235 Feet: A challenge, a goal, a dream

February 17, 2023

It is purposefully unmistakable.

Immediately upon pulling into the Trackhouse Racing team shop, you drive along Phoenix Raceway teal-and-yellow colored curbing for a very specific 235 feet before crossing the Trackhouse Racing checkered flag logo. 

The numbers 2-3-5 are big and bold on the pavement underneath; a reminder of the 235-feet oh-so-slight difference in winning the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship after such an accomplished breakout season for the three-year-old organization. 

It is the exact distance Trackhouse Racing driver Ross Chastain came from winning the title and now it serves as the big and bold daily motivation to capture NASCAR’s ultimate glory in 2023.

The entry is a unique tool to create a championship-forward mindset for every single Trackhouse employee—from team owner Justin Marks, to drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez, to crew members, executives, the sales team, and shop employees.

“There were people in this building that were 235 feet from actualizing a life-long dream,’’ explained Trackhouse Racing’s pit crew coach Shaun Peet. “As a race team, we didn’t want to just catch lightning in a bottle, we want to actually put the work in, to build a foundation. 

“So what if we put something in the way that was unavoidable? You can’t drive in here without driving over the numbers. When you drive over that 235 feet you realize how close you were. So now, if you realize that, how could you show up to work? Could you show up more collaborative? Could you show up wanting to work a little bit later or lend a hand even if it’s not your job? All these pro-social behaviors that would close the distance on that 235.

“A lot of times people think it’s the race car driver and the crew chief or pit crew, and it’s not,’’ Peet explained. “It’s in the aggregate. If everyone crosses that 235 and everyone gets 3 percent better this year, how much do we close that gap? Because when you bring in all those small gains, that’s when you have something. It was not just resting on the laurels and adulation we’d gotten from the year before, it was us trying to push and grow as a race team.’’

And the idea goes beyond the shop driveway. It’s a chance to challenge everyone at Trackhouse to be introspective while always looking forward.

“The 235 feet certainly represents the difference between us finishing second in points and us winning the championship, but it’s more symbolic of when you come to work every day,’’ Trackhouse Racing President Ty Norris said. “It doesn’t work when people tell you what to do to improve, it works when you do it yourself. 

“So what that 235 represented was an opportunity for us to take all the employees as we look forward into 2023 and have them make a personal commitment about what you are going to do to manage your time better, to contribute more at work, at home with your family, in the community. What are you doing to improve yourself and what’s your commitment to your personal improvement that ultimately makes you a better and more focused person at work?”

To that end, each Trackhouse Racing employee was asked to write a note to themselves pledging to improve something about their life in 2023. It didn’t necessarily have to be a work-related goal because this team’s leaders see the connection between happier people providing better work in general.

After each person wrote their personal pledge on a piece of paper they then walked the 235 feet outside the shop and placed it in a fire pit. Doing this deep-thinking exercise and legitimately “walking the walk” provided perspective and created a joyful motivation that Trackhouse is betting will make a difference in 2023.

“It was amazing,’’ Norris said. “Everyone knows themselves better than anyone else so it was a reflective moment and all the employees bought into it a hundred percent and participated.

“It was almost emotional. It was just a really nice way for us to basically put 2022 in the history books and only think about what’s happening in 2023 and how we can contribute to each of ourselves making a difference.’’

The symbolism of both the moment and the more permanent reminder has genuinely been an effective and thoughtful way to motivate. Being different is making the difference. And Trackhouse Racing is all about that.

Driver Ross Chastain knows the 235-feet difference better than anyone. He drove the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro to the team’s very first victory at the Circuit of the Americas road course in Austin, Texas, last March and added another at Talladega, Ala. His one-for-the-ages move to qualify for the Championship Four finale is now a part of NASCAR lore – mashing the accelerator and bouncing off the wall in the final half-lap to pass five cars and become championship eligible.

And it was Chastain that came those 235 feet short of the title in Phoenix after such an incredible breakout year. The 30-year-old conceded it was tough initially to see the trophy-hoisting difference — literally — in such a concrete way. But he “gets it” and appreciates the unique style of purpose from Marks and the team.

“We walked the length of it as a team and it made a lot of sense,’’ Chastain. said. "And now driving over it every day, it gives me an odd sense of motivation.

“At the beginning, I was like, ‘what, what are we doing?’ and now I’m like, okay I’m starting to pick up what Justin is putting down.

“He pushes me in unique ways that no owner ever has and I think you see that in Daniel and myself. You see a different side of us than anyone has seen, we’re seeing different sides in ourselves, and a lot of that stems from the foundation at Trackhouse.’’

Doing things differently is what separates Trackhouse Racing from its competition.

Suarez, who scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory in 2022 at Sonoma, Calif., and is coming off a career-best 10th place finish in the championship, signed a contract extension with the team. And it’s this very kind of 235 philosophy that makes Suarez so proud to be a part of Trackhouse.

“I think that it is a great statement of how Trackhouse thinks and that’s what makes a difference,’’ Suarez said with a smile. “That is for every single person at the shop to understand how important all the little details are because if we make a little detail better today than yesterday, and better tomorrow than today, that can make the difference.” 

And that’s exactly what Trackhouse Racing is betting on.

 “It made me smile because right there was the purpose,’’ Norris said of the 235. “It made me think. It made other people think. And we realized the 235-foot walk was quick. The distance wasn’t extraordinarily far.’’

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