Front Row Motorsports gets big boost from Indianapolis weekend


Front Row Motorsports is edging closer to its name.

The Mooresville, N.C.-based team is coming off a big weekend at Indianapolis. Zane Smith, the regular season champion in the Camping World Truck Series, opened the playoffs with a third-place finish at Indianapolis Raceway Park Friday night. Then the team’s two Cup drivers, rookie Todd Gilliland and veteran Michael McDowell, logged surprising results in Sunday’s race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Gilliland finishing a career-best fourth and McDowell riding home eighth. It was a rare FRM top-10 duet.

The performances marked the first time the team’s Truck and Cup drivers all finished in the top 10 in a race weekend. That wasn’t quite as big as McDowell’s upset win in the 2021 Daytona 500, but it was enough to give FRM, underfunded and understaffed compared to NASCAR’s top-flight operations, quite a weekend in the sun.

This came only days after the team had been hammered with a major NASCAR penalty because of an improperly modified part on McDowell’s car at Pocono Raceway. McDowell was penalized 100 driver points, crew chief Blake Harris was fined $100,000 and suspended for four races and the team lost 100 owner points.

“We got our hands slapped after Pocono because of some things NASCAR didn’t like about our car,” FRM general manager Jerry Freeze told NBC Sports. “It was important for the guys to go back to Indy and show that wasn’t anything where we were trying to gain in any way. They wanted to show at Indy, and we want to show again this week at Michigan, that we have speed week after week. I’m happy for them that they bounced back from a pretty challenging situation last week.

“I think we can get to victory lane if we put it all together sometime this year.”

Gilliland, in his first full season in Cup after advancing from FRM’s Truck operation, qualified ninth at Indianapolis and managed a fourth-place finish in the chaos of the closing laps. He has finished 12 straight races, a key statistic as the team tries to get him as much track time as possible.

“We’ve probably been a little conservative around Todd this year and maybe a little more aggressive with the setups on Michael’s cars,” Freeze said. “Todd is a rookie and is going to tracks for the first time in a lot of cases. At Indy, the crew chief decided to get a little more aggressive with the setups now that Todd has a little more of a knowledge base running different road courses. Todd really stepped up. We might have been holding him back a little.

“He’s done such a good job doing exactly what we wanted this year, running all the laps and not getting himself in bad positions and bringing the car home in one piece and getting all that experience.”

Both FRM Cup drivers have shown consistency in finishing races this season. McDowell leads the series in percentage of laps completed at 99.55 percent. Gilliland is fourth at 97.84 percent.

“That’s a cool stat to back up what we’ve been saying about the team,” Gilliland told NBC Sports. “It’s really cool that as a team we’ve been doing a better job of not tearing stuff up as much as some other people.”

Gilliland, 22, raced mostly full time in the Truck Series for four seasons, winning twice. He said he expected a sometimes rough transition to Cup.

“It’s been a challenging season,” he said. “I think partly we expected it because making the jump from Truck to Cup is tough. We’ve had guys who have won Xfinity championships who still have a tough time moving to Cup.

“We expected parts of it to be super hard. We’ve had limited practice time, and there are still quite a few tracks I haven’t been to. And the schedule in general is tough. The competition is much higher than anything I’ve been around.”

The Next Gen car has made the move a bit easier, Gilliland said.

“We’ve seen the best of the best make mistakes,” he said. “We’ve had guys spinning out on their own. The car has done a good job of leveling the playing field and has opened some opportunities for our team.”

Freeze said the team hopes Gilliland can continue to expand his horizons through the end of the season.

“He has accomplished the mission from our perspective for the first half of the year,” he said. “Now that he does have a knowledge base and the team has gotten to know him better and what he likes in the car, he has gotten more comfortable talking about what the car is doing.

“I don’t know if there is a real good measuring stick, but we’re not trying to put any pressure on him with any kinds of numbers. We feel like it’s moving in a positive direction with more consistency and more competitive finishes.”




Texas Truck race results: Carson Hocevar scores first series win

Texas Truck race results
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Carson Hocevar was in front after the leaders crashed in overtime and scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Texas Truck race results

Rookie Nick Sanchez, who led 168 of the 172-lap race, dueled reigning series champion Zane Smith on the last lap when Sanchez’s truck hit Smith’s. As Sanchez tried to regain control of his vehicle, he was hit from behind by Hocevar. That contact sent Sanchez into Smith. Christian Eckes also was collected.

