What’s Happening?

With the green flag ready to drop on the 2024 NASCAR season, let’s go over some previews for teams this season! Starting with Front Row Motorsports consists of the No. 34 of Michael McDowell and the No. 38 of Todd Gilliland. While the No. 34 has been the same for quite some time and found success in the last three years, the No. 38 was more of a wild card ride last year. Now, both will head into the new season on even ground ready to take on the world.

  • Gilliland will now occupy a full-time ride with the team after spending last season sharing the No. 38 with Zane Smith, now a Trackhouse driver. Gilliland finished 28th in the point standings last season with no top fives and four top 10s.
  • McDowell had another stellar year in FRM equipment last season. He won the final Indy Road Course race (for now) in dominating fashion to earn himself a playoff spot, where he was bounced in the Round of 16. He finished 15th in the final standings with a win, but various finishes up and down the order at various tracks.
  • As will be the case for all the Ford teams, they will all have a new Ford Mustang body. They will also do it with a new technical alliance with Team Penske rather than RFK Racing. How will FRM manage and handle racing with the new body and partnership, particularly early on in the season?

McDowell and No. 34 car expectations

McDowell has found victory lane twice, most recently in Indianapolis on the road course. Heading into this season, he only has two road courses before the playoffs start, and only four road courses on the entire schedule. His background in driving sports cars and road courses helps him in the Next Gen car, looking to replicate the same success.

Three things to look for this season

Outside of road courses and superspeedways, McDowell has been up and down. He can pull out stellar performances such as 6th-place finishes at the Spring Richmond race and Bristol night race, but also below 30th-place finishes in both Darlington races. Even in the last two road course races of last season, he finished 36th and 32nd at Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Roval respectively. Hence, can McDowell find consistency in the finishing order this season?

Next, with Crew Chief Travis Peterson at the helm for a second year, the team will look to replicate the same success as last season and consistently finish races, with only three DNFs last season. Will Peterson help the team continue to find success and avoid a sophomore slump?

Finally, can McDowell find his way into victory lane again? He has been in contention to win multiple races, especially after his Daytona 500 win in 2021. He was able to complete the job last season, but no longer has the Indy Road Course on the schedule and only two road courses before the start of the playoffs. Therefore, can he win another superspeedway race or one of the two road courses before the postseason?

Gilliland and No. 38 car expectations

As mentioned earlier, Gilliland had to share the FRM ride with Zane Smith for six races. The timing of the announcement was not ideal for the team or the driver, as it came right after the conclusion of last year’s Busch Clash at the Coliseum. Hence, Gilliland had only 30 races in the No. 38, while sharing rides last season in the Rick Ware Racing No. 15 car.

Three things to look for this season

Now running full-time in the car this season, he looks to continue his upward path. He doubled his top-10 total from year one to year two, bettered his average finishing position by two spots, and only had four DNFs, but he didn’t lead any laps compared to his rookie year. Can Gilliand find more chemistry running a full-time season with FRM?

Secondly, can he keep up with his teammates? If he can be up to par with McDowell, he will have his best year in the Cup Series. However, if he takes a step back or is consistently behind his teammate, he could have another down year. He’ll look to increase his top-10 totals, tack on a couple of top-5s, and maybe battle for a win on a superspeedway with the help of the No. 34 car.

Lastly, Crew Chief Ryan Bergenty is in his second year with the team. He had to manage working with multiple drivers last season but did have luck with Gilliland at the wheel. Alongside the aforementioned Peterson, with both in their second year at the top of the box, can Bergenty himself avoid a sophomore slump?

Finally, both teams are striving for similar success from last season, and have a good chance at doing so. The biggest question as to whether or not they’ll be better or worse is the new Ford Mustang body. While the car itself is beautiful, will it perform the same as it looks? Depending on how FRM has adapted to using the new body early in the year, it could make or break their season.

Down Below in the Truck Series

Meanwhile, we’ll touch on Front Row’s Truck Series team running the No. 38 truck. They’ve found success with Zane Smith the last several seasons but moved on from him in the offseason. Now, they are reliant on young star Layne Riggs to pilot the team towards another championship.

Riggs, a NASCAR Roots champion, is the son of former driver Scott Riggs and will hold a full-time ride in one of the top three series of NASCAR for the first time in his career. At 21 years old, he has high expectations ahead of him in his first full-time season. If he can snatch a few top 10s, challenge for a win or two, and make the playoffs at the first time of asking, it should be a successful rookie season.