Justin Marks: Daniel Suarez's Atlanta win 'validation' for offseason changes

HAMPTON, Ga. — As Daniel Suarez celebrated his Cup win at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, a jubilant Justin Marks took a moment to reflect on Trackhouse Racing's first driver getting back to Victory Lane for the first time since June 2022.

"I'm a huge, huge believer in (Suarez's) talent and his ability, and he's a big part of this Trackhouse family," Marks said. "It's our job as a company to put the tools and resources and support around him so he can go out and do the things that he did tonight."

The offseason was one of change for Suarez, who snapped a 57-race winless streak and won for the first time on an oval in Cup.

MORE: Atlanta Cup results

No longer was crew chief Travis Mack in charge of the No. 99 team; in his place was Matt Swiderski, a former crew chief for Kaulig Racing who had won two races with AJ Allmendinger.

The decision to turn to a different crew chief, one that Marks called "very, very hard" due to his friendship with Mack, paid off quickly for Suarez and Trackhouse Racing. Suarez was able to punch his ticket to the playoffs in only the second week of the season.

AUTO: FEB 25 NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400
AUTO: FEB 25 NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400

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Ryan Blaney lost to Daniel Suarez by inches but still expressed excitement for the finish.

"This is why we made a change with some of the people around (Suarez) and the processes to put him in a position where he can win, because Trackhouse is a winning company," Marks said.

"I would say that it's validation for the work that we've done this offseason to be able to put him in a position where he can showcase his talent."

Achieving success this season was crucial for Suarez. Marks said Sunday at Atlanta that Suarez is in a contract year. If the crew chief change did not pay off for the No. 99 team, Trackhouse Racing could have had a difficult decision to make about Suarez's future.

The team already has Ross Chastain and Zane Smith (who is driving a Spire Motorsports car) in Cup and Shane van Gisbergen competing full-time in the Xfinity Series.

"I don't envision necessarily a situation where Daniel is not a driver for Trackhouse Racing," Marks said. "There's a lot of things going on behind the scenes, and this is why we made a change at crew chief.

"This is why we made a change with some of the people around him and the processes — to put him in a position where he can win because Trackhouse is a winning company."

The offseason changes played a role in Suarez's return to Victory Lane but this wasn't the starting point of his journey to there.

Trackhouse Racing has been working on building the team around Suarez since 2021, his first season in the No. 99 Chevrolet, while also helping him build back his confidence.

Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, was at what he called a low point of his career before he joined Trackhouse Racing. He had driven for Joe Gibbs Racing (2017 and 2018) and Stewart-Haas Racing (2019) — two Cup powerhouses — but had lost his spots with the teams.

In 2020, Suarez was driving for Gaunt Brothers Racing and running in the back of the pack each week of the season. He missed the 2020 Daytona 500 after failing to qualify for the 40-car field.

Suarez didn't win in his first season with Trackhouse Racing. He only posted four top-10 finishes and one top five. The team stuck with him and continued to build heading into 2022, the first season of the Next Gen era and the season in which Suarez won for the first time in Cup.

"This is the best home I have had in the Cup Series by a mile," Suarez said Sunday. "Justin Marks, Ty Norris, they believed in me since day one. When they called me to join Trackhouse, I was at the bottom. I was at the lowest of my career.

"I was struggling a lot. I was losing confidence in myself. And they grabbed me, they put me back to what I knew at what point I belonged. And they knew that if they were able to give me a shot to build a team around me, I was gonna do something."

Suarez made the playoffs for the first time in Cup with Trackhouse. He was in a position to advance to the Round of 8 before a power steering failure at the Roval led to him finishing 36th and being eliminated.

Last season, Suarez fell short of his lofty goals. He failed to reach the playoffs and failed to win a race as his average finish fell to 19.0.

The struggles on the track led to what Marks called "tough conversations" with the organization as they tried to figure out exactly what Suarez needed to get back into contention on a regular basis.

"Trackhouse as a two-car Cup team is not successful if one team is good and the other team is not," Marks said. "We've always said from day one, 'Daniel's success is our success.' We have to give him the support."

NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400

What drivers said after Daniel Suarez won at Atlanta

Fourteen drivers led laps during Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta.

For the first time since 2022, Suarez and Trackhouse Racing can share the success. Suarez is back in the Cup playoffs.

But if he is to make it past the Round of 12, there is still more work to do.

There are far more points available in the remaining 24 regular-season races. Those points would only help Suarez build a cushion heading back to Atlanta in September for the playoff opener, one that could help him avoid elimination in the early rounds.

With the way Trackhouse Racing has built up Suarez's confidence and the team around him, he expects to stockpile a lot of points this season.

"We're gonna win races this year, I can feel it."