By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Front Row Motorsports announced its official 2021 NASCAR Cup Series plans Wednesday morning as Anthony Alfredo will become a full-time driver and David Ragan making his return to the Daytona 500 being the highlights.
Alfredo, who spent the past season running part-time for Richard Childress in the Xfinity Series, will replace John Hunter Nemechek in the No. 38 Ford Mustang. Ragan, who finished fourth in last year’s weather and crash-marred “Great American Race,” will run the No. 36 Ford once again.
Car owner Bob Jenkins said that he met with Alfredo after the 2020 campaign wrapped up. His goal was to finding the young racer he’s been searching as Nemechek will return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports full-time.
“We met Anthony and spent time with him when last season ended,” said Jenkins. “We wanted another young driver and someone that fit well into our team. We feel that Anthony is a great match and we look forward to this season together.”
Although the 21-year-old Connecticut racer has yet to run an entire campaign among the three national touring series, it’s a moment and opportunity he’ll never forget.
“This is really an unbelievable moment,” said Alfredo, who’ll be competing against Chase Briscoe for Rookie of the Year honors.
“When you start our racing karts as a kid, you dream of making it to the sport’s top level. I want to thank Bob Jenkins and everyone at Front Row Motorsports for making this dream a reality. I know the challenges ahead, but I’m here to work hard and prove myself.”
Last season, Alfredo competed in RCR’s No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro in 19 out of the 33 races where he shown impressive strides. This was highlighted with a fourth at the first Homestead race and a season-best third at the fall Texas race.
Alfredo also had an average finish of 12.6 and led races at Talladega (June), Texas (July) and Kansas (October). Those helped him finish 18th in the final standings, just a championship spot behind Daniel Hemric (who ran 21 races) among drivers who didn’t compete full-time.
FRM also confirmed that Michael McDowell will return to the No. 34 team for a fourth season. The 36-year-old veteran just had his career best season where he scored four top-fives and finished 23rd in the standings. He’ll also have Drew Blickensderfer once again calling the shots on top of the pit box.
“Despite all of its challenges, our 2020 season was one of the best in FRM history,” McDowell on his career season in Cup. “I feel like we’ve really been able to hit our stride and I’m excited to channel that momentum into a new season.”
The Jenkins-led team will also continue its Truck Series program with Todd Gilliland staying in the No. 38 Ford F-150, hoping to make the playoffs once again. The two-time West champion and 2019 Martinsville Truck winner scored a trio of fourth-place finishes last season which was a season-high for him.
Gilliland, who finished 10th last season, is thrilled to be back with the race team, citing that driving for FRM has been great and hopes to continue building the operation. Jenkins backed up Gilliland’s comments in the team’s press release.
“Our debut season in the Truck Series with Todd was very successful,” said Jenkins. “We qualified for the playoffs and had some great runs throughout the year. We’re excited to continue those accomplishments into the future.”
The crew chief lineups will be the previously mentioned Blickensderfer (McDowell), Seth Barbour (Alfredo), Derrick Finley (Ragan) and Chris Lawson (Gilliland). As far as team partners are concerned, those will be announced leading into the 63rd renewal of the 500 and throughout the season.