NASCAR Cup SeriesNASCAR Truck Series

Front Row promotes Todd Gilliland, signs Zane Smith

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Credit: Front Row Motorsports

From 2012 to 2015, David Gilliland drove the #38 for Front Row Motorsports on a full-time basis. Six years later, his son Todd Gilliland will do the same. On Tuesday, FRM announced Gilliland will drive the #38 Ford Mustang for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season and compete for Rookie of the Year honours, while Zane Smith joins the team’s Camping World Truck Series stable in the #38 Ford F-150.

Gilliland enjoyed a solid 2021 Truck campaign in which he won the inaugural NASCAR race at Circuit of the Americas. Although he was eliminated from the playoffs after the first round, he finished a career-best seventh in points with sixteen top tens and ten top fives to go with the victory. He joined FRM in 2020, the same year that the team expanded its Cup operations into the Trucks, after being a Toyota development driver for much of his career.

The promotion means he bypasses the second-tier Xfinity Series and jump straight into the top level. Scott Speed in 2009 is the most recent driver to race full-time in the Cup Series with no prior Xfinity starts (his Xfinity début came two weeks after his Cup rookie campaign began). While moving from Trucks directly into Cup is very rare, the biggest success story of such a graduation is Kurt Busch, whose Cup rookie year came in 2001 after a season in the Trucks (with some Cup starts) and would not appear in Xfinity until 2006. Unlike Busch, however, Gilliland enters Cup without ever making a start in the series.

“I feel like I’ve found a home at FRM,” said Gilliland. “I’ve been around the team when I was growing up and watching my dad race. I joined the truck team here and it has been a good place for my career. I can’t wait to step up into the NASCAR Cup Series. I know the challenges ahead, but I’m planning to be here and help grow with this team for a long time.”

The #38 has been a rotating door of drivers since David Ragan‘s retirement at the end of 2019. John Hunter Nemechek took over the car in 2020, but only lasted one season—finishing twenty-seventh in points—before departing to head to the Truck Series. Another rookie in Anthony Alfredo became the #38’s pilot in 2021, during which he placed thirtieth in the standings with a single top ten at Talladega in the fall. Reigning Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell will serve as his team-mate in the #34.

Smith joins FRM after two years driving for GMS Racing, both of which ended with runner-up championship finishes. His 2021 Championship Round run saw him score fourteen top tens, three top fives, and a win in the penultimate race at Martinsville. He won the Most Popular Driver and Rookie of the Year Awards in 2020.

Although he was a member of GMS and Chevrolet’s Drivers Edge Development programme, he did not have a ride for 2022 prior to Tuesday’s announcement. Like Gilliland, he had signed a contract to move up to the Cup Series with Chip Ganassi Racing, but plans fell through when CGR was sold to Trackhouse Racing Team; according to an article by Lee Spencer of Racin Boys, Smith was unable to negotiate with other potential suitors as the CGR deal prevented him from signing elsewhere after the sale.

“I competed against Front Row for wins this past season and I know how competitive the team is,” commented Smith. “(Team owner) Bob Jenkins has given me a wonderful opportunity to race for the Truck Series championship again. More importantly, there is an opportunity to grow with them in the future.”

The ride will mark Smith’s first time in a Ford since the 2017 ARCA Menards Series West season opener when he finished fourth at Tucson for Sunrise Ford Racing.

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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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