By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Two of the remaining questions for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season have been answered. Front Row Motorsports announced that David Ragan will return to the organization and that Michael McDowell will replace the departing Landon Cassill. 2018 will be Ragan’s fifth year with the organization and McDowell’s first full season.
Ragan earned the organization’s first victory at Talladega Superspeedway in dramatic fashion in 2013. He has also earned eight of the organization’s 14 top-10s. In 2017, Ragan scored three top-10s, the most he has had since the 2011 season when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing.
“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 has driven for several different organizations throughout his career. He has spent time driving for Michael Waltrip, Tommy Baldwin, Phil Parsons, and most recently with Leavine Family Racing (LFR). McDowell earned not only his, but LFR’s first top-five finish at Daytona International Speedway last season. To date he has earned five top-10 finishes. 2017 marked his best career points finish, 26th. In 2013, McDowell drove for the Bob Jenkins-owned Front Row Motorsports at Watkins Glen, qualifying an impressive 12th for the underfunded organization.
“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.”
Not only did Front Row Motorsports announce its’ driver line-up, but also an increased partnership with Ford Performance. The Jenkins-owned team will be entering their ninth-straight season competing exclusively with Ford. The partnership includes an expansion of the teams’ technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing. Ford swept all four of the 2017 restrictor plate races, a first for any manufacturer in the history of NASCAR.
“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 explained. “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 as he praised his drivers. “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.”
Although crew chief, number, and sponsor assignments will be announced at a later date, Jenkins, McDowell, and Ragan can begin to prepare for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. The Daytona 500 will mark McDowell’s 250th Cup start while Ragan will make his 400th start at Atlanta Motor Speedway.