Michael McDowell has signed with Front Row Motorsports for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, driving the #34 Ford Fusion alongside the returning David Ragan. The news was first reported by @RPMReport in late November, though FRM formally announced the move on Thursday.
“For me, I’m thankful to have the opportunity and excited to work with Front Row in a new chapter, a new beginning for me,” McDowell stated. “It’s fun when you’ve got a new challenge in front of you and a new set of people. Looking forward to working with David and helping to build this program and getting results. Also you know, I haven’t had a teammate in years and so that’s definitely a part that I’m really looking forward to.”
Since 2014, McDowell had driven the #95 car for Leavine Family Racing, though was ousted from the ride when Kasey Kahne was announced as the team’s new driver for 2018. After spending much of his Cup career in a start-and-park role for teams like Phil Parsons Racing, he began racing part-time and in full races for LFR, eventually increasing his schedule to a near-full-time run in 2016 and a full-time 2017 campaign. In 102 races with LFR, he recorded three top-ten finishes and a best run of 4th at Daytona’s 2017 Coke Zero 400. Of his five Cup top tens, all but one have come at restrictor plate tracks (the 2016 Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami being the lone exception). In 2017, McDowell finished 26th in points and recorded 15 top-20 finishes. McDowell also has a win in the Xfinity Series at Road America in 2016.
It will not be McDowell’s first race with FRM. In 2013, he drove the team’s #35 car typically run by Josh Wise at Watkins Glen, finishing 38th after suffering suspension problems.
“Since I first drove for Bob [Jenkins] at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell commented.
McDowell replaces Landon Cassill in the #34 for 2018. Cassill had spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons with FRM, driving the #38 before switching to #34 for 2017. During the season, he scored three top-20 finishes: 16th and 19th at the two Daytona races, followed by 20th at Chicagoland in September, en route to a 31st-place points finish. He was informed of his release by FRM in October, and has yet to receive a ride for 2018.
Furthermore, FRM will increase its technical partnership with Ford Performance Roush Fenway Racing. Team owner Bob Jenkins described the alliance with Ford as the manufacturer being “a great partner for us for the past eight seasons, and we’ve agreed to work together to step up our program quite a bit. We’ve got a lot vested in our partnership – relationships, knowledge, data – that we’re going to build on to make improvements both in the shop and at the track.”
McDowell’s first race with FRM will be the 2018 Daytona 500 on February 18.
Featured image from Front Row Motorsports