Hocevar’s first win came in his 59th series start.

Chase Purdy placed second. Stewart Friesen finished third. Ty Majeski was fourth. Jake Garcia completed the top five.


Richmond Xfinity results, driver points


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith won a stage, led a race-high 83 laps and rallied late to score his first career Xfinity win Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

MORE: Richmond Xfinity results

MORE: Xfinity points after Richmond race

John Hunter Nemechek placed second. The rest of the top five featured Josh Berry, Kaz Grala and Cole Custer. Austin Hill, who had won three of the first six races of the season, placed ninth.

Hill continues to lead the points. He has a 12-point advantage on Riley Herbst and an 18-point lead on Nemechek heading into the next series race in two weeks at Martinsville.

Chandler Smith scores first career Xfinity win with Richmond victory


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith held off John Hunter Nemechek to win his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

The 20-year-old Smith took the lead with 12 laps to go and withstood a restart with six laps to go to earn the victory for Kaulig Racing.

MORE: Richmond race results, driver points

His victory came about a month after being passed for the lead with two laps to go at Las Vegas and finishing third day.

“It obviously wasn’t in God’s works for me that and I was fine with that, I was good with that,” said Smith, who will make his Cup debut Sunday. “I knew there was something bigger and better that He was playing it out for me and I just had to be faithful and keep on trucking. Here’s proof of it.”

Nemechek was second. Josh Berry placed third and was followed by Kaz Grala and Cole Custer.

Justin Allgaier finished 13th to win the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

“Today was weird because of how we finished,” Allgaier said. “Given the same circumstances a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, 13th wasn’t going to win the Dash 4 Cash but today it did.”

Stage 1 winner: Chandler Smith

Stage 2 winner: Josh Berry

Who had a good race: A caution caught Justin Allgaier a lap down, ending his chances for a top-five finish but he was able to bounce back and win the Dash 4 Cash for a fifth time. … Derek Kraus finished 10th in his Xfinity debut. … Chris Hacker placed 14th in his Xfinity debut.

Who had a bad race: Riley Herbst had his career-long streak of top-10 finishes snapped after nine races. He placed 23rd after he was hit and spun late in the race.

Notable: This is the second time in the last four races that there has been a first-time series winner. Sammy Smith scored his first series win last month at Phoenix.

Next: The series is off until April 15 at Martinsville Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain move on from COTA incident


RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Suarez says he’s been trying to “work on myself” after conflicts with teammate Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman last weekend at COTA but noted that if NASCAR doesn’t make adjustments with restarts on road courses, he’ll change his driving style.

NASCAR fined Suarez $50,000 on Wednesday for hitting another vehicle on pit road after the race. Suarez hit Chastain’s car at pit entrance and hit the back of Bowman’s car while they were both on pit road.

MORE: Cup starting lineup at Richmond 

“I’ve been trying to work on myself mostly during the week, trying to clear my mind and reset,” Suarez said Saturday at Richmond Raceway. “My team, we’re good. I think the issue wasn’t really with one driver. I feel like it’s more as an industry, how we are allowing to have those kind of bump-and-run restarts at the end of the races at road courses.

“I don’t think that’s right.”

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to go by. Suarez finished 27th.

Chastain said he and Suarez have moved on from last week’s incident after talking this week.

“Every household on this earth has their moments of arguments and we had ours,” Chastain said Saturday.

“We’re family. We’re in the same house, right. It’s in our name. It’s Trackhouse. No matter what, we all think we have to put that behind and know that moving forward we’re brothers. … We’re brothers at Trackhouse and we’re going to be stronger together.”

Suarez is among the number of drivers who have raised concerns about the rough driving in the series. The Next Gen car is more durable and can take more hits — as evident in the Clash at the Coliseum to start the year when drivers barreled into the back of cars in the corners to slow down.

Add the emphasis of winning, less respect for one another and the result is the type of racing on display at the end of the race at Circuit of the Americas, as drivers charged down a long straightaway before braking hard for a tight turn and making contact with one another.

So, what can be done?

“I don’t have the answers to that,” Suarez said. “All I know is that NASCAR is working toward trying to make a better solution for some of these restarts. It doesn’t look right. This sport looks embarrassing.

“That’s not real. Just go into the corner and bump three cars to push people out of that way, that’s not real. We know that. That’s how some people got top fives and top 10s last week and some of the guys that were fast, like myself, finished 27th.

“If NASCAR does something about it, that’s amazing. If they don’t I’ll just join the party.”