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For NASCAR driver Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing and Glendale’s Michael Madill go together like watermelon and sweet tea.
The second-year NASCAR Cup Series team co-owned by Justin Marks and global sensation, Pitbull, has been the feel-good story of 2022. Since expanding to a two-car operation this season, the Chevrolet stable has been an unstoppable force of success, defying the age-old saying, “nice guys finish last.”
Chastain, an eighth-generation watermelon farmer-turned race car driver, got his big break after Trackhouse absorbed resources left behind by Chip Ganassi Racing, which ceased operations at the end of 2021. After going winless in their maiden season, the driver of the No. 1 car has taken his new team to victory lane not once but twice so far this year.
Chastain’s humbleness and infectious positivity spread like wildfire throughout the already high-spirited organization, propelling the sophomore team into a three-way bid for supremacy with powerhouses Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Madill, the team's rear suspension mechanic, has played a key role in Trackhouse's success. He knows first-hand how these prestigious organizations operate. Although he’s only worked at Trackhouse for seven months, the 33-year-old believes he is part of something special.
“Honestly, I view myself as very lucky,” Madill told The Republic. “I think the culture at Trackhouse is just beyond any other teams I’ve been a part of, let alone watched in a garage. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a whirlwind of a year so far.”
These words by Madill are not to be diminished, as he’s worked for both HMS and JGR throughout his 12-year Cup career. But how did he end up in NASCAR?
Born in Colorado, Madill considers himself a native of the Grand Canyon State after moving to Glendale at age seven. His passion for motorsports began at a young age, when he’d watch his uncle race street stock cars, then spend Sunday mornings watching NASCAR with his grandfather.
After graduating from Cactus High in 2006, Madill sought to turn his passion into a career by obtaining degrees from Universal Technical Institute and NASCAR Technical Institute. At 19, he got a job in a transmission shop in North Carolina before joining Joe Gibbs Racing’s Cup Series operations in 2011.
Coincidentally, this was around this time Chastain began racing in NASCAR’s developmental series. He met Madill, who he refers to as “Too Tall,” through mutual friends at GoPro Motorplex in North Carolina. They’ve remained buddies ever since.
“He’s a guy that I’ve known almost the whole time I’ve been (in NASCAR),” Chastain told The Republic. “We’re similar in age and were hanging out with some of the same people, but our careers were never anywhere close to each other.
“It’s been cool now to work with him, being that I’ve been casual friends with him for years. We’ve gotten a lot closer now and he’s an integral part of our race team. I always looked at him as my buddy ‘Too Tall’ and now we're going to battle and racing together.”
Although Chastain was referring to preparing his Camaro for Sundays, “racing together” can be taken literally, as his multifaceted friend competes with him on the race track occasionally.
“He’s a heck of a racer, man,” Chastain said. “We raced out at Millbridge (Speedway in North Carolina) in Micro Sprint cars … and he beat me. He was flat-out faster and outraced me and passed me with a few laps to go. I couldn’t do anything with him.”
Looking back at when they first met, to now competing together, Madill described racing as “full circle” — his new working relationship with Chastain being a prime example.
Chastain will hang out in the shop almost every day with his crew as they prepare his stock car for the weekend. It’s here where both the driver and crew chief, Phil Surgen, get to witness Madill’s mechanical artistry in action, and what a valuable asset he is to the team’s success.
“(Madill’s) a hard-nosed racer, talented, well-rounded guy, with a ton of experience, and a great attitude,” Surgen said. “Aside from all the great qualities Mike brings to the team professionally, he’s a good guy and works really well with the team.”
Coming from Hendrick and Gibbs, Madill certainly knows his way around the rear suspension of a stock car. However, he says it’s been a welcome challenge adjusting to a viscerally new makeup with the Next-Gen car.
“It’s totally different,” Madill said. “You’re talking about an independent rear suspension car this year compared to the old school, solid rear-end housing with trailing arms. It’s been a huge learning curve and it’s been a lot of fun working on that, because I like to pride myself on always learning and trying to advance my knowledge to be able to look for things that can possibly go wrong.”
With only 10 races remaining in the regular season heading into Nashville this weekend, Madill has played a significant role in the No. 1 team’s success. As a result, they sit second overall in the points standings. Chastain, who entered 2022 as an afterthought to many, is now being labeled as a championship favorite.
Should the No. 1 team be able to withstand the upcoming 20-week test, they will be competing for a Cup Series title at Madill’s home track: Phoenix Raceway.
“I don’t even know if I can fathom fighting for a championship right now in my hometown,” Madill said. “It’s one of those things where you kind of get caught up in the moment throughout the year, that you don’t even really think that far ahead, you’re just doing your job.
“Luckily, we have a couple wins already to lock us into the playoffs, now we just have to do the job to make sure we make it to the final four.”
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Glendale’s Madill embraces opportunity at Trackhouse Racing