Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

McDowell to Depart from Front Row, Signs with Spire for 2025 and Beyond

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

And so it begins.

The yearly game of chess that is NASCAR Silly Season is officially underway after Michael McDowell announced on Wednesday that he will be departing his longtime home at Front Row Motorsports at the conclusion of the 2024 Cup Series season to seek driving duties elsewhere.

After bouncing around between a handful of teams in the early years of his Cup career, McDowell took up residence at Front Row Motorsports in 2018 and has been a key part of the organization since then.

McDowell broke through in 2021, banking his first career Cup win in the Daytona 500, which he followed up with a win on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2023 to secure his two career appearances in the Playoffs.

In a statement on social media, McDowell announced the news and thanked the team and all of the partners involved for helping him along the way, adding that his work at FRM is not done yet as he looks forward to rounding out the season with them, hoping to secure another Playoff berth on his way out.

Team owner Bob Jenkins responded with his own statement shortly after McDowell’s announcement, lauding him for helping to build FRM into the team it is today and wishing him well in his new endeavors.

“We thank Michael for all he has done during his time as a driver at Front Row Motorsports,” Jenkins said. “His 2021 Daytona 500 victory, a dominant win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and two appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs set a new standard for our organization.

“He became the leader of his team and the organization. Outside the car, he was the model for a driver we want to represent us and our partners.

“We’re sad to see Michael leave, but wish him, Jami and his family nothing but the best as he moves on to another chapter of what is already an incredible racing career.”

Through the first 12 races of 2024, McDowell has scored three top-10 finishes, along with a pole at Atlanta and a front row start for the Daytona 500. Currently, he sits 26th in points heading into this weekend’s race at Darlington.

UPDATE: Mere hours after announcing his departure from Front Row at the end of the 2024 season, McDowell’s landing spot for 2025 and beyond was made clear when Spire Motorsports announced he will be taking over the team’s No. 71 entry next season. Currently, that entry is piloted by rookie Zane Smith in a partnership with Trackhouse Racing.

“This is a new chapter for my family and me, and we’re incredibly thankful for the opportunity that’s in front of us,” said McDowell.

“It’s going to take some hard work, but I feel like everything is in place for us to be successful as a race team — to win races and contend for championships. People are the greatest asset to any organization, and with Spire’s vision, ambition, knowledge, and dedication, we will achieve great things. Failure is not an option, and that’s the mindset that it will take to achieve our goals.”

When he dons the Spire Motorsports colors in 2025, he will be joined by the team’s mainstay Corey LaJoie and rookie Carson Hocevar to make up the team’s three-car stable.

“Michael McDowell is a proven winner and brings a NASCAR Playoff pedigree,” said Spire Motorsports president Doug Duchardt. “Michael has always been committed to elevate his teams. His experience and enthusiasm are a perfect fit for Spire Motorsports, and we are sure he will be a great teammate to both Carey LaJoie and Carson Hocevar. We’re thrilled to keep up the positive momentum by adding someone as accomplished as Michael to our driver lineup.”

Where Smith goes for 2025 is still to be determined, but given he is contracted to Trackhouse, he’ll likely stay in their orbit after this season concludes.

“Our 2024 plan for the No. 71 team remains unchanged,” Duchardt added. “Spire Motorsports fully supports Zane Smith and Stephan Doran. We remain committed to the success of our collaboration with Trackhouse. That team is just beginning to realize its potential. We’re looking forward to seeing how the Rookie of the Year battle plays out between Zane and Carson.”  

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.