Race Weekend Central

Front Row Motorsports Comes Up a Few Rows Short

After Michael McDowell put his No. 34 Ford Mustang on the pole this weekend at Atlanta, the stars seemed to align for Front Row Motorsports.

Further evidence came when, McDowell’s teammate, Todd Gilliland put his No. 38 machine in fourth. Then, the team got even more help in the form of a penalty assessed to Joey Logano, which bumped Gilliland up to make it an all Front Row front row.

The efforts came after the announcement of Front Row’s new Tier One deal with Ford, which has coincided with the pair of Mustangs finding enhanced speed on the last two drafting tracks.

Gilliland offered his thoughts on the pact before Sunday’s race.

“You know, before [the tier one deal], we didn’t have access to all of the aero information, other information that’s shared amongst the teams,” Gilliland said. “So yeah, pretty much just another wave of information. You know, some of the stuff that you kind of hear about here and there that we couldn’t have, but now we have everything, and it’s really nice for our team.”

The race was by no means a total loss, however. After finishing 35th and 36th, respectively, the previous week, McDowell and Gilliland had almost nowhere to go but up, and did so, taking 8th and 26th. Their track data provides optimism behind their finishing positions.

In an Atlanta race that saw the most lead changes in the track’s history, McDowell and Gilliland combined to lead 85 of the 260 laps. The pair have already led more laps in the young 2024 season than they combined for in all 2023. The change has been nothing short of extreme, so far at least.

Post-race, Gilliland offered his thoughts on his 26th-place finish.

“It was [a good night for our organization],” said Gilliland. “It’s still really impressive for our team to bring cars that fast. The new Dark Horse Mustang is really fast, we’ve seen that in our first couple of races, and our team is just cranking out really fast race cars. That’s really good. That’s really exciting … just the quality of (what we’ve brought to) the race track has been awesome to see.”

McDowell couldn’t catch a break. He was collected in a pit road incident with William Byron that he bounced back from, but ultimately caught too much traffic to make a difference late.

Sure, a top 10 is solid for Front Row, but with the car McDowell was running on the track with on Sunday, it feels like there was plenty of meat left on that bone. A top-five was well within reach, but McDowell had to settle for eighth.

There’s no denying that improvements have been made, but can FRM take those improvements deeper into the season? The first two races have been anything but typical as far as the racing style is concerned. What happens when the “real racing,” as some of the field has called it, starts?

The storyline from Sunday night will be the finish – as it should be. However, once the dust settles, the question next week will still be whether or not Front Row has really figured it out or if they’re just a superspeedway special.

About the author

Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.

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