NASCAR: Daytona 500 champion leaving team after seven seasons

2021 Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell will not return to Front Row Motorsports for the 2025 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

Michael McDowell has announced that he will not return to Front Row Motorsports after the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, ending a run that has so far consisted of six-plus seasons, two playoff appearances, and two race victories, including the 2021 Daytona 500.

The 39-year-old Phoenix, Arizona native joined the Bob Jenkins-owned team back in 2018. He had been around the Cup Series and competed in select races for various teams each year from 2008 to 2017, but he had only previously competed full-time in the series in 2017, when he drove for Leavine Family Racing.

The former "start and park" driver has been able to make the most of his time with Front Row Motorsports behind the wheel of the No. 34 Ford, which will now need a new driver for 2025 and beyond. He also brought a sense of stability to a team known for making offseason driver changes.

Michael McDowell moving on from Front Row Motorsports

McDowell entered the 2018 season with just five top 10 finishes and only one top five finish in 249 starts. In his 228 starts with Front Row Motorsports since then, he has added 35 top 10 finishes, including eight inside the top five. His other victory came in last year's race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, where he was dominant.

Interestingly enough, the only season from 2021 to 2023 in which McDowell did not qualify for the playoffs was 2022, when he actually had a career year overall. He posted a career-high 12 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 16.7, nearly four positions better than his previous best.

The 2024 season has seen McDowell take the first two pole positions of his career, both for superspeedway races. He started at the front for the races at both Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, and his average starting position of 12.8 is currently more than four positions better than his career-best.

Though he has led 73 laps, already nearly eclipsing his career-best total of 97 from last year, the results have not fallen his way. He was most notably involved in a wreck while leading coming to the checkered flag at Talladega, and he finds himself in 26th place in the point standings with top finishes of eighth at Atlanta and at Phoenix Raceway, his home track.

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With Spire Motorsports currently fielding the No. 71 Chevrolet for Zane Smith, who is on loan from Trackhouse Racing Team, it is expected that McDowell will make the move to the Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr-owned team, rather than retire from Cup Series competition.