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Podcast: Front Row Motorsports explains how it improves with smaller budget, unique sponsor deals

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Running a Cup Series team is not a cheap endeavor.

One person who knows this is Jerry Freeze, the general manager of Front Row Motorsports.

Owned by Bob Jenkins, the two-car Ford team runs the No. 34 of Michael McDowell and No. 38 of David Ragan and has a technical partnership with Roush Fenway Racing.

Freeze sat down with Nate Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss how FRM works with smaller budgets and its unique business-to-business sponsorship deals through Jenkins’ trucking company, MDS Transport, and restaurant business, Charter Foods.

Freeze calls Love’s Travel Shops, which sponsors half the races on McDowell’s car, a “textbook example” of such a deal. Their partnership began in 2013.

“Bob owns a trucking company with about 300 over the road truck on the road,” Freeze said. “They’ve got to get fuel somewhere. That’s kind of how the Love’s Travel Shop deal started for us.”

Freeze describes it as a “slightly smaller scale” version of the relationship between Team Penske and Shell.

Unlike larger teams, Front Row doesn’t yet have an optical scanning station at its shop to mimic this season’s new system for inspecting cars at the track. There is one available to teams at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina,

“We went into it thinking, ‘We’ll never need to have one of those, NASCAR’s got one, we can go over there whenever we want,’ ” Freeze said.

The team also relies on the scanner located at Roush Fenway Racing. But it’s a challenge to take cars to Roush, with its shop also in Concord, nearly an hour away from Front Row’s base in Statesville.

Buying its own scanner is beginning to look like a “necessary evil” for Freeze, who said he’s heard it might cost at least $300,000 but would be worth the investment because teams need to check the cars many times through the building process.

“I think if you’re really going to try to optimize the car through each step of what you do, that might be the way to go,” Freeze said.

When it comes to becoming more competitive, Freeze and Jenkins have been encouraged to invest more resources and money into the team by moves NASCAR has made to lower costs, including requiring teams to use engines in multiple races, spec radiators and the controversial common pit guns.

“It put it in a place where, yeah, it’s still pretty tough for Front Row to get to, but it’s not as high as it use to be,” Freeze said of the engine rule. “With spec radiators, we were spending $9,000 for radiator in the past. Now a spec radiator is, I don’t know, a third of that.”

Freeze also addressed the future of one of the team’s three charters, which is leased to TriStar Motorsports this season.

“You can’t do that forever with the way the rules are set up,” Freeze said. “We’ll have to make a decision, either we’ve got to operate (it) ourselves or maybe we sell it to TriStar some day, I don’t know. … Even though we weren’t in a position to run three cars and we’re still not today, it’s kind of nice to have in your pocket just in case something came along that was just phenomenal, and we needed one.”

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast. It also is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

