Front Row Motorsports
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2012)|
|Base||Statesville, North Carolina|
|Series||Sprint Cup Series|
|Race drivers||#34 David Ragan
#38 David Gilliland
|Sponsors||#34 CSX, Farm Rich, Dockside Logistics, Taco Bell, KFC
#38 Love's Travel Shops, Long John Silver's, A&W
|Debut||2005 Food City 500 (Bristol)|
|Latest race||2014 GEICO 500 (Talladega)|
Front Row Motorsports is a team that competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The team began running part-time in 2004 as Means-Jenkins Motorsports under a partnership with Jimmy Means and restaurant entrepreneur Bob Jenkins, with Jenkins becoming the full team owner in 2005. For the 2014 season, Front Row Motorsports fields the No. 34 CSX/Farm Rich Ford Fusion for David Ragan and the No. 38 Love's Travel Stops Ford Fusion for David Gilliland.
Front Row is one of the more prominent small-budget teams in the Cup Series, operating with around 60 employees on a fraction of the budget of larger teams, and with equipment often coming second-hand from those teams. The team has struggled on most intermediate tracks, however since 2011, the team has become noted for its performance at superspeedways and to a lesser extent short tracks, which rely less on aerodynamic performance. This has grown since the signing of noted restrictor plate racer David Ragan in 2012, who won the team's first race at Talladega the next year with the help of another skilled plate racer David Gilliland.
Bob Jenkins, the full owner of the team since 2005, resides in Dandridge, Tennessee, and is known for his involvement with in the Yum! Brands family of restaurants. Jenkins currently owns around 150 franchises, including many Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, A&W, and KFC locations. Jenkins also owns Morristown Driver's Services (MDS), a full-service, third-party Logistics Provider, specializing in all phases of transportation management. His family is also the owner of Jenkin's Insurance in Dandridge.
He is not to be confused with the motorsports announcer of the same name.
The Yum! Brands, most notably Taco Bell and Long John Silver's, as well as MDS often appear on the Front Row cars when the team does not have a sponsor, with funds coming from Jenkins himself. The sponsors were used in 2010 to identify the drivers and crews, who often rotated numbers (34, 37, 38) to keep the one sponsored car from missing the race. The #34 began as the Long John Silver's Crew, the #38 as the Taco Bell crew (which received one-race sponsorship deals from time-to-time), and the #37 as the A&W crew with Extenze sponsoring the car and Kevin Conway driving until Watkins Glen International, when Conway was pulled from the now #34 car when his sponsor didn't pay. Currently, the #34 can be identified as the Taco Bell Crew, the #38 as the Long John Silver's crew, and the #35 as the MDS/A&W crew, though they all have received outside sponsorship at some point in the year.
Car #34 history
The #34 car made its debut on March 14, 2004 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Todd Bodine driving the car as the #98 Lucas Oil Ford. At the time, the team was owned by Chris Edwards and was known as Mach 1 Racing. Bodine finished 41st after dropping out within sixteen laps. Bodine drove in eight races with the team that year, along with his brother Geoffrey, Larry Gunselman, Randy LaJoie, Chad Chaffin and Derrike Cope filling out the driving duties that year, driving a total of 26 races. In 2005 the team changed numbers to #34 and planned to run full-time, but due to sponsorship limitations and lackluster performance by LaJoie, the team only ran a limited schedule. Although it attempted many races, two drivers (Ted Christopher and P. J. Jones) each qualified for a race with the team that year. In the fall of 2005, the team website announced that the team was up for sale, but that was quickly rescinded. Later that year, Front Row Motorsports moved into their shop to operate the #34 in addition to their current team.
The combined team began running at the 2006 Daytona 500. Randy LaJoie attempted but failed to qualify for the first two races. The team ran the #64 at Daytona but switched back to #34 for the second race at California Speedway. Lajoie and teammate Chad Chaffin swapped rides the next week in Las Vegas and Chaffin would drive for the next eight races. Chaffin would then return to FRM's other car after Kevin Lepage's departure for BAM Racing, one week after FRM purchased the owner points from Peak Fitness Racing and renumbered the #92 to #61. Chad Blount would then take over the #34 car for two races, however he was unable to get into the field and was released. Carl Long, Greg Sacks, Mike Skinner would attempt the next three races with Skinner making the 3M Performance 400 and finishing 37th on the lead lap. Johnny Miller returned to FRM to run the road course at Infineon. After Blount's release, Long, Sacks, Chaffin, Brian Simo, Kertus Davis, Skinner and Joey McCarthy attempted races for the team, with Long qualifying at Bristol. Lepage drove the car for the rest of the season and made Martinsville.
