Transcript: NASCAR Media Conference with Justin Marks and Travis Mack Sonoma

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today’s winners, owner of the No. 99 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, and crew chief Travis Mack.

We’ll go right into questions for Justin first as he has to leave.

Q. Justin, I guess Suarez said last year this was his best opportunity. Now he’s finally put it into Victory Lane. How does that feel for you as a car owner?

JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, it’s hard to put it into words. When Ty Norris and I first started talking about this, I came to Ty, I’ve got this idea. What I said first and foremost is I believe with this new car it’s truly going to be about the people, the people are going to make this car go.

The way they changed the model of the sport a little bit is you have to invest in your people and keep them motivated, and put talented people in positions, lift them up, empower them. I just believe that.

I think we’re doing that right now because we have a great culture at Trackhouse. Daniel checked a lot of boxes for us right away. He’s an experienced Cup driver. He is a winner. When he’s been in positions to win, he’s won with his Xfinity championship and Truck.

He had a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to prove to the world he belonged in the Cup Series. 2020 was a difficult year for him.

He checked all the boxes for us and I knew he had a tremendous amount of potential, that he was a winner at this level. I told him from day one, This is your team, this 99 team is your team. You come to me and tell me anything and everything that you need. We’re going to put that behind you.

Travis to my left here is a big part of that. He’s been a big believer in this project. It’s really nice to see all that work over the last couple of years be at a place where everybody is rewarded for it.

Q. You say you saw the potential in him. Do you ever feel like he felt that he was never going to meet that potential?

JUSTIN MARKS: Did I feel like he thought that?

Q. Yes.

JUSTIN MARKS: Not for one second. Not for one second ever. I have almost never met a more determined, focused, hard-working race car driver in my 20 years in this sport.

Every single morning he wakes up and says, I am going to be the best version of myself I can be today, I’m going to do all the work I can possibly do today to win this race this weekend.

I think Travis will say the same thing. It’s amazing how consistent he is, how that continues, that fire continues to burn so bright even after stringing numerous tough races in a row together. Tough month last year. He’s just very, very impressive in that regard.

Q. Have you talked to Armando?

JUSTIN MARKS: I haven’t talked to him. But he was on the phone. You can always count on Ty Norris having him on the phone in Victory Lane. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.

Q. Is there any surprises so far with this team with Daniel and with Ross, Trackhouse, the accomplishments that you guys have had so far?

JUSTIN MARKS: What I tell people is I’m not surprised that we’re a winning race team because I wouldn’t have started this project if I didn’t think, truly believe, that the opportunity existed to build a new race team in this sport that could win. It’s just happened really quickly. That’s been the surprise, is how quickly it’s happened.

To me it kind of makes sense, too. We’ve got such great people that work so hard. The promise of this car is being delivered every single weekend. We have talks in the race, in the team, I have talks with myself. It’s like, Is this a moment in time or is Trackhouse arrived? I think we’ve arrived because we fundamentally invest in the things that I believe are going to be…

Literally Pitbull texting me right now.

Congrats. I can’t say that word. I’m taking a couple tequila shots right now. History in the making. See you soon. Step on the gas and haul ass.

Anyway, it’s happened very, very quickly. When you have this many people together working, supporting each other, focused, and are talented, these are the things that can happen.

Q. Tell the truth, were you nervous on the final lap?

JUSTIN MARKS: Of course. I have a long way to go before I get comfortable at the ends of these races when we’re leading. My colleagues have been doing this for a long time. I sort of operate under the assumption that a late caution always comes out and these races can devolve into total chaos. I sort of was half expecting that today.

But some days it’s just your time, it’s just your day. Everything lined up perfectly. Everybody on the 99 team did an awesome job. Great strategy, Travis ran a great strategy, Daniel drove a career race.

Q. Was the radio silent?

JUSTIN MARKS: It’s actually funny. The 99 radio is typically the opposite of silent. I think there were five words said the last half hour of that race. 10 to go, you didn’t hear anything for eight minutes, then it was five to go, then there was a bunch of screaming.

Q. This one is huge not only for Daniel but also Mexico. The team has been about unification, diversity. What does this mean?

JUSTIN MARKS: I mean, it’s big for all that. Trackhouse is a race team that anybody and everybody can be a fan of. We’ve made investments in the minority community with Pitbull’s schools, our great (indiscernible) night program, our STEM stuff.

To me this is sort of a representation of what America stands for. It’s a place you can come with big dreams and you can work hard to achieve those dreams. I always say that Daniel is one of one. A Mexican race car driver moving to America, can’t speak the language, to be a NASCAR Cup Series winner, that shows the amazing place we live.

Not only him, but Jose our lead engineer from Mexico, wasn’t here today, probably is killing him that he’s not here today. Truly an elite talent. It’s really great to be able to write those stories.

