ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 1 TRACKHOUSE RACING CAMARO ZL1; AND DANIEL SUAREZ, NO. 99 TRACKHOUSE RACING CAMARO ZL1 - Daytona 500 Media Availability Transcript:
THE MODERATOR: Joining us next is Daniel Suárez and Ross Chastain from Trackhouse Racing.
Q. Ross, you had a chance to test at Atlanta. Chris Buescher was in here a while ago, thought we might see a hybrid kind of speedway/handling race. Do you think it's going to be a hybrid, or is it going to lend itself to this type of speedway racing that we've heard about?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, it definitely is going to be a new Atlanta. It's not going to be like anything we've ever seen before there.
I think this Next‑Gen car after practice last night, it's going to be a different mentality for the 500 here even, because I can speak from our car, we are here to qualify tonight, and it's not going to drive good in the Duel because it's an impound race for that and then we have time to work on it Friday and Saturday ahead of the 500.
I think we're going to have to dial some handling in on our No. 1 Advent Health Chevrolet for the 500 this weekend, and it'll be the same way for Atlanta. You can make them drive pretty bad if you want them to go really fast.
Yeah, Atlanta just with the three cars in the draft was pretty challenging, so we're going to be lifting some, but you'll still have ‑‑ the leader will probably be wide open and you'll be lifting farther back in the pack trying to keep up.
Q. Just your reaction and what it felt like racing at COTA last year with that amount of moisture, that amount of rain.
DANIEL SUÁREZ: I thought it was great. Nobody could see anything.
You know, there is a few things that we can't control, and one of them is obviously Mother Nature. I think that things were a little bit probably too crazy at one point. I love racing in the rain. I raced a lot in the rain growing up, and I love it. I think it's a lot of fun.
But there is a point where it's not fun anymore, and then it's a little bit too crazy, like okay, what are we doing here, we can't even see. Probably we got to that point at one point.
But overall, I think the event itself, it was huge, and I'm looking forward to coming back, and I'm sure a lot of people are, as well.
ROSS CHASTAIN: I just want to say, I agree. We got to a point in that race where it was too ‑‑ we just couldn't see anything, and I've raced Xfinity races where ‑‑ same thing, but we kept racing. Then looking back on it, if we really want to make a better judgment call next time, like the time of us probably stopping the race was like 10 laps before we did, but by the time they stopped the race everything was okay in my opinion. Like we got through the worst part of that storm and the heavy rain band that came through, and we should have ran it out at that point. It just seemed odd that we waited that long. But that's Monday morning quarterbacking, and selfishly we would have been better off if we'd have ran the race out. But it was 10 laps before they called the race, like I was going down the backstretch, and even Xfinity qualifying, I jumped in Bobby Dotter's car when Joe hurt his knee, and I went down the backstretch completely blind just following the tracks in front of me and we were okay to do that, but then we called the Cup race early.
I hope looking forward to the future, we make a better call.
Q. If that race had not ended early, do you think you had a chance to win? It seemed like you guys had put yourself in a spot ‑‑
ROSS CHASTAIN: Oh, yeah. I didn't execute good on the pit stop. I didn't get on and off pit road very good, but yeah, we were competitive, so I just wanted to run the race out, one, just for the cool factor of racing at COTA. Making laps there is really awesome.
Q. Ross, being a native Floridian, what does this place mean to you, and if you would kind of speak on your upbringing and the Florida racing culture, as well.
ROSS CHASTAIN: Well, look no further than that wall in the back. Looking at that is what it looks like at driver intros walking out on the stage; the smoke comes out, you walk down that long platform. You have to walk by the trophy, and that's what we see, we see Daytona Rising, we see the grandstands.
I grew up watching the July races. This was our family vacation in the summer, and we would camp off Turn 1 before the camping out there was nice. It was like a mud pit out there, and the motor homes would be stuck. I remember that, those summer races were tough because it rained every day and the races were always delayed.
But that's what we loved. Like we rode our bikes around and I got in trouble for ‑‑ I can say this now. I think my Statute of Limitations has ran out. I got in trouble for riding my bike on the track. That security guard was not happy with me.
Those memories, man, just my friends and family and other motor homes, that's what I remember, and then the cool factor of now racing in the Daytona 500. I remember every part of my first 500, every moment and how nervous I was, and we finished ninth because we stayed out of trouble.
