By: Ashley McCubbin
Coming into the season as a new team, there were mixed feelings with regards to what Trackhouse Racing was capable of. Through seven races, it seems everything is headed the right direction.
Despite the variety of tracks, Daniel Suarez has scored four top-20 finishes, including a pair of stand-out performances the last two weeks. He ran inside the top-10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the second stage before fading to 17th at the checkered, and led 58 laps on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway en route to a fourth.
While Suarez is certainly doing his job behind the wheel, the success can also be credited to the early chemistry between him and crew chief Travis Mack.
“I really enjoy a lot working with Travis,” Suarez said. “He’s very smart, a great leader, a great person that work extremely good with people. He keeps me down. I’m sorry, he calms me down the entire time. I’m the kind of person that I get excited very easy. He does a great job making sure that I’m always calm down and relaxed on things.
“He doesn’t get to the chip on the rpm too often, which is a good thing. I really enjoy working with Travis, everyone at Trackhouse Racing. Everyone does an amazing job. We have a very good relationship, very good chemistry. I feel like it will only get better from here.”
While a rookie crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series, Mack has spent time in the premiere division as an engineer with Hendrick Motorsports, before spending 2020 on the pit box in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports.
Team owner Justin Marks’ approach in hiring him came due to the ever-changing evolution of the role of a crew chief in the sport.
“We’re living in an age where the role of a crew chief is different than it’s ever been,” Justin Marks told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “The crew chief has so many resources behind him – like engineering and simulation and the set-ups are built on computers and in the simulator, plus the SMT data. All the things in that the role of the crew chief is less about building a car and set-ups, and more about leading the team and keeping the guys motivated and keeping things organized and making sure he’s managing the driver well.
“One of the reasons why Travis was so attractive to us is because he’s very good at that stuff. I mean, he’s very smart, he can build a great racecar and a good set-up, but the role of a crew chief these days seems to be moving forward to that of a leader, cheerleader and organizer of the effort.”
Thus far, Marks has been impressed with Mack’s belief in Suarez, and working hard to get to know his personality.
“He keeps things loose, and Daniel has always been better when he’s able to laugh in the racecar and be a little loose before he gets in, and Travis has been contributing that,” Marks commented. “So it’s been great the way they’ve been working together. I’m excited about the future for both of them.”
Despite the early highs, Marks is not changing his approach to that future, but rather keeping the goals the same as they were in February – continuing to learn and improve each passing week.
“No matter what kind of day we have, there’s always things that we can do better and always elements of the operation that have been exposed that we have to talk about on Tuesday and figure out how to navigate,” he explained. “On the flip side, we had a good day on Atlanta – really competitive despite the poor finish and I told all the guys, ‘Let’s really figure out why we had a really great day. Is it the way we built this body? Is it the way we did our strategy? Is it the way Daniel drove? Let’s really learn.’”
Marks added he also does not want to see the guys get over confident and start compromising work ethic, knowing they could very well go to Martinsville Speedway and struggle.
“I’m not sitting here saying I think we can make the playoffs, I think we can win Martinsville,” he continued. “My goals – I mean, I believe this team can win, I do believe this team can win, but that’s not my measure for success in 2021 for Trackhouse.”