NASCAR Cup Series Preview 2021: Trackhouse Racing Team

Geoff Magliocchetti
(Photo: Courtesy of NASCAR)

Multi-platinum artist Pitbull is adding NASCAR owner to a resume as long as a lap at Daytona, uniting with Justin Marks and Daniel Suarez.

2021 Trackhouse Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Daniel Suarez 99 Travis Mack iFly/Pump It Up Party/CommScope/K1 Speed

History

Armando Christian Perez knows all about what it’s like to make a difference and build successful ventures in Florida. In Daytona Beach on Sunday, Perez, known by his stage name of Pitbull, will potentially start a new one four hours from his beloved hometown of Miami.

Pitbull has teamed up with entrepreneur and former racer Justin Marks, opening the Trackhouse Racing Team, a new endeavor that adds to his enormous resume that also includes 11 studio albums, acting credits, and countless philanthropic endeavors. Those latter-most affairs are set to continue through a STEM education program that will work hand-in-hand with Pitbull’s SLAM Academy, a charter school in Miami. Onboard for the literal ride are Ty Norris, a longtime front office man who previously worked with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Michael Waltrip Racing, and Daniel Suarez. The Monterrey, Mexico native was the first non-American born driver to earn a championship in one of NASCAR’s three major levels when he topped the Xfinity Series in 2016.

“I’m far from a celebrity…I’m a hard, hard worker. Big difference,” Pitbull said of his new opportunity. “Celebrities will sell anything. I’m not here to sell anything. I’m here to help the culture, help unify, more than anything help motivate and inspire those through my story, through Daniel’s story, Justin’s story, Ty’s story, and NASCAR’s story.”

2020 in Review

After things didn’t work out in a single season in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 (since occupied by Cole Custer), Suarez signed with low-budget squad Gaunt Brothers Racing less than a month before the Daytona 500. Things got off to a brutal start, as Suarez got into a wreck at Daytona’s qualifying duels without a charter and failed to appear in the main event. Though the early dropout set the tone for a brutal season…Suarez’s best finish in GBR’s No. 96 was a pair of 18th-place postings at Bristol and Kansas…he was one of only seven full-time drivers to have two or few DNF’s (did not finish) last season. Among the others on that list were Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski.

Meet the Driver

Daniel Suarez

Experience: 5th season
Career Cup Victories: 0
2020 finish: 31st
Best standings finish: 17th (2019)

There’s no denying Suarez has the talent to race at NASCAR’s highest levels. In addition to his Xfinity title, he has earned strong postings in the Mexico-based PEAK Series and the national Truck circuits (16 top tens in 27 attempts).

Part of his struggles may stem from an uncomfortable entrance into the premier league. When Carl Edwards abruptly retired a month before the 2017 season opened, Suarez was thrust into Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota with little preparation. He later got the boot two seasons later when champion Martin Truex Jr. was left without a ride after the closure of Furniture Row Racing. Suarez seemed to be getting the hang of his Cup ride at the time of the Truex announcement, with a runner-up finish in the latter Pocono race. Ironically, the No. 99 Chevrolet with Trackhouse, a number Marks chose to pay tribute to Edwards’ days in the identically-numbered Ford Edwards once drove for Jack Roush. Suarez also raced his way into the NASCAR All-Star Race twice with wins in the Open.

Speaking before he descended upon Daytona, Suarez was grateful for the rare stability Marks offered to him at Trackhouse. The original partnership was announced in October, three months before Pitbull joined in.

“This off-season has been probably the most productive I have had in a very, very long time…already knew since before the season was over exactly what I was going to be doing. When you are with that much time ahead, you can actually organize yourself, you can work hard, and you can put everything in perspective,” Suarez said. “For me was extremely important obviously to get together with Justin, with Ty Norris, that made this happen, and put everything, our goals, perspective, how we’re going to be able to achieve these things…Everything that Justin, Ty, Pitbull now, want to do outside the racetrack is amazing. I love all those things. At the same time competition is extremely important for me. I know I can win races. I’ve done it before. Championships as well. I want to do that in the Cup level.”

Outlook

The talent is there with Suarez, and he’s finally had an offseason full of certainty and some strong resources behind it. It’s difficult for any team to get traction in their first season, but it appears that Trackhouse has the resources and experience to at least get the ball rolling. If they can consistently run in the top 20, that’d be a great jumping point for a driver looking for welcome consistency.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags