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What Front Row Motorsports’ Move Means for NASCAR Silly Season

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Another NASCAR Silly Season domino fell today with Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic reporting that Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland will return to the team next season. The move is a surprise to some, but it definitely makes sense given the solid performance of both the second-year Gilliland and veteran McDowell. However, this leaves Zane Smith out of the Cup Series at Front Row at least for now.

This move, and what went into it, tells us a lot about where NASCAR Silly Season currently stands. What is the state of NASCAR Silly season?

What does it tell us about Charters?

One of the most interesting tidbits that Bianchi discussed was that Front Row looked at many options for next season. This seemed to revolve around what to do with Zane Smith, who is reportedly under contract at Front Row until 2026 according to Candice Spencer.

Throughout the process, Front Row has explored various configurations of its 2024 driver lineup — including adding a third full-time team — before ultimately deciding that it was best to retain McDowell and Gilliland by exercising the options in both drivers’ contracts.

Jordan Bianchi

Front Row looked at adding a third team. They have run a third car in races before, with Gilliland wheeling the number 36 car to a top-10 finish at Talladega back in April. However, they would likely need a charter to make that happen, and, as we have documented, the potential pool of charters being sold is not very high.

This means either one of two things. One possibility is that Front Row could not compete in a bidding war for charters, which are reportedly worth around $30 million according to Austin Kostecki of Sportsnaut. The second is that there simply are no charters available.

Brad Keselowski actually provided evidence of the latter being true last weekend at Michigan. He suggested that he would like RFK Racing to expand to three cars, but the timing is not right partially because of the lack of charters being sold.

It’s almost impossible to buy a charter. Nobody is selling one.

Brad Keselowski

So, it seems that there is no charter available, and that seems to be what caused the lack of a third car at Front Row. This is a much bigger issue that could impact more teams than just Front Row. It particularly has a factor in Shane Van Gisbergen making the move to NASCAR.

What Does it Mean for SVG?

SVG is a surprise addition to NASCAR silly season. The team that wants him the most is very likely Trackhouse. Justin Marks even said that he feels Trackhouse offers the best situation for SVG should he come to NASCAR.

If there is no charter for sale, then Justin Marks may not be able to bring in SVG. Marks could choose to run SVG as an open entry in every race, but, that puts his spot in the field at risk in races with more than 40 entrants like the Daytona 500.

It means that SVG will likely have to look at open seats that have charters attached to them, or, only run part-time in NASCAR next season. It just seems that the dream of him racing for Trackhouse is getting more and more difficult to envision.

What Does It Mean for Zane Smith?

Bianchi gave some small insight into what Zane Smith could do next season. It is no secret that he wants to go Cup Series racing, but he also is reportedly under contract.

Smith returning to run in the Truck Series for the team is an option, as Front Row is expected to continue fielding an entry in that series. But whether he pursues that opportunity is undetermined.

Jordan Bianchi

The question becomes that if Smith wants to leave Front Row, where can he go? Kaulig Racing is an open seat, but, does Smith bring enough funding to race there? Joe Gibbs is not an option with Hamlin and Truex Jr. seemingly set to come back.

Stewart-Haas might be open, but, if Almirola returns, it won’t be open. The options are unfortunately limited for Smith. He’s a driver that just cannot catch a break in Silly Season it seems.

This move says a lot about where NASCAR Silly Season is heading, and it could have some impact on where big-name free agents go. The bottom line is that Front Row Motorsports is running it back with the same two drivers next year, and it could be interesting to see if they continue to improve.

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Joshua Lipowski

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