Front Row Motorsports changes indicate play for a big-name driver

Photo courtesy NASCAR/Getty Images

By Jerry Jordan, Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – The changes announced this past week with the pending release of Landon Cassill from Front Row Motorsports (FRM) are partially performance-based but they also indicate the team may be making a play for one of the big-name drivers currently on the free-agency list.

Jerry Freeze, FRM General Manager, spoke with a small group of media members prior to the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and said the goal of the organization is to take the team to the next level and not be a 30th place contender. That means they have to make big changes and the first of those was to let Cassill know that he wouldn’t have a ride in 2018. To that end, the team’s other driver, David Ragan, hasn’t signed a deal with FRM for 2018 but Freeze said he believes that will happen.

“We’re still working on our 2018 plans is the best way to put it,” Freeze said. “So, we’re just trying to finalize everything, what opportunities there might be around the drivers primarily and talking to a few guys but we are certainly not at the finish line with anybody quite yet.

“With making the change with Landon, we are looking to try to improve our program and thought we had some opportunities that might be able to put us in a better place that helps bring us some more value to our race team and help improve the whole race team, so it just didn’t look like there was going to be an opportunity for Landon next year so we wanted to be fair to him and let him know that as soon as we could.”

Cassill said this past Tuesday that he was informed the team would be making “radical changes” and the future plans did not include him. He said he was bummed by the news, which caught him off-guard.

“It’s definitely tough, but I’ve been through this before,” Cassill said. “It seems like my work ethic and my ability to work with these guys and these teams has always kind of carried me. I don’t plan on that changing.”

Cassill doesn’t have a sponsor to bring with him to a new team as Love’s Travel Stops is expected to stay with FRM. He said he has options but didn’t know what plans his soon-to-be former team would be doing.

Freeze said CSX Corporation has not signed up to return as a partial sponsor in 2018. He said there are ongoing talks but admitted CSX has seen major changes in its corporate structure over the past 12 months. Still, Freeze said he had no indication CSX would be leaving.

“Radical was his word, not mine. We’re looking at our whole race team from top to bottom – maybe even me – of how to get better,” Freeze said. “Bob (Jenkins) challenged us since the start of the year, you know, that he wants to be better than a 30th or 32nd place race team. So, we are looking at the whole thing to try and improve it. I could see a lot of things staying the same with some tweaks here and there or I could see possibly some other changes throughout our organization. There are just a lot of cards to deal in trying to figure out what is going to put us in the best place competitively as an organization.
“As far as CSX, we are having a lot of great dialog with them. Is it signed-up for next year, no it’s not. There has been a lot of changes in their company in the last 12 months, especially. The folks that we talk to on a daily basis seem to think there will be a NASCAR program next year and hopefully, it’s with Front Row Motorsports.”

Freeze said the team was still working on exactly what their program would look like going forward, which is why they haven’t moved further down the tracks with bringing CSX back to the fold. He said once FRM gets its situation straightened out it would make it easier to bring on additional sponsors.

Freeze wouldn’t say which drivers he was talking with or which ones had contacted the team since the news was released that Cassill wouldn’t be back. He also wasn’t sure on Ragan’s future plans.

“I don’t know, you never know, there are some really high-profile names out there,” he said. “We are talking to several people. You know who is all out there and different people are looking for a ride. And certainly, this week, since we made our announcement we have had a few people approach us.

“We are trying to put a package together that improves the overall performance of Front Row. And I think there are a few people out there that can help us with our package as an organization. That’s what we are really trying to do, just trying to improve the whole thing, not to pick on Landon that he was the problem. It is not Landon Cassill “

Freeze did say the team was happy with its current manufacturer and was working with Doug Yates at Roush Yates Engines to see how they can get more performance from their engine program.

3 Comments

  1. Dan Faust

    October 18, 2017 at 12:47 am

    O ok first u say u wanna be better so u let Landon go then u say it wasn’t him. That’s bs. Sometimes a driver is just as good as the car u give them. Start firing the engine guys and other car builders. Not the drivers.

  2. TheNASCARJeff

    October 18, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Sorry, I doubt a 30th place team could lure a top ten driver to the team and think it will solve the performance issues with the team. Kurt Busch for example could bring the former Phoenix Racing only so far in the top twenty area of the grid and he moved onto Furniture Row.

    Front Row Motorsports should concentrate on getting the sponsor dollars to get better equipment from Penske or HSR to at least finish in the top twenty. That would maybe get the attention of a top ten driver but for now. I doubt it….

    • Skyler

      October 20, 2017 at 10:42 am

      A top chase driver may have no choice if they want to race next year. Sofar Kenseth and Kurt Busch have no ride for 2018. (Though I see Busch back in the 41 car next year, just a question of sponsorship [monster?,Smithfield,Haas] and how many cars SHR will field.

      Kenseth is the one with the problem. (Think the 77 has his best option, but that is gone now.) So far the only open rides are the 10?,27,34,41?,43. (The SHR cars may or may not already have drivers.) The 27 & 43 need sponsorship, so that will make a major factor on who gets the ride. The 34 seems to most likely be Atleast half sponsored for 2018. I think Kenseth goes to the 34 for a one year deal (while they try to get sponsorship for the 77 car). Yes it true Kenseth would not make them a top team, but he does bring his experience and can help show them the areas they need to improve on. Most of the races that they finish. a majority of them they are 2 or less laps down. So it’s not like they are way off the pace from everyone else. So just a few gains and they could easily be lead lap cars.

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