*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.
Trackhouse Racing has now won races with both of its drivers, likely placing each in the NASCAR Playoffs. Theirs is an amazing story, isn’t it?
Richard: The win on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway by Daniel Suarez served as further affirmation that Trackhouse Racing is for real. Some might point to the circumstances that led to Ross Chastain’s victories at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega Super Speedway as just that- circumstantial. But on Sunday at Sonoma, Suarez clearly had the best car at the end of the race and was the deserving winner.
The Trackhouse cars have been strong all season and that race was no different as Chastain also ran near the front. This organization is no fluke.
Trackhouse owner Justin Marks is certainly making waves. He enlisted Ty Norris to help run the company and also brought in rapper Pitbull as a partner. Clearly, this operation is not afraid to make the moves that it believes will make it better.
Many observers thought Marks overpaid for equipment and charters from Chip Ganassi Racing but now it doesn’t seem that way at all. Trackhouse will either prove to be a glamorous flash in the pan or a strong NASCAR operation for years to come. Right now, it appears as if they are establishing themselves as a top organization.
Michael: There was a story a couple of years ago about the aging faces of NASCAR Cup Series ownership. All the major players, at that time, were over 70 with a few being over 80. The question I, and many others, had at that time was to wonder where the new crop of owners would come from. I believe that question has been answered.
Trackhouse has basically come from nothing to Cup winners in a short period of time. I remember when Marks started the team they’d be a back marker for some time. They have proven that with the right leadership and vision they can quickly go to the top. I hope this will encourage more people to get into the sport.
Daniel Suarez’s win at Sonoma made him the fourth first-time winner of the 2022 season. That fact has certainly livened things up, hasn’t it?
Richard: Based on some very unofficial research I have done, there have been multiple seasons that produced five first-time winners. But I’m not sure how many of those, if any, were during this current ‘win to get in’ Playoff setup currently used by NASCAR. And that very much adds to the drama of those first-time triumphs.
In 2022, drivers Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain, and now Suarez have earned their first wins at the NASCAR Cup Series level. And we’re still less than halfway through the campaign.
But more than other seasons when new winners would come into play, it feels like a changing of the guard is taking place. The Next Gen car with all its nuances seems to be playing a role in that, and at the same time, longtime stars such as Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. appear to be struggling to get a grip on the new car. Further, even though they have won races this season, veterans Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch are having difficulty in finding any sort of consistency from week to week.
All of the drivers mentioned above are in or approaching their 40s which means they have more of their prime racing days behind them than in front of them. If there was any doubt where the next round of racing talent would come from, it appears to be in the process of rising.
Michael: Fresh faces in victory lane are always good for racing, no matter the level. It shows the sport is healthy and there are people who can take over the reigns from those nearing the end of their careers.
We see this from time-to-time. I can remember seasons like 1988 when drivers like Phil Parsons, Lake Speed, and Alan Kulwicki got their first wins. The first two never won another Cup race. I also think it shows when a major change comes to the Cup cars, the winless guys jump on the opportunity with things being leveled out for a time. We’re seeing that now.
Another thing Daniel Suarez’s win did was to create a bit of chaos in regard to the NASCAR Playoffs. What will happen next seems to be getting harder to predict rather than easier, doesn’t it?
Richard: Going into the Toyota/Save Mart 350, Suarez was below the cutline. But when the checkered flag waved, the driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet had done what is necessary to most likely make the cut. That, of course, means that there is one fewer spot remaining for those drivers who do not have a victory before the cutoff race in Daytona.
Currently, twelve different drivers have won this season leaving only four positions open for those who hope to earn their way into the NASCAR Playoffs via points.
This is one of the most intriguing seasons I can remember since I have been following NASCAR, which is virtually all my 54 years. I can’t remember when there have been so many storylines and the race for the Playoffs is certainly one of them. Currently, Suarez, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric would be below the cutline if not for the wins they have achieved.
If I were a driver who still doesn’t have a win but is hoping to make the Playoffs, I would be very nervous right now with some wildcard races remaining before the cut. The sense of urgency that some must be feeling will no doubt add even more storylines as we move toward the championship races.
Michael: I would like to see more than 16 different winners just to see some drama in those last few ‘regular season’ races. I’m not saying the drivers that have won a race have taken it easy knowing they have that win. But it should spice things up as the summer months really wear on these drivers.
I’m still waiting on that one, or two, drivers to emerge from the pack and show they are the ones to beat. We haven’t seen that yet. I’m not sure we’re going to see it either. I still think a Tyler Reddick is going to win a race and I’m waiting to see if Harvick and/or Truex can break through with a win.
Please consider also reading:
Also, dirt racing fans can check out InsideDirtRacing.com for more racing content.