Today’s Front Row Motorsports preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, starting with new chartered teams then ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.
FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS
Engine: Roush Yates
Driver-crew chief pairings: Michael McDowell-Drew Blickensderfer (No. 34), Anthony Alfredo-Seth Barbour (No. 38)
What’s new: A new rookie driver. While Michael McDowell comes back for his fourth full-time NASCAR Cup Series season with Front Row Motorsports, he’ll once again be joined by a fresh face after working alongside John Hunter Nemechek in 2020. Anthony Alfredo will step up from the Xfinity Series to take over the No. 38 Ford for his rookie campaign. David Ragan will also run a third car, the No. 36 Ford, for this year’s Daytona 500.
RELATED: Front Row sets 2021 driver lineup
Team outlook: If the organization can find some consistency, the 2021 season is setting up to be a solid year. McDowell has gradually improved since his first full-time season with the team in 2018, but he’ll need to rid costly finishes if he wants to break into the top 20 in the points standings. Alfredo showed promise in the Xfinity Series with Richard Childress Racing last year and was in the hunt for victories. A fresh pair of eyes behind the wheel of the No. 38 might be just what the team needs after Nemechek finished 27th in points last year.
Racing Insights’ stats break: The organization had seven top-10 finishes in 2020, the best ever for the organization. It also equaled its total top 10s in the prior three seasons combined. McDowell hopes to continue his momentum gained after finishing 23rd in points with a career high of four top-10 finishes last season. Alfredo had an impressive part-time Xfinity Series season driving for Richard Childress Racing, where he had two top fives and nine top 10s in 19 starts.
MICHAEL McDOWELL, No. 34 Ford
Experience: 14th season in NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 23rd in final standings; 0 wins, 0 top fives, four top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 24th
2021 championship odds: 1,000-1
Outlook: McDowell had his best Cup Series season in 2020. If he wants to progress in the right direction, he’ll need to clean up some things, but it’s very possible. The 36-year-old driver had 12 finishes of 25th or worse last year. If he can turn those into top-15 runs in 2021, there’s no reason why he can’t finish inside the top 20 in points. Road courses are a specialty for McDowell, and with seven of them on this schedule this year, that’s where he can find those stronger finishes.
ANTHONY ALFREDO, No. 38 Ford
Experience: First full season in NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 18th in the Xfinity Series final standings; 0 wins, two top fives, nine top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: N/A
2021 championship odds: N/A
Outlook: Alfredo’s move to up to the Cup Series may have come as a surprise after just one part-time season with RCR, but his experience shouldn’t be overshadowed by his talent. It’s tough to run a part-time schedule when it comes to building momentum, but Alfredo was able to earn solid top-five and top-10 runs and a couple of those saw him in the hunt for victories. While his Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign will be a learning curve, Alfredo has the potential to improve upon the No. 38 finishing 27th in the drivers’ standings last season.
NASCAR.com 2021 team previews schedule
Jan. 18: 23XI Racing
Jan. 19: Trackhouse Racing Team
Jan. 20: Live Fast Motorsports
Jan. 21: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 22: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 27: Roush Fenway Racing
Jan. 28: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 29: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 30: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Feb. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 2: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 3: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 4: Team Penske
Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports