FRM Sonoma Raceway Weekend Recap
Historical Season for McDowell Continues, Smith Comes Close to Sonoma Win, Gilliland Steady in Sonoma Debut
It was a banner weekend for Front Row Motorsports (FRM) out west at the Sonoma Raceway road course - led by Michael McDowell and Zane Smith. McDowell qualified fourth on Saturday - his best of the season and proving he is at his best right now. Later on Saturday, Smith raced his Michael Roberts Construction (MRC) Ford F-150 to a runner-up finishing position in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event.
On Sunday, McDowell led the charge for FRM, running the majority of the race in the top-5 and finishing in the third position. It was McDowell's sixth top-10 finish of 2022, as his career best season continues. Todd Gilliland also showed strength on Sunday, finishing Stage 2 in the sixth position on pit strategy. Gilliland battled a tight car most of the race, but held steady and ended up finishing where he started in the 24th position.
Celebrating his birthday, Zane Smith spent time with MRC early in the week and hoped to bring his family and friends to Victory Lane on Saturday. He was close. The FRM team finished second to Kyle Busch after making adjustments early in the race to give Smith the opportunity to win.
Smith finished eighth in the first stage before the team made a big swing on pit road. Crew Chief Chris Lawson made the perfect call and the team made a track bar adjustment, and more, while on pit road. It was an extraordinary feat executed perfectly. The rest was left to Smith.
He powered through the field, passed for second on the final green, white, checkered finish and started to chase Busch down for the win. One more lap and things may have been different. However, Smith and the team had another tremendous points day and are closer to the regular season title leader. The team is only 12 points behind Ben Rhodes heading into Knoxville.
"I hate to finish second," said Smith. "The team really worked hard to give me a better truck. They took a big swing at it, when we weren't that good early, and it worked. We were closing the gap on the last lap. I have to thank the crew and everyone with MRC. It was such a big weekend for MRC and I wanted to win it bad for them. We were close."
Gilliland brought the Chicago Pneumatic Compressors red and black colors back to the No. 38 at Sonoma. The FRM partner was back with the team and Gilliland to help him get another top road course finish.
Gilliland was tight during the race, but all drivers struggled to pass or make up track position. Crew Chief Seth Barbour made a great call to get Gilliland and the Chicago Pneumatic Compressors team into the top-10 in Stage Two and Gilliland held the track position. The team just lost some of those positions on pit road and Gilliland maintained 24th until the end.
"We didn't go backward all day, but we really didn't make it up into the top-10 like we wanted," said Gilliland. "I think if a few small things go differently, either on pit road or with another adjustment, then we are up there at the end. Michael had an awesome day, but we raced just outside the top-20 most of the day. It was tough to pass so you had to be perfect. We were close, but needed to be a little better."
Michael McDowell continued his career-best season on Sunday at the Sonoma Raceway. The Love's Travel Stops driver finished in the third position, scoring his best career finish on a road course, and his best overall finish since Talladega last spring.
McDowell was in the top-5 for the majority of the race, and battled for the lead on several late restarts. Holding firm in the third position over the balance of the final run, McDowell brought a clean Love's Travel Stops Ford home with a podium finish.
McDowell is now averaging a 17th-place result this season - three positions higher than last year.
"I'm really proud of everyone at Front Row," said McDowell. "The Love's Travel Stops Ford Mustang was fast all weekend. I felt like we were close today, just needed a little more fire off speed on the front end. But really proud of my team, Blake Harris, and all the guys. We are getting closer so we'll keep pushing hard. We want to get this car in the playoffs and we'll keep fighting."
McDowell will look to keep his top-10 momentum rolling when the Cup Series returns to action at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26th.
ABOUT FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS Front Row Motorsports (FRM) is a winning organization in the NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series and the 2021 Daytona 500 champions. The team was founded in 2004 and is owned by successful entrepreneur, Bob Jenkins. FRM fields the No. 34 and the No. 38 NASCAR Cup Series teams along with the No. 38 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team– from its Mooresville, N.C. headquarters. Visit teamfrm.com and follow FRM on social media: Twitter at @Team_FRM, Instagram at @team_frm and Facebook at facebook.com/FrontRowMotorsports.
Todd Gilliland and Zane Smith