Q. For Ross, your 2020 Daytona 500, you were in position late there to have a chance to win that race before getting caught up in a crash there. I'm curious what that race has done for you for last year's Daytona 500 as well as entering this year's race, being as close as you were and at least being able to sniff it and coming up short that time around.
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, well, it comes full circle to right now. Advent Health is on my suit. They just announced entitlement at Kansas Speedway coming up later in the year on top of what all they do here at Daytona, with those being their two big areas of their hospitals and their healthcare workers where they're on the front lines right through the whole pandemic. But they've been saving lives for a lot longer than the pandemic, and now they're taking care of us as humans throughout a worldwide pandemic in those two especially geographic areas.
Back to 2020, though, that was my first time driving with Advent Health on my car, and let's be honest, I'll tell the story, they wanted Kyle Larson in the 42. They wanted to be on the 42, and just the business side didn't work out, so we did a third car with the 77 and Spire Motorsports through Chip Ganassi racing to do me, and they had to ‑‑ Doug Duchardt, CGR and the sales team had to sell Advent Health on Ross Chastain, like who was Ross.
We come here and we'd met obviously before we got here to the track, and then we go and compete and we have a chance to win, and we fell in love with each other. We realized like we're two Florida‑based ‑‑ based out of Florida and where they started, and I am, too, right, I grew up four hours from here, and just that commonality of the love of the sport grew and we realized how aligned we were on a lot of things, both on and off the track with our beliefs and with how they just want people to feel wheel and really take care of themselves before they ever get to the hospital before they ever have to see a doctor, how much stuff we can do as people to just take care of ourselves aligns with me and Daniel, as well. Take care of our bodies and put the right stuff in, you're going to get the results you want. You're going to get the right stuff out.
It's just something that really lines up with me like agriculture does where I can just talk about it and I don't have to think about it, I don't have to look at key messaging points before I come up on stage. Like I can just talk about my friends at Advent Health and our values and our mission for them to save lives and make the world a better place. Then you transfer that over now to Trackhouse, we want to be the culture, we want to be the team that industry people want to come work for, but we also want to broaden ourselves beyond NASCAR.
I know this is the NASCAR media center, but we had the opportunity with the Clash a few weeks ago and now the 500 to really amplify this sport, and Trackhouse wants to be on the leading edge of that and make a difference, and it all comes back to Advent Health supporting me, supporting me in the 42 and then moving with me to Trackhouse.
They didn't have to. They were a CGR partner. They could have went anywhere, and when we talked, whenever the sale happened and the merger was going to happen from CGR to Trackhouse, I said, Guys, I want to stay at Trackhouse, I want you to stay with me and they were all in and they never batted an eye. They're our primary partner, and going to see a lot of them at the track this year.
Q. Ross, what have you seen of this organization as you've come in and they're expanding, and Daniel, you've been there for a year now, what have you seen as they've prepared to go to two full‑time cars?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Well, all the driver handbook stuff was in Spanish to start. No, I kid.
Yeah, so Trackhouse in 2021 to Trackhouse in 2022 is totally different. Watching them last year, they were up at RCR, their first year in the sport, learning a lot of things, and they really relied on the RCR campus. Now we are totally self reliant in Concord, 8500 Westmoreland Drive.
The foundation that was built by CGR, there's a lot of familiar boys and girls there, men and women older than me and smarter than me building these cars, and that is what Trackhouse is now. It's its own identity. It's a key partner with Chevrolet.
We have the building blocks of 20 years of CGR and Chevrolet supporting us now to do what we want to do.
You bring in Daniel, Ty, Justin, Armando, Pitbull ‑‑ am I supposed to call him Armando or Pitbull ‑‑ are you asleep?
DANIEL SUÁREZ: I was about to ask her to repeat the question.
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, so the upper management is different but a lot of the on‑the‑floor people are the same, so a lot of familiar faces for me.
DANIEL SUÁREZ: What was the question again?
Q. What have you seen from the company as it's expanded from just focusing on you to now going to two full‑time cars?
DANIEL SUÁREZ: Well, the change was much bigger than that. I still remember a year and a half ago sitting with Ty and then sitting with Justin and Ty and talking about this project called Trackhouse and taking a leap of faith on this, and Justin telling me to trust him on this, that he had big plans for this.