Q. Justin, Suarez is four points ahead of Cindric and 11 points of Kurt Busch. There’s 10 races left. Do you feel comfortable he’s in the Playoffs or is it going to be a scrap?

JUSTIN MARKS: I haven’t really thought about that yet to be honest. How many races are left? Eight?

Q. 10.

JUSTIN MARKS: I don’t know. I saw you ask Denny that question. I thought about it, not in our context, but just in general, is this going to be a season.

I don’t really feel like it’s gonna. Anything can happen. I don’t really feel like it’s going to be that way. I don’t think we think about that until there’s 16 winners and a race or more left.

THE MODERATOR: Justin, thank you so much.

JUSTIN MARKS: Thanks, everybody.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll continue with questions for Travis.

Q. Travis, what does this one mean for you being involved with a guy that’s got their first win?

TRAVIS MACK: This is huge. Just taking it all in today. Really excited for Justin and Daniel, just really excited for all these team guys. I’m the lucky guy that gets to sit on top of the box and watch it all happen.

I’ve just had so much belief in Daniel and his capability of winning a race. We really believe in each other. You take two guys who have never won a Cup race, put us together, we’re both very, very hungry to win races. This is what you get.

Q. The last few laps can be crash, caution, green-white-checkered, are you sitting there thinking stay green? Are you praying?

TRAVIS MACK: I was so calm. Felt so confident coming in today. I think I stayed up studying last night till 12:30 West Coast time, that’s 3:30 East Coast time. I just felt so confident coming into today that we could get this done today.

Everything that has happened to us this year has led up to this moment. It’s taught us what we need to do, what we don’t need to do, and just execute this race the best we could. That’s what we did.

Q. Probably the biggest story is Trackhouse being the surprise of the year. Have you been surprised at the success?

TRAVIS MACK: Not really. This is what I do every year. Even last year, having the conversations with Justin, I think I was number two hire at Trackhouse, it was very exciting.

The first time I met with him, I was doubting if I should leave the Hendrick family, what I needed to do. I was really comfortable at Junior Motorsports. After I met with Justin, talked to him on the phone, I was so confident in what he was building.

I told him, You just give us the tools and you do you and I’m going to build us a great race team. We’re going to go to Daytona and get the pole. That’s how confident I was. I told him that. I think he believed in that. We believe in each other.

We went down there, had a top 10 effort. I wasn’t happy because we weren’t on the pole because I told him we would get the pole.

I was confident to get this win for Daniel and I’m excited to get it in Sonoma.

Q. Can you speak to the culture at Trackhouse right now? Two wins for Ross, one for Daniel. What is it like working there? Why is it working so well?

TRAVIS MACK: Just having fun. I’ve never been at a place that has had so much fun. We’re building fast race cars. Everybody is enjoying work. It’s just a great place to be right now. Team chemistry is amazing between the 1 and the 99. It really feels like one team building two cars, confident in each other and our capabilities of winning races, bringing the best cars to the racetrack every week.

Q. You said you have confidence in Daniel. Why?

TRAVIS MACK: First time I met with Daniel, I think a lot of crew chiefs in the past kind of doubted his capabilities. Around the garage you hear he shouldn’t be in the ride, this or that.

Once I met with him, I could see the drive in his face, in his eyes. Once we started becoming friends and talking to each other, I could see how hard he was working. He wanted this so bad. I was the same way.

Coming up as a crew chief, people doubted me being a crew chief. Not being an engineer, coming up through the mechanic, car chief role, there’s not many of us that has done that in the Cup Series. So people doubted me. They doubted him.

They put us together and I think we’re a great team.

Q. In the last part of this race, we saw teams that are at the front of the field with new names. Did that make the strategy any more difficult or is it just another car to you guys?

TRAVIS MACK: No, I think we played a perfect strategy. I didn’t feel like we had the best car coming into today. I think the 5 car was really good. 9 car was really good on long runs. So was the 4. All we had to do was execute. I knew we had a top five car. If everything worked out perfectly, made no mistakes on pit road, executed the race perfectly, we could have a day like we did today.

Q. Of all the victories, you mentioned a long journey, the engineer, where would you say this one ranks?

TRAVIS MACK: Yeah, I’m not an engineer. There’s not many of us that aren’t engineers in the sport today, especially with this car.

I trust my engineers on my team. I have really great engineers. Jose Velasco, Dustin and Troy. Those guys just work so hard. They make me look really good. I try to do the things, I’m dealing with the driver, the pit crew, the team, just trying to keep our team upbeat, moving the right direction, organized, prepared to come into the race weekends.

Coming up through the ranks at Hendrick, being a car chief, working so hard for this first win. This was actually my first win with Jeff Gordon. I believe in ’04 Sonoma was my first win on a Cup team. It’s very excited to get my very first win as a crew chief in Sonoma.

THE MODERATOR: Travis, congratulations and thank you.

TRAVIS MACK: Thank you.