The car attempted full-time status in 2007 with Lepage, but after missing the first four races, the team decided to go part-time with Andretti and Chaffin. Lepage swapped places with Andretti and Chaffin at the #37 so that Lepage could continue full-time. Chaffin later left the team in early 2007. They tried to make another attempt to run the #34 at Texas Motor Speedway with myAutoloan.com as the sponsor, but they failed to qualify for the race.
The 2008 season began with the #34 planning to run a full season. The team made the Daytona 500 with Andretti behind the wheel and Makoto's Ginger Dressing brand as the associate sponsor, and manufacturer's support from Chevrolet. Andretti left the team to race in the Indianapolis 500 with Roth Racing and eventually decided to continue in the series. Tony Raines qualified for his first race of the season in the #34 Chevrolet Impala SS at Dover but finished 40th after transmission failure. The #34 Chevy ran part-time after that, with Chad Chaffin attempting the final races for the team in 2008.
In 2009, John Andretti was the full-time driver for the car, and the team entered into a partnership with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The #34 team received owner's points from EGR's defunct #15 team, becoming locked in for the first 5 races of the season. For the Daytona 500, Window World joined as the primary sponsor, EGR's Steve Lane would be the crew chief for the team, and some of EGR's crewmen tended to the car. The team finished 19th in the race. Window World ended up joining the team for the first five races of the season. The team ran EGR engines at the Daytona 500 and at the spring Atlanta race, using Pro Motors Engines otherwise. Steven Lane served as the full-time crew chief and some of the EGR crew became permanent employees. Beyond Window World's involvement, the team ran mostly unsponsored; team owner Bob Jenkins has used the space on the #34 Chevrolet Impala SS to advertise his Taco Bell restaurants while seeking for a new primary sponsor. Andretti missed two races while he ran the Indianapolis 500, and teammate Tony Raines took his place for those events. Raines quickly earned the team's best solo effort finish to that point with a 25th place at Darlington. With John back at the wheel, the team finished 16th at the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, along with numerous other top-30 finishes throughout the year. At Michigan, race sponsor Carfax jumped aboard the #34 Chevrolet as the primary sponsor. The team remained in the top-35 for the entire season which guaranteed the team starts the first five races of 2010.
For 2010, Travis Kvapil was the primary driver of the #34 Long John Silver's Ford, with the team switching to the Ford Racing banner with Roush/Yates providing engines and support for the team. Steve Lane returned to the Long John Silver's team with Kvapil. John Andretti drove the #34 in the Budweiser Shootout and the 2010 Daytona 500 with Window World as the primary sponsor, with Kvapil driving the #37 Extenze Ford in place of rookie teammate Kevin Conway. Kvapil and the Long John Silver's team's best finish of 2010 was an 18th at Talladega in the spring in the #34, with the #34 finished 33rd in owners points after Kvapil, Andretti (both with the LJS crew), Kevin Conway and Tony Raines (both with the Extenze / A&W Crew) ran races with the number.
In 2011, David Gilliland returned to Front Row Motorsports running the #34 Taco Bell Ford for the full season. He would go on to finish 3rd in the 2011 Daytona 500, 9th in the 2011 Aaron's 499, and 12th in the 2011 Toyota/Save Mart 350. These three finishes are Front Row Motorsports top 3 finishes in team history, as well as first top 5 finish and first top 10 finishes.
For 2012, former Roush Fenway Racing driver David Ragan drove the car full-time. Ragan helped the team improve slightly, with a best finish of 4th at Talladega. He recorded two top-10 finishes throughout the season.