I knew we were going to grow and what we were going good, we were going to be strong. He had that vision. But I didn't know how fast it was going to happen, and it definitely happened fast, quite fast.
It's been quite a big change, not just going from one car to two cars, but going to the change of our organization, just like Ross mentioned, from being pretty much ‑‑ getting a lot of help and support from RCR, which we are going to be forever thankful because without them probably we wouldn't be here today, and then being able to have the transition to everything that is Trackhouse today. We have over 100 people working in Trackhouse Racing right now, and we have two full‑time operations there for two cars. It's just so ‑‑ it's such a big change, so much bigger than just adding one more car because there are so many things that changed in the process.
There's only a few people that actually lived that process. One of them has been myself, Ty Norris, Justin, Drew has been with us in the very beginning, but it's been quite a process going from a handful of people to over 100.
It's a process, and overall just very excited to be here. It's always exciting to be here in February because there is a lot of energy, there is a lot of new things, but this year is extra exciting with the unknowns about how the new car is going to play out, how aggressive can you be and things like that.
Yeah, looking forward to getting rolling tonight and tomorrow night.
Q. Is it realistic to expect the two of you to contend for the playoffs?
DANIEL SUÁREZ: Yes.
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yes.
Q. Daniel, how is Ross different from other teammates that you have had, and Ross, how is Daniel different from others you've had?
DANIEL SUÁREZ: Well, I've been fortunate that I've been part of some teams that have a lot of teammates and some of them with a lot of experience, some of them with not so much experience, and everyone is different. Every team is different. Something that I mentioned to Justin and to Ty since the very beginning about Ross is that I like ‑‑ at the time I just didn't know Ross to the point where I know him today, but I knew that he was hungry, and for me and for our team, I think that's extremely important, having somebody that wants to do something, somebody that is hungry.
There is a lot of drivers that are talented out there, and not all of them put actually the work to be better. I feel that it's always good to have a good teammate because you start pushing each other. You start trying to find out what he's doing better than me and what am I doing better than him and then trying to push each other and in that way be able to bring Trackhouse to the next level.
Right now we have a lot of good things coming our way in Trackhouse Racing, but the reality is that the plan is to do all our talking on the track, and that is going to be with trophies.
The better the work together, the better that journey is going to be.
ROSS CHASTAIN: No, Daniel came into the sport after I was already here and I was in the Xfinity Series and 10th place was a good day and he came in and was instantly successful at winning races, a championship, and I was jealous. I was like, man, if I had that opportunity, I'd be good.
When I got that opportunity, I realized how hard it must have been for him to come into the sport and just be expected to be the great race car driver that his teammates were that had all the years of racing in America and racing these type of stock cars.
Getting to know him now and talking about both of us kind of like our paths through the sport, we've been humbled a few times, and so I make the joke about being Spanish, but we speak the same language in a lot of ways because we've been humbled by some failed adventures with race teams, and it didn't work.
I know for me, really six or seven years out of my 11 I would say were failures, and I'm okay with that. I don't want to speak for Daniel, but I think we understand the opportunity we have in front of us and the work we're putting in is to make sure that this effort with Trackhouse is not a failure.
Q. Daniel, unfortunately the 500 has not been your race. 32.9 average finish, a bunch of DNFs. What's it going to take this year to finally get over the hump and get this car at least to the checkered flag in one piece?
DANIEL SUÁREZ: That's a good question. I don't know. Definitely have to do something different than what I've been doing the last five years.
You know, this race is very unpredictable. I have learned that you have to ‑‑ sometimes if you just try to cruise and ride in the back, that's not fun for anyone. I don't enjoy that. Sometimes you can get a good finish out of it, but probably a lot of people can't do that.
Sometimes when you race, you can get in trouble, but you can also have a shot to win. I feel like one of the keys is to actually learn to read the race, learn to know when trouble is coming, and when things are about to happen and things like that. It's impossible to predict it 100 percent, but that's what we do as a race car driver, trying to see what is about to happen.
I think things are going to happen quite different with this new car. In my opinion, the racing is going to be so much better because the runs we get are so much bigger, but we're going to find out tomorrow night. I'm excited for the challenge. I know that I don't have a great stat, great stats when it comes to the Daytona 500, but I'm ready to change that.
ROSS CHASTAIN: I think he said you stink here.
DANIEL SUÁREZ: I do, yeah. He's right.