work together,’ but behind the doors, you know the reality is different. And in Trackhouse, we actually do it. We actually do it, and the beauty is that it is shown on the track. That’s quite special.”