Ragan drove the #34 car in 2013. Ragan got the team's first win at Talladega Superspeedway in the Aaron's 499 on a last lap pass. Along with David Gilliland's help, the team was able to finish 1-2. The win was also the first for a car using #34 since Wendell Scott in 1964. The 34 team improved more in 2013 earning sixteen top-25 finishes for the team including the win, a sixth place finish at the fall Talladega race, and a 12th place finish at the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. However three consecutive engine failures near the end of the season dropped Ragan to 28th in points.
David Ragan returned as driver for 2014, with sponsors CSX and Farm Rich stepping up their commitments. The team struggled mightily to adapt to the new ride-height rule for the 2014 season, with Ragan outside the top-30 in points at the halfway mark.
Car #35 history
The #35 car began as the #55 Ford Fusion in June 2011. It debuted at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with Jeff Green starting and parking. J. J. Yeley and Travis Kvapil split time between the 38 and 55 cars the remainder of the year. The 55 was a start-and-park operation for 2011.
In 2012, Michael Waltrip Racing used the #55 for its new entry for Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip, and in response Front Row Motorsports changed to the #26. For Daytona, the car was sponsored by presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and driven by Tony Raines. Raines qualified for the race after being one of the three fastest "go or go home" drivers during the first day of qualifying. He finished 19th, but ran as high as second. Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Wise took over the car starting at Phoenix and ran the majority of the season as a start-and-park operation, finishing only at the Sonoma race.
Starting in 2013, the car number was changed to #35, and the team attempted the full schedule with Wise. Due to a lack of sponsorship, the team plans to run 20-30 full races, while still starting and parking in others.
On November 26, 2013, Wise announced that he will be leaving the team. In 2014, the team plans to run with various drivers. Eric McClure attempted the 2014 Daytona 500 but failed to qualify. Blake Koch attempted the next two races, finishing 37th at Phoenix. David Reutimann was placed in the car for six races starting at Bristol, making the field at Auto Club, Texas and Richmond. McClure then returned for the Aaron's 499, where he once again failed to qualify. The #35 was not seen again and it appears that FRM's early season struggles have caused it to contract to two cars.
Car #37 history
FRM fielded the #92 Chevy for multiple drivers in 2005. It debuted at the 2005 Daytona 500 with Stanton Barrett driving, but it did not qualify. After missing the next three races, the team finally got into a race at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Barrett finished 41st after suffering oil pressure problems. After the spring Dover race, Tony Raines drove the car at the Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Raceway, finishing 35th. Then Hermie Sadler and Eric McClure began sharing the ride, although McClure did not qualify for a race in the car. Johnny Miller ran the car at Watkins Glen, finishing 29th. Another driver, Chad Chaffin, also took over driving duties, failing to qualify in his initial attempt at Martinsville Speedway, and then qualifying 43rd the next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway before surrendering the car to Bobby Hamilton Jr.. Late in the year, the team formed an equipment-sharing partnership with Mach 1 Racing, and that eventually turned into the team moving into Mach 1's shop and hiring their old crew.
Chad Chaffin began the 2006 season with the #92 team, however after two races he was moved to the #34 team. Chad Blount would then take over the car until Talladega where FRM decided the team shut down the #92 operation. The team just made one of the eight races it attempted and cited lack of performance as a reason for the team's shut down. In April 2006, Front Row Motorsports purchased the owner points of Peak Fitness Racing, and renumbered the #92 to Peak's #61. The team originally hired Peak's driver Kevin Lepage to drive however, after just one race, Lepage left Front Row Motorsports, heading to BAM Racing. Chad Chaffin took over the #61 car after Lepage's departure. Brian Simo drove the #61 car for the road course at Infineon. At the second road course of the season at Watkins Glen, Front Row Motorsports lease out the #61 owner points to No Fear Racing and entered the #92 with Johnny Miller, but he failed to qualify. After Watkins Glen, the team ran as #61 for the remainder of the season. Chaffin ran most of the rest of the races with Stanton Barrett driving the car at Dover and Lepage made the race at Atlanta.
