Matt Tifft joins Front Row for 2019, Ragan and McDowell return

by Justin Nguyen

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year battle has a new challenger as Matt Tifft will race for Front Row Motorsports in a new #36 car. The team will also retain Michael McDowell and David Ragan in the #34 and #38, respectively.

“Today is a huge moment in my career, announcing my move to the Cup [S]eries,” Tifft stated in a press release from the team. “This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and I can’t believe it’s finally coming true.

“I’m so thankful to Front Row Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to drive the No. 36 next season. I’m looking forward to guidance from veterans Michael McDowell and David Ragan and am ready to take on the challenge of driving with 39 of the best drivers in the world.”

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2018, Tifft competed in the Xfinity Series for Richard Childress Racing after racing for Joe Gibbs Racing the previous year. Although he did not win a race, he recorded top-ten points finishes in both seasons (seventh in 2017, sixth in 2018). In 2018, he had nineteen top tens, six top fives, one pole (at Road America), and a best finish of second (also at Road America).

Prior to racing in the Xfinity Series, Tifft was a part-time competitor in the Camping World Truck Series. In 25 career starts between 2014 and 2016, he has nine top tens and a highest run of fifth at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2016.

Ragan returned to FRM in 2017 after spending the 2015 and 2016 seasons in the Toyota camp. During his first stint with FRM in the #34 car, he scored a surprise win at the 2013 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. In two seasons since his return to the organisation, he has four top tens (all at restrictor plate tracks) and finished thirtieth and twenty-fifth in points, respectively.

“[Team owner] Bob Jenkins has always grown his race team strategically, and I’m proud to be a part of that growth. It’s exciting that we’re now ready to take the next step with a third car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,” Ragan said. “We’ve made a lot of gains this season with our enhanced program with Ford Performance and our alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, and I think we can make even greater strides next year.”

Credit: NKP

2018 was McDowell’s first year with FRM after departing Leavine Family Racing. After recording a ninth-place finish at the Daytona 500 to kick off the season, he finished behind Ragan in the standings in twenty-sixth.

“This season has been a big stepping-stone for me in my career,” he commented. “We haven’t gotten the results we’ve wanted every week, but we’ve made huge advances as a team. I’ve really benefited from having a teammate this year and feel like I’ve made valuable contributions in return. I’m looking forward to building on that next year and welcoming another teammate in Matt Tifft.”

The addition of the #36 marks FRM’s first full-time three-car endeavour since the 2015 season, when it fieled the #34 for Ragan, #38 for David Gilliland, and the #35 for Cole Whitt. The assets to run a third car were acquired in August 2018 when the team won an auction for the remnants of BK Racing.

“We’ve made it clear in recent years that it was our intent to continue to invest in NASCAR and expand to a three-car team,” Jenkins added. “Not only are we here to stay, we’re here to grow.

“We already have two proven veterans in our line-up, and now we’ll get to add an impressive young talent and championship contender who will inject some new energy into the group. With the introduction of the Ford Mustang into the Cup Series, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting season for us.”

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