What drivers said after the Food City 500

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Kyle Busch – Winner: “It was the best right at the end. I know (Kyle) Larson was a little bit loose right there. It seemed like he was overdriving and trying to hold the bottom, but he was slipping out of the bottom and I got a huge run on him and got to him and it was just on. I knew I might as well just take the opportunity that I got right now. I knew it was a little early ‘cause you tend to try to want to think about saving that bump-and-run deal for the last lap, but I just took my chance with it and if he got back to my rear bumper, then so be it. I think that’s fair game and being able to race that way. Fortunately, I was able to run away from him and he couldn’t get back to me.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 2nd: “I was really, really good on that long run. And yeah, as soon as we restarted there, I was extremely loose. The No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) got to my inside. I just really didn’t have any grip. I thought it would tighten up for me and I could get going, but it never really did and I was just really loose. I hate that I didn’t win. It’s another one at Bristol. I feel like every time I race here I almost get a win. It was a fun race. I’ve been beat by Kyle (Busch) about every time I race here, too; so that gets frustrating after a while.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 3rd: “Yeah, it really is a great boost. I’ve said for weeks now that we’re getting better and it’s great to finally have a result to back that up. We’ve had decent Fridays and really good Saturdays and then some bad luck in the races. Although we had plenty of bad luck over the course of the four or five days that we’ve been here, we were able to pull through and get a great third-place finish. So, I’m very proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and thank everybody on this Lowe’s For Pros team and let’s get home and get out of here. It’s snowing again.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 4th: “The call where (crew chief) Brian (Pattie) got us to come down pit road, that was the longest green flag run we had and we had a little bit better tires than some of the guys up front, so that was nice for us. All in all, I was bummed that caution came out. Being on better tires I thought we were gonna be able to run down the 42 (Larson). He was by far the class of the field I’d say throughout the whole run and the whole race. We were fighting track position, gaining it and losing it back-and-forth over the last two days, but, all in all, it was a really strong run for our Sunny D Ford. We had a good Friday, a good Saturday and a good race on Sunday and Monday. I’m glad we were able to get it all in and we appreciate the fans for sticking around. That was a fun race. I love the race track It’s nice being able to run the bottom, run the top on the long runs. It made for some good racing.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 5th: “I mean we got a good start there for once and had some good track position. Just thankful for driving for Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a lot of fun finally getting some good runs going our way. It’s been cool. To run fifth, it’s not a great day, but it’s better than what we started the year doing. We are making progress, making steps in the right direction and just got to keep doing that.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 6th: “We worked on it all day. We weren’t very good yesterday at all. Finally, when the track moved to the top our car got a lot better, so we kind of were prepared for that and our car was kind of set up to run the top and I was just miserable trying to run the bottom. My car was really, really bad on the bottom and we finally got it to where it was going pretty good up top and the caution would come out. I feel like if the race would have been a normal race and we would have run a lot of green flag (laps) up top, we would have been pretty good. It’s a good day. I’m a little disappointed with sixth, but, at the same time, I’m happy and pleased that we rebounded after a bad day in Texas. To come out of here with a sixth is a great day and I feel like we could have got more if it would have stayed green. I wish we would have run like 300 more laps (laughing).”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 7th: “We weren’t that good pretty much the whole time. Today we were worse, just really loose, especially taking off, but we stayed in there and fought all day. We had another bad pit stop there at the end and wound up seventh, but, all in all, considering all the circumstances I guess it was a pretty good weekend.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 8th: “It was a long weekend. We weren’t very good all weekend long and just kept working on it. We were smart with the race. Early on there was a lot of trouble yesterday and even more today. It was just a weird weekend. I mean, the weather just capped off everything else that was going on. It seemed like the VHT, for whatever reason, a little bit different this time than it’s been in the past. Our tires seemed like they were a little bit different than what we’ve had, for whatever reason. It was a weird weekend, so I’m glad with a top 10.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 10th: “Well, we were a top-five car, just got the wrong spot on the restart there. Wish we would have been sixth instead of fifth, gladly would have been fourth. Good run for our Bass Pro/Cabela’s Chevrolet. The team did a good job this weekend. Starting clear back as far as we did and then being as high as second, good team effort. Something to build on going to one of my favorite race tracks next weekend.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 11th: “I mean it was a difficult weekend overall. With the weather and my hand and everything, but actually it kind of helped me a little bit to rest more and kind of like breaks for myself. On that side, it was kind of nice, but right here over the 300 laps straight, I’m a little sore right now. I feel like we were actually better than 11th, but anyway. It’s been an okay weekend, but we have to keep working. I feel like overall, it was a positive weekend because we showed speed and we run in the front – up front. We have to build on that and go to next week to Richmond.”