The team partnered with #37 of R&J Racing in 2007, however the deal fell through early in the season, although Front Row retained the team's owner's points and car number. Bill Elliott attempted Daytona for the team and John Andretti and Chad Chaffin planned to race the car full-time. After race 4, Front Row Motorsports announced the #34 would run full-time, and that Andretti and Chaffin would swap positions with Lepage so that Lepage could continue full-time. Lepage failed to qualify twenty-five times and left before the end of the season. The 37 attempted the 2008 Daytona 500 with Eric McClure and sponsor Hefty, but the team failed to qualify.
The team returned to the track for the 2009 Daytona 500 with Tony Raines driving, inheriting the points from the #34 from the year before as a result of the merger with EGR, but did not qualify. The team has attempted other races since then, making the race at Richmond, and finished the race in 41st only after running 74 laps. They were awarded no points for the race because of being a late entry. The team also made Dover, however a flat tire early in the race ended the teams run and they finished 42nd. Kevin Hamlin attempted to make his Sprint Cup debut in the #37 at Kansas, however did not qualify for the race. Travis Kvapil DNQ'd at Lowes Motor Speedway. The #37 was mostly a start and park entry in 2009, although the team ran the full race at Daytona with Tony Raines when they picked up sponsorship from Gander Mountain, and also Homestead with Travis Kvapil when Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort sponsored the team after David Stremme failed to qualify in the Phoenix Racing entry. Scott Egglestion crew-chiefed the car for the majority of 2009, with Buddy Sisco acting as chief during the Coke Zero 400 and Peter Sospenzo joining the team during the second half of the season.
For the 2010 season, the #37 became a full-time Ford team and rookie Kevin Conway was scheduled to drive the #37, with his longtime sponsor Extenze coming on board, with Peter Sospenzo as Crew Chief. The team started in the Top 35 after acquiring owner's points from former Doug Yates cars. Kvapil drove the #37 in the 2010 Daytona 500, as NASCAR did not give Conway approval to compete at Daytona due to lack of superspeedway experience. Conway was unable to keep the car in the top-35 in points, so he, his sponsor, and crew (which is referred to as the Extenze/ A&W crew) would jump to whatever number was highest in points at the time to ensure he and his sponsor would qualify. Conway would eventually be released from FRM, ExtenZe removed from the car, he and his sponsor sued for lack of payment, and was replaced with a rotation of NASCAR veterans Tony Raines and Dave Blaney. A&W All American Food would be displayed on the car in ExtenZe's absence, another Jenkins franchise. Peter Sospenzo & his crew remained with the A&W car until Atlanta in September, when Sospenzo and his crew moved over to the Taco Bell car of David Gilliland. Randy Seals and the former Taco Bell crew moved over to the A&W team. The #37 car would wind up 33rd in owners points, with Conway having a best finish of 14th at Daytona (one of only 4 finishes better than 30th for him), Blaney having a best finish of 24th at Atlanta, and Raines with a best finish of 28th at Bristol (he was running top-20 at Martinsville before a flat tire ended his day). Gilliland also ran the number occasionally with his Taco Bell crew.
For 2011, Robert Richardson Jr. returned to drive the Daytona 500 in the #37 with his fathers company, North Texas Pipe, sponsoring the ride. Driver Tony Raines spotted for him during the race. After Daytona, FRM struck a deal with Larry Gunselmans Max Q Motorsports to manage the #37 for the remainder of the year. Gunselman later purchased all assets of the team and FRM is no longer involved in the #37.
Car #38 history
Front Row Motorsports added a third team in 2010, with David Gilliland as the primary driver and Robert Richardson, Jr. sharing the ride for at least 3 races throughout the year. Randy Seals comes from Richard Petty Motorsports as crew chief. Richardson ran the 2010 Daytona 500 with sponsorship from Mahindra Tractors, with Gilliland displaying Taco Bell for the other races. The team formed an alliance with Doug Yates in February 2010 and earned Top 35 exemptions for the first five races of 2010 from a former Yates Racing entry. Gilliland and his Randy Seals lead Taco Bell crew swapped between the #38 and #37 throughout the season. Kevin Conway and Dave Blaney ran races under #38 with the ExtenZe/A&W crew, and Kvapil ran races with the #38 and his LJS's crew. At Pocono in August, with Kvapil and his then crew chief Steven Lane in the #38, it was determined the car had an illegal valve stem in one of the tires, resulting in a 150 point deduction for the #38 car, the suspension & fining of crew chief Steven Lane, suspension of car chief Richard Bourgeois and tire specialist Michael Harrold. Steven Lane was released from the team soon thereafter and replaced by Brian Burns on the LJS's team. The number never regained top-35 status finishing 36th in points. Gilliland and his Taco Bell crew had a best finish of 19th twice, at Martinsville and at Sonoma.
