Front Row Motorsports has been searching for a replacement for for the No. 34 ever since it decided to let go of Landon Cassill. Now, Team FRM has made a decision.
The team, in a press release, announced that Michael McDowell will take over the seat. Additionally, the team announced that David Ragan will return as driver of the No. 38.
"It's been a while since I've had a teammate," McDowell said in the release, "so I'm really looking forward to working with David, whom I've become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs."
McDowell recently lost his ride at Leavine Family Racing, and has long been connected to the No. 34.
To some, McDowell may seem like a puzzling choice since Leavine replaced him will a driver -- Kasey Kahne -- the team believes can take it to the next level. FRM wants to do the same, but this is what Leavine's owner said when releasing McDowell.
"We look at this as an opportunity to go to the next level," LFR team owner Bob Leavine, said in a press release posted on his website. "This deals partially with performance, because obviously, Kasey is a playoff-caliber driver. He has a wealth of information being with a larger organization like Hendrick Motorsports, and we think that will help us. We also look at this as an opportunity for marketing to be able to sell sponsorship."
Obviously, FRM sees something that Leavine didn't.
Ragan expressed excitement in his remarks.
"Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally," Ragan said. "I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I'm excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I'm happy I'll be here to help the team continue to grow.
Here's the entire press release:
Front Row Motorsports will step up its two-car Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series program in 2018 with an elevated partnership with Ford Performance. The Bob Jenkins-owned team will put experience behind the wheel of its Fords, re-signing veteran David Ragan and adding free agent Michael McDowell to the driver roster.
The 2018 season will mark Front Row Motorsports' ninth with Ford Performance, the team's manufacturing partner since expanding to a multi-car organization in 2010. The agreement will include an expanded technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing.
Ragan returns for his fifth season with the Statesville, N.C.-based team. The 31-year-old Unadilla, Ga., native earned Front Row Motorsports' first NASCAR victory in 2013 with a last-lap surge to the front at Talladega Superspeedway. His 12-year Cup series career includes two wins, 15 top-five and 39 top-10 finishes, and two poles.
"Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally," Ragan said. "I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I'm excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I'm happy I'll be here to help the team continue to grow."
McDowell, a 10-year veteran of the series, joins the team after four years with Leavine Family Racing. The 32-year-old Phoenix, Ariz., native raced a Front Row Motorsports entry once previously in his Cup series career, at Watkins Glen International in 2013. The former open-wheel racer was the 2004 Star Mazda Series champion and 2007 ARCA Re/MAX Series Rookie of the Year. He earned a Cup career-best fourth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway in July of this year.
"Since I first drove for Bob 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 said. "It's been a while since I've had a teammate, so I'm really looking forward to working with David, whom I've become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs."
"Ford has been 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," Jenkins said. "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.
"David has been a great team member for us in his years with Front Row, both on and off the track," Jenkins continued. "And Michael is a great addition to our team. I've been impressed with his talent watching him over the years and excited that he'll be representing us and our partners next season."
The team has not yet finalized its crew chief line-up and is evaluating possible additions to the competition staff. Additional information about the 2018 program, including team partners and driver car numbers, will also be announced in the coming weeks.