For the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Front Row Motorsports will field a duo of familiar faces. On Thursday, the team announced Michael McDowell will return to the #34 Ford Mustang, while then-interim driver John Hunter Nemechek will have his substitute label lifted as he becomes the permanent driver of the #38. With the move, FRM downsizes from three to two cars.
“I’m thrilled for the opportunity to drive for Bob Jenkins and Front Row Motorsports,” Nemechek said in a team release. “Having driven the last three races with this team in 2019, I feel like we already have a foundation to start the 2020 season. I’m looking forward to continuing to build FRM.”
Nemechek joined FRM in late 2019, running the final three races of the Cup season in the #36 as a replacement for Matt Tifft, who was forced to miss the end of the year for health reasons. Tifft has since left the team to continue his recovery. In his three races starting with the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Nemechek finished twenty-first, twenty-third, and twenty-seventh.
In addition to his substitute role, Nemechek was racing for the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship with GMS Racing. He was eliminated from the playoffs after one round, but top-ten finishes in all but one postseason race enabled him to finish seventh in points. GMS closed its Xfinity team after the 2019 season.
By joining FRM, Nemechek throws his hat into an already-stacked Rookie of the Year battle. Three of the four Championship Round drivers (champion Tyler Reddick, runner-up Cole Custer, and third-placed Christopher Bell) are also racing full-time in the Cup Series in 2020, while Brennan Poole announced his rookie campaign on Wednesday.
Nemechek replaces the retiring David Ragan in the #38. As part of the team reduction, the #36 will not be fielded. The future of the number’s charter, which was acquired when the team purchased BK Racing‘s assets, has yet to be revealed.
McDowell enters his third season with FRM. The longtime Cup veteran finished 2019 with a twenty-seventh-place points finish. Although it is lower than his consecutive twenty-sixth placings in 2017 and 2018, he recorded a career-best two top-five finishes (fifth at the Daytona 500 and fall Talladega Superspeedway race).
“Michael is a veteran leader who is determined to win in the Cup Series,” Jenkins stated. “He gives our organization the experience we need to continue to get better. Most importantly, both Michael and John Hunter also fit our team values and are tremendous assets to our partners on-and-off the track.”
“As an organization, we have made a lot of strides with the help of all our partners of our program,” McDowell added. “I’m ready to build on that momentum with Drew and the rest of our team. We’ve always had steady growth and I think we’re going to continue to see that next season.”