David Ragan – Finished 12th: “I felt like it took us about 300 laps to get all the monkeys off of our back and get our car repaired and kind of get some track position. I felt like our car was really good on a long run and we were fortunate that we had a couple of long runs today. I’m proud of our guys for never giving up. We spent a lot of time on pit road, so it was a solid day and I’m happy to get out of here and look forward to Richmond.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 15th: “I know we were better than a 15th-place finish, but the scoreboard doesn’t show it today. We stayed out to try and save an extra set of tires and it ended up being a long run, so we corded our left front tire and went a lap down. You just can never predict when a long run will happen at Bristol Motor Speedway. There were not enough laps after that to earn our lap back. It’s a shame because the No. 3 Realtree Camaro ZL1 was fast today. We ran a lot of the race in the top-five and posted some of the fastest times during the race. We were fast on restarts, and I’m proud of that. I hope all fans enjoyed seeing the new Realtree fishing pattern on the track.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. – Finished 16th: “Yeah, hell of a day. Didn’t know what to expect firing off and we fired off like a freaking badass and got our way up to 10th in that second stage there. That was good, get some stage points and got up to the lead. I was as surprised as anybody. Going through the emotions we were really good and that last caution came out and we were struggling with left front problems there late in runs, locking up easily, but still was able to make decent ground. Then all of a sudden it went away there and man, just blindsided there by that. Great car all day, nothing to be pissed off about, that is racing. You could be good for a second and then the next second you are not, but awesome takeaways. The momentum is still here. I’m just dejected because I’m scratching my head on where in the hell we went wrong or what we wrong. I don’t think we did anything wrong, I guess that is big-time auto racing, but it was a good day.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 23rd: “The tire came apart on that restart and we were trying to bring it on home, but it just didn’t come together.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 24th: “The results stink right now. We want to be clicking off top 15s and top 10s every week, but we haven’t had a clean weekend yet. Something has happened every weekend to hurt our result. We just have to keep working to clean up our weekends. You can’t have wrecks on the race track and you can’t have blown tires. You can’t have silly things happening and some of that is on us, so we just have to keep working to clean it up and get the most out of the weekends. We’ll go to Richmond here this next weekend, another short track where a lot of stuff is happening. I just hope for a clean weekend where we can go get the results we deserve.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 28th: “I always love coming to Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t very nice to our team this weekend, but we made the most out of what we could. We had to take a lot of time during the first stage to fix damage to our front end after I was checking up for a caution and was punted into the 47 car. It put us 17 laps down, but no one on this team gave up when it would have been easy to. We came back this morning to gain as many spots as we could. Every position is worth a valuable championship point. Our goal was to let the chaos breakout in front of us while we ran a clean race to make it to the end, and we did. It is certainly not the result we wanted, but those are the breaks in racing sometimes. We will keep digging and head to Richmond next weekend.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 35th: “By the time I could see anything they were already turned right and there was nowhere to go. Seeing the replay, I don’t know, people not cleared clearing themselves and then wrecking and take the leader out, so that’s unfortunate. Our car was pretty good today. We just kind of got held up there and we might not have been as strong at the end of that run, but I thought we could have at least held on for that stage and never got the chance. The positives you look at is that we had a good car and that’s something to hold your head high about.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 36th: “First off, our Bush’s Baked Beans Camaro was really good today. Unfortunately, we were in one of the accidents before that and got us back there where we really shouldn’t have been. We had three or four of us trying to stay on the lead lap and we were all being held up by the No. 6 (Trevor Bayne). I got a good run on the outside the slower cars and came off the corner and thought we were good, and it just swiped right up the front. By the time you lift, it’s a little too late. It’s really unfortunate. I love this place. It’s my favorite race track that we go to. We had good speed. We’ve just got to get back after it the next time we come here.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 38th: “It’s just unfortunate. There are no excuses. I was just racing the 19 (Daniel Suarez) and got loose underneath him. There’s not a lot of grip. It rained all day and that VHT just doesn’t do well without heat. I was stuck on the bottom and that was about it. I really hate it for my guys. We had a fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford and just to be out this early is really heartbreaking.”

Kyle Busch wins Food City 500

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Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 after giving Kyle Larson a bump and passing him out of Turn 4 coming to five laps to go at Bristol Motor Speedway.

It is Busch’s second consecutive win of the year and his seventh victory at Bristol. He also won last August’s race at the track.

Busch beat Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman.

Busch led 117 of 500 laps from the pole while Larson led a race-high 200.

His win comes more than 24 hours after the race started and was delayed multiple times for rain, including overnight. The race finally went back to green at 1:43 p.m. ET Monday afternoon.

“Tell you what, you just got to stay focused for the entirety of it and try to keep going,” Busch to Fox. “We knew it (the car) was going to be good in the long runs. We weren’t quite as good as the 42 (Larson) on that long run before that last caution came out. I actually thought I had a tire going down. We were able to get some tires on it and go give it everything we had.”

The final run to the finish was set up by a caution with 31 laps to go when Brad Keselowski lost a left-front tire and got into the wall while running two laps down. The green flag waved with 22 laps to go.

“As soon as we restarted there I was extremely loose,” Larson told Fox. “The 17 (Stenhouse) got to my side and I just didn’t have any grip. I thought it would tighten up for me and I could get going, but it never really did. … Hate that I didn’t win. Another one at Bristol. Feel like every time I race here I almost get a win. It’s a fun race.”

Larson finished second after spinning from the lead on Lap 324. He spun from contact with the lapped car of Ryan Newman.

MORE: Points standings

MORE: Race results

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

WHO HAD GOOD DAY: Jimmie Johnson managed to earn his first top five in 14 starts … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun on Lap 61 and had an uncontrolled tire penalty on Lap 130 and managed to earn his first top five and top 10 of the season … Alex Bowman earned the first top five of his Cup career … Aric Almirola placed sixth for his best finish of the year.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Nine cars were involved in a wreck to bring out the caution on Lap 5, including Chase Elliott, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr, Daniel Suarez, AJ Allmendinger, Ross Chastain and Michael McDowell. McDowell and Chastain were eliminated from the race … Allmendinger brought out the caution on Lap 18 for a single-car spin. He finished 17th … Ryan Blaney was leading when he was eliminated in a five-car wreck eight laps from the end of Stage 1. He finished 35th … Trevor Bayne brought out the caution on Lap 155 when he spun into the wall. He finished 24th … After his late-race caution, Brad Keselowski finished 23rd.

