THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race-winning team today, members of the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet, crew chief Phil Surgen and owner Justin Marks.
- Justin, this was a year where you guys didn’t have as much success as you did last year. How do you look at what this ’23 season was for you guys, and how much can this help build momentum?
JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I’m every bit as proud of this season as last season. The series has gotten tougher. These teams are bigger than us, have a lot of resources to figure out these cars. Now it’s everybody is understanding the cars more and more, what it takes to make them go fast, the drivers are understanding how to drive them. The level of competition has gotten much more difficult this year.
Look, I mean, we won two races. Three in the organization. I think it’s a wonderful success. I think the Playoffs are just very, very difficult, one race can make a difference. Ross had some great races in the Playoffs. The 1 team put up a heck of a fight, but it’s so difficult to get to Phoenix.
I think this is a very successful season, another season that rewarded all the hard work in the company with multiple wins and a lot of happy people. It definitely gives us some momentum during the winter to get fired up for next year and try to make it back to Phoenix for the championship run.
- Obviously you want to win the race, but very rarely does a non-championship contender win the race. How much of that was this team’s desire to go out and win? Blaney and Ross were racing each other really hard. Was it I’m a Chevy guy and this Ford is racing Chevys, I have to keep him back there?
PHIL SURGEN: Yeah, we have the same desire to win every week. The championship implication in that moment really didn’t matter to us. Our goal this weekend was to win the race. Running hard for the lead is what we got to do to win. That’s simply what it was.
- Were you surprised when Blaney ran into the back of Ross?
PHIL SURGEN: No, it’s a championship race. He’s got a lot to lose. He’s going to run as hard as he thinks he needs to to secure that. I wasn’t surprised that it was a hard fight.
- Justin, can you give me a sense of perspective? We see a younger driver win today, youngest Championship 4, the last three champions, Chase, Kyle, Joey, now Ryan. Your guys aren’t old. You’re trying to do things and change the sport, new areas. When there is a changing of the guard or more of a youthful driver base, what does it mean? How can the success of these guys carry from your eyes?
JUSTIN MARKS: I mean, look, we’re not trying to change the sport. We’re trying to do some things that are uniquely Trackhouse, getting creative in our sort of personality, bringing things to the fans that are exciting, to our partners that are exciting.
The sport is definitely skewing younger. To me that’s opportunity. To me that’s exciting. You look at the drivers are skewing younger because the tools that they have at 14, 15, 16 years old are really unprecedented. They’re just Cup ready. The talented ones are Cup ready at a younger age. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
I think that’s tremendous, tremendous opportunity because it represents the future. I take a lot of pride in the fact that there’s young ownership in this team, there’s young ownership at 23XI, young ownership at some of these places that are trying to do things their own way and trying to be unique, thinking about branding and storytelling, the way that they come to the racetrack.
I think that’s opportunity for our sport and I think it’s exciting for the future. I mean, you saw these guys battle in the top four today and this season. A lot of the others like Ross and Daniel are going to be fighting and battling each other for many years to come. I think it’s an exciting thing.
- Justin, Daniel seemed a little, I’m trying to say this delicately, put off. He felt like he wasn’t getting everything that he needed when he talked to us yesterday. Do you anticipate any more support going to the 99 team in 2024?
JUSTIN MARKS: One thing we’ve always said is that Daniel’s and Ross’ success is our success as an organization. We fight with everything that we’ve got to fight with to give both of those guys an opportunity to win every single week.
They struggled a little bit this year. They’ve been fast at times, and they’ve had some really, really great races. We owe it to Daniel and to the organization this winter to take a real hard look at that 99 program and make sure we are surrounding him in 2024 with all the tools and things that he needs to be successful.
I mean, I think in any multi-car organization, there’s one or two that are behind the others for a number of different reasons, whether it’s data or information or process or culture, whatever.
We just have to take a hard look at that and make sure that we re-rack the deck in 2024 with a tremendous opportunity for him to go out and be successful because we’ve got the people and partners and tools to have both these cars in the Playoffs and fighting in every round.
Like I said, we owe it to him. He’s a tremendous human being. He’s a tremendously talented race car driver that wants it as much as anybody else out here. We’re going to try to make sure the next season replicates 2022.
- Since you started this deal, you wanted to be like the disruptor of sorts. Is this an example of that, where you come in and win the race, you’re disrupting the natural flow of things, that’s the way it is, the way you are?
JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I mean, I think when it comes to on the racetrack, we’re just trying to win. I mean, I think when I talk about disruption, it’s like how can we be a compelling team in the series, an exciting team in the series, one that people and partners and fans pay attention to.
Certainly it sort of has organically worked out that we are lucky enough to have these really cool special moments, whether it’s being the first in whatever 10 years to win the season finale as a non-contender in the championship, riding the wall wide open, getting the first Mexican-born race winner in the sport of Cup. It’s really kind of cool that it happens that way.
At the end of the day we have a great culture in the company, a lot of really, really valuable people that really like working here. When it comes to on-the-racetrack stuff, we try to be fast and try to win. The more we win, the better everything else gets, so…
THE MODERATOR: Justin, Phil, thank you for your time.