There is never a lot to talk about in the NASCAR off-season. Just so I still get my fix I’ll be talking about every individual team new and returning and what they did in 2020 and what to expect in 2021. I’ll start at number 99 and go down from there. There are still a lot of moving pieces when it comes to the silly season, but we are through the massive developments this season, but I’ll talk about any new teams and driver combos as they come out.
Starting out were going to talk about the #99 for the newly formed Trackhouse Racing Team with Daniel Suarez driving. Founded by former driver and Missouri native Justin Marks. Trackhouse is being formed under an engine and facility alliance with Richard Childress Racing. Marks has hired former GM of Michael Waltrip Racing Ty Norris as president of operations.
The team was formed after Marks purchased one of the many charters from Spire Motorsports.
The two key members of this deal are the driver Daniel Suarez and the crew chief Travis Mack. Both young and talented with a lot to prove. Everything going on with this team tells me that they do not plan on being a strictly top-30 team. They at least have aspirations for good runs this season, but what is the realistic prospect for this team?
It starts with the equipment. RCR has two other alliances this past season with the #13 Germain Racing machine and the #43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. They also have an alliance with StarCom Racing, but I’m not going to hold that dumpster fire against RCR.
Total 2020 stats of all Cup cars running with RCR equipment:
Top Fives: 9
Top Tens: 25
Average Finish: 19.5
So, pretty mid-pack type of teams in all. Obviously, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick performed vastly better under the mothership team. Not good compared to the likes of A-tier teams like Hendrick and Penske who have single drivers with better stats than these totals. But, we’re dealing with a C-list team that is offering aid to D-list teams.
Trackhouse Racing Team has a solid initial investment that should at least put them in the same organizational tier as Richard Petty Motorsports and Germain Racing. So, equipment wise were looking at something about on par with what we currently have with RCR alliances.
How does Daniel Suarez compare to the rest of these drivers?
Well, prior to 2017 you would think he was massive leaps ahead of all of them. Now, we’re not sure where his talent level lies comparatively. I believe he has a higher ceiling than any of the five, but honestly, Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon, and even Bubba Wallace have been more impressive in their respective careers up to this point.
Last year with a lowly Gaunt Bros. Racing he did nothing of note, but that’s to be expected. In 2019 he was racing for Stewart-Haas Racing he did perform better than the driver that replaced him Cole Custer but only barely even if you take away Custer’s surprise win.
So, this is Suarez’s last shot. Up until this point he has been given two great rides and has not done well at all, while also blaming a lack of fit for his folly’s. Maybe that’s true, although it’s never a good thing when you have an athlete who cannot look themselves in the mirror after poor play.
The only reason that Suarez has the potential to become a good Cup Series driver is because of the amazing success he had prior to coming to Cup. The potential is there and Suarez is no scrub, but it may be too late to realize it. This is the best and last chance he has at turning things around.
His crew chief Travis Mack will be a massive part of this as well. Hiring Mack is an underrated positive to this team. See, Mack’s cup stats aren’t great due to him being part of the horrible Kasey Kahne effort that Leavine Family Racing made in 2018. As soon as he stepped down to Xfinity with JR Motorsports he completely turned things around, not only his own career, but Michael Annett’s also.
Annett was a below-average driver who was getting his ride based on a great sponsorship relationship with Flying J/Pilot. Prior to Mack’s arrival, this was obvious with no wins, 1 top five, and only 10 top tens in his first two season at JR Motorsports.
With Mack’s arrival in 2019: 1 win, 10 top fives, and 41 top tens. Mack stepped into JR Motorsports and completely changed the outlook of Annett’s career. I hold nothing in 2018 with Kahne on Mack, but what he’s been able to do with Annett leads me to believe he is a very talented crew chief and could help turn around Suarez’s career.
If Suarez cannot find a fit at a team that seems to be tailor made to give him every opportunity to turn his career around, then I don’t think there is any place left for him in a NASCAR Cup car.
Best case scenario for Trackhouse Racing Team in 2021:
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 6
Average Finish: 20th
Worst Case Scenario:
Top Tens: 1
Average Finish: 26th
I think that Trackhouse will miss the playoffs this season, but that shouldn’t be a surprise for any brand new team. Getting mid-pack equipment I expect that to be the best case starting point for this team. Suarez average 26th last season for the Gaunt Bros., so I don’t see how that could be any worse for this team based on the investment we know Justin Marks has put in this team.
If they come out in this first season and average top 20 and grab a handful of top tens then that will be a successful season. Even if the worst case scenario I listed out happens, I’m not going to be ready to hit the panic button yet. They’re still a brand new team so growing pains are to be expected, but I definitely have more confidence in this effort than I do with the likes of StarCom, Gaunt Bros., or Premium Motorsports.
No official word on sponsorship yet, but I’m sure Arris will fund a few races in 2021.