NASCAR Cup Series

Zane Smith to race #36, split #38 with Todd Gilliland at FRM

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Credit: Front Row Motorsports

Zane Smith will officially race the #36 Ford Mustang for Front Row Motorsports in his Daytona 500 début, the team announced Tuesday. His 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule will also eat into his team-mate Todd Gilliland‘s slate as Smith will take over his #38 for six rounds.

Smith is perhaps the hottest Ford prospect today as the reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion, who finally claimed the title in 2022 for FRM after back-to-back runner-up finishes. He will return to the FRM #38 truck to defend his championship in 2023, while also making select starts in the Cup and Xfinity Series. Healthcare company Centene Corporation will sponsor his Cup and Truck rides.

The #36 ran the full Cup season in 2019 for Matt Tifft, with Matt Crafton and John Hunter Nemechek making starts as injury substitutes, before being shuttered at season’s end. It was revived in 2020 and 2021 as a Daytona 500-only entry with David Ragan.

“I’m fortunate to have a great sponsor of Centene’s stature to step up and support me and Front Row Motorsports as I look to gain racing experience in the NASCAR Cup Series while at the same time defending the NASCAR Craftsman title,” said Smith. “I’m excited to represent Ambetter Health and Wellcare as Centene continues to grow their involvement in NASCAR and their healthcare presence across the United States.”

After Daytona, Smith will replace Gilliland in the #38 at Phoenix Raceway (12 March), Talladega Superspeedway (23 April), Charlotte Motor Speedway (28 May), Sonoma Raceway (11 June), Texas Motor Speedway (24 September), and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (8 October).

Gilliland, who finished twenty-eighth in the 2022 standings as a rookie with a pair of top tens, did not take too kindly to the development as he had expected to run the full schedule again.

“It was a shock when they told me and I’m disappointed,” he tweeted. “We’re working really hard to still be behind the wheel for the races I will be missing and plan on putting our best foot forward all season.”

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