NOTABLE: Darrell Wallace Jr. led six laps, marking the first laps led of his Cup career. He finished 16th … Kyle Busch earned Joe Gibbs Racing its 150th Cup win … Kyle Busch hasn’t finished worse than third in the last six races … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has one unsecured lug nut.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’ve been beat by Kyle (Busch) about every time we race here. That gets frustrating after a while.” – Kyle Larson to Fox after finishing second.

WHAT’S NEXT: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway at 6:30 p.m. ET on April 21 on Fox.

Food City 500 resumes after red flag

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The Food City 500 is back underway after a red flag period that stopped the race after 49 laps. The red flag was displayed for 25 minutes and 25 seconds.

The top 10 through 49 laps was Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch and William Byron.

There have been two cautions for incidents. Michael McDowell and Ross Chastain are out after a multi-car wreck on Lap 3. That wreck involved Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez, AJ Allmendinger, William Byron, David Ragan, Chad Finchum, McDowell and Chastain.

“It’s just unfortunate,” McDowell said.  “There are no excuses.  I was just racing the 19 (Suarez) and got loose underneath him.  There’s not a lot of grip.  It rained all day and that VHT just doesn’t do well without heat.  I was stuck on the bottom and that was about it.  I really hate it for my guys.  We had a fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford and just to be out this early is really heartbreaking.”

Elliott was penalized one lap after his team began working on the No. 9 Chevrolet before the red flag was lifted.

Check back for more.

 

List of songs from Bristol driver introductions

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It was a rainy morning at Bristol Motor Speedway and more could come this afternoon, but that didn’t keep the traditional driver introductions from taking place at the half-mile track before the Food City 500.

Here’s the complete list of songs drivers were introduced with. All songs were voted on by fans, who were given three options to choose from.

More than 100,000 votes were cast.

Here are the results and the percentage of the vote each song received.

Winning Fan Vote Songs

Kyle Busch – “All I Do is WIN” by DJ Khaled, 47 percent

Kurt Busch – “Outlaw State of Mind” by Chris Stapleton, 47 percent

Brad Keselowski  -“Little Deuce Coupe” by The Beach Boys, 40 percent

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – “People Back Home” by Florida Georgia Line, 44 percent

Ryan Blaney – “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, 54 percent

Kyle Larson – “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean, 56 percent

Paul Menard – “R.O.C.K. in the USA” by John Mellencamp, 50 percent

Alex Bowman – “Rise” by I Prevail, 60 percent

Michael McDowell – “Taken it to the Streets” by The Doobie Brothers, 66 percent

Joey Logano  -“Brass Monkey” by The Beastie Boys, 47 percent

William Byron – “Fan the Flames” by Liberty University, 41 percent

Daniel Suarez  – “Speedy Gonzalez” by Pat Boone, 50 percent

Erik Jones – “You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive, 37 percent

Clint Bowyer – “Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr., 51 percent

Kasey Kahne – “5-1-5-0” by Dierks Bentley, 41 percent

Chase Elliott “A Crazy Racin’ Man” by Bill Elliott, 58 percent

Jimmie Johnson – “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, 50 percent

AJ Allmendinger – “I’m Alright” by Kenny Logins, 46 percent

Aric Almirola  – “Miami Vice” 50 percent

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. – “Into The Fire” by Asking Alexandria, 65 percent

Austin Dillon – “Cowboy” by Kid Rock, 58 percent

Chris Buescher -“Pork and Beans” by Weezer, 42 percent

David Ragan – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band, 49 percent

Matt DiBenedetto – “John Cena Theme Song,” 41 percent

Denny Hamlin – “Forever” by Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne & Eminem, 45 percent

Martin Truex Jr. “Nothing But The Taillights” by Clint Black, 57 percent

Ross Chastain – “Watermelon Crawl” by Tracy Byrd

Gray Gaulding – “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins

Landon Cassill – “Going to Mars” by Judah and the Lion

Ryan Newman – “Huntin, Fishin & Lovin Every Day” by Luke Bryan, 53 percent

Jamie McMurray – “One” by Metallica, 42 percent

Ty Dillon – “Walk it Like I Talk It” by Migos, 51 percent

Trevor Bayne – “Rocky Top” by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, 60 percent

Corey LaJoie – “Walmart Yodeling Song”

DJ Kennington – “The Hockey Song”

Reed Sorenson – “Motorsport” by Migos

Harrison Rhodes – “Enter Sandman” by Metallica

Chad Finchum – “Where I Come From” by Alan Jackson, 49 percent

Kevin Harvick – “Happy” by Pharrell, 37 percent