For 2011, Travis Kvapil returned to FRM to drive the #38 Long John Silver's Ford, however Kvapil opted to run for the Camping World Truck Series championship. The #38 was locked into the field following Daytona, as Penske Racing's/Rusty Wallace Racing's #77 did not run past Daytona and in turn gave up its locked in spot to the #38. Bill Henderson joined FRM as crew chief of the #38 following a stint at Prism Motorsports in 2010, however parted ways with the team following the race at Las Vegas. Jay Guy joined as crew chief at California.
Kvapil missed two races due to Truck Series obligations, and after the debut of the #55 car and the signing of J. J. Yeley, the two drivers split time in both the #38 and #55 cars for the duration of the season.
For 2012, David Gilliland moved to the #38, after driving the team's 34 in 2011. The team had also signed ModSpace / United Rentals to a multi-race primary sponsorship of the 38 beginning at Texas in April. Pat Tryson was the #38's crew chief. The team has also signed Maximum Human Performance to a multi-race sponsorship beginning with the Daytona 500. FRM would have a variety of other sponsors throughout the season. Gilliland would end up 28th in points.
In 2013, David Gilliland continued driving the #38 full-time for FRM. In the 2013 Aaron's 499, Gilliland pushed teammate Ragan to the checked flag, producing a 1-2 finish for Front Row. Gilliland went on to record two top-10s on the season and finish 26th in points.
In 2014, Gilliland returned to the #38. Love's Travel Stops stepped up their sponsorship of the team to 12 races.  The team started the season slowly and struggled, especially at the intermediate tracks. The #38 team would rebound and Gilliland won the pole at the summer Daytona race, the first pole for FRM.
In 2008, Front Row Motorsports focused their efforts to the Nationwide Series, with Eric McClure driving the #24 Hefty Chevrolet, with a best finish of 15th at Talladega Superspeedway. The team also attempted to buy out the fledging Specialty Racing team, for a time fielding the #61 Cone Solvents Chevrolet with driver Kevin Lepage. However, after the July race at Daytona, Specialty Racing hired Brandon Whitt to drive the #61, and returned to Ford, disregarding the supposed buyout, leading Front Row Motorsports and Kevin Lepage to file a lawsuit against the team. McClure, meanwhile, finished the year 21st in points. McClure left the team at the end of the 2008 season, bringing sponsor Hefty and the #24 to Team Rensi Motorsports.
In 2009, Front Row Motorsports ran the #34 Chevrolet Impala SS with veteran Tony Raines returning to the series full-time. Scott Eggleston crew-chiefed the car, who has been with FRM since 2007. The entry was mostly unsponsored, with Jenkins advertising his Long John Silver's franchises on the car. Raines and his team were able to drive to 4th at the Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway, FRM's first ever top-ten or top-five in either series, in addition to a fifteenth place finish at Las Vegas and Richmond. Later in the season, he had a sixth place finish in the rain at the NAPA Auto Parts 200, and a strong 10th place finish at Lowes Motor Speedway, finishing the year 12th in drivers points.
It was announced that Front Row Motorsports would lease their Nationwide team, running Chevrolets, to TriStar Motorsports in 2010 after FRM's announcement to become a factory-backed Ford team. The partnership ended with TriStar Motorsports purchasing all remaining assets of FRM's Nationwide team. FRM is no longer involved in the Nationwide Series.
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- DiZinno, Tony (February 17, 2014). "Blake Koch gets Front Row Motorsports nod for Phoenix, Las Vegas". NBC Sports. Retrieved 2014-02-17.
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- Official Front Row Motorsports web site
- Jayski Team 34 News
- Jayski Team 35 News
- Jayski Team 38 News
- Bob Jenkins Sprint Cup owner statistics