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Front Row Motorsports releases shocking decision to make Todd Gilliland a part-time driver

Front Row Motorsports releases a shocking decision that makes Todd Gilliland a part-time driver while adding races to Zane Smith's schedule.

Todd Gilliland/Front Row