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What Has “Tier One” Status Done for Front Row Motorsports So Far?

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What’s Happening?

Front Row Motorsports turned heads with a solid 2023, and they turned more heads by being included as a “Tier One” Ford team for 2024. Now that the Cup Series has raced on all types of tracks on the calendar, to this point, has this “Tier One” status helped or hurt FRM?

  • FRM joined Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske, and RFK Racing as “Tier One”, or “Key Partner” Ford teams for 2024. FRM has been exclusively a Ford team since 2010.
  • Being a “Tier One” team is a major deal for a race team. Since 1986, 33 of 38 Cup Series Driver Championships Championships have been won by drivers for current “Tier One” teams. This status allows teams to get more technological, informational, and financial resources directly from Ford.
  • Fans were on the FRM hype train to start the season. Have they lived up to the hype?

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The Word of The Year: Inconsistency

Front Row Motorsports season has been marked by one simple word, inconsistency. They have shown speed on multiple occasions, but, things have also gone wrong at the worst times.

Michael McDowell has 4 top-10 qualifying runs so far this season, and he’s parlayed that into 2 top-10 finishes. He finished 8th at Atlanta and Phoenix and even recorded a respectable 11th-place run at Bristol. He even got his first pole at Atlanta.

He’s also been plagued by mechanical failures in two races. He led 6 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500 after qualifying on the front row before a mechanical failure forced him to limp to a 36th-place finish, 24 laps down. There was also COTA, where McDowell was dealing with a power steering problem after finishing 3rd in stage one, and he finished the race in 38th, the only car to fail to finish the race.

Todd Gilliland has noticeably lagged behind his teammate, but, he has shown flashes. He’s led laps in 3 of the first 6 races of the season. However, his best finish is only 17th, despite only one DNF, the “Big One” at the Daytona 500.

As a result, the pairing finds themselves 20th and 26th in points respectively. That’s not exactly a great showing, but, it’s also not that far off from where they were in 2023 when Gilliland finished 28th while McDowell finished 15th.

Overall, FRM has shown flashes this season, and there are reasons to believe they are improved, but, if we look deeper, the struggles may go deeper than FRM. Ford as a whole is struggling.

Ford as a Whole Struggling?

Ford is not having a good start to 2024, and it’s becoming very apparent. Six races in, and Ford only has one driver in the top 10 in points (Ryan Blaney) with only two other drivers in Playoff position currently (Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher). Joey Logano, arguably their flagship driver, is mired in 22nd in points. Of the bottom 10 drivers in points, 7 of them are Fords.

Add to that, Ford has yet to win a race in 2024. COTA was their worst showing yet, with only Chris Buescher cracking the top 10.

Ford brought a new car to the track this season, the Ford Mustang Dark Horse. FRM is showing many of the same traits that Ford in general is showing. They show speed on qualifying day, but, not as much speed in race trim. Ford swept the front row in the first two races of the season.

All that to say, it may not be a good idea to put FRM down too much right now. Yes, they are not getting quite the results they hoped for, but, a lot of it can be traced back to the struggles of Ford. Still, FRM should make sure they clean up the mechanical parts failures that have cost them solid runs.

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Joshua Lipowski

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