Potential can be dangerous. It speaks of what could be, not what is. A tantalizing prospect of success that isn’t guaranteed, but must be earned.
It’s also the word that Daniel Suarez uses the most to describe his new team, Trackhouse Racing, which is just four NASCAR Cup Series races old.
Their inaugural race, the season-opening Daytona 500, ended just 13 laps in thanks to a big crash. Two top-20 finishes followed: A 16th-place finish at the Daytona road course where Suarez overcame in-car sickness and a 15th-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Last week, according to Suarez, their simulator set-up for Las Vegas didn’t match up well with his No. 99 Chevrolet. It led to a 26th-place finish.
Suarez, a five-year Cup veteran, is optimistic about what lies ahead for Trackhouse. But he knows it will take time for the organization, co-owned by Justin Marks and musician Pitbull, to become a contender.
“I’m the kind of person that always tries to focus on the things that are bad, instead of the things that are good,” Suarez said during a Thursday teleconference. “I see that things are good, and I say, ‘Okay, that’s good. Now let’s work on the things that are not so good.’ I’ve been working very hard … to try to be better in communication with the spotter and the whole group because it’s a brand new group.
“I feel the potential is there. But there are a lot of little things that we’re going to have to clean up to be able to be consistently in the top 15, top 10, and eventually, hopefully, be knocking on the door to race for wins.”
As the team continues to jell, the car’s raw speed has varied according to Suarez: A little faster than expected one week, a little slower than expected on another.
A lack of practice sessions at the track isn’t helping. Suarez says those sessions would be “golden” and help his team avoid mismatches like the one they had in Las Vegas.
“We get to practice on the simulator, put that set-up on the real car, go to the race track and hope for the best,” he said. “If for some reason the simulator was off, we’re going to be off the rest of the day in the race.”
A sign of promise, however, has come on pit road. Following his run at Miami, Suarez was enthused with the work of his over-the-wall crew.
“They have a lot of potential and I’m very happy to see that,” Suarez said at the time, using that word again. “I haven’t had that in probably two years.”
The group includes tire changers Ira Jo Hussey and Chris McMullen, tire carrier Lamar Neal, jack man Courtney Edmunds, and fueler James Kelley.
On Thursday, Suarez elaborated further about the group.
“They are inconsistent, but they are fast, which is good,” he said. “I always thought it’s much easier to be fast and try to work on inconsistency than being consistent and slow and trying to work on speed. I have had good people in the past, but in 2017 and ’18 (with Joe Gibbs Racing), I had more loose wheels in those two years. So, it’s been difficult.
“Don’t get me wrong. All these guys work extremely hard for what they do and how they push themselves, but sometimes, it’s a combination of many things. And it’s been a little bit difficult for me on pit road in the last several years. I was very excited to see I gained, like, four positions (in Miami). I haven’t done that in years.”
It’s progress, which is all that can be asked for right now.
Next up is Phoenix Raceway, where Suarez has won in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2016) and NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series (2014).
A win for Suarez this weekend isn’t likely. But if he and Trackhouse have their way, one day, it will be.
At that point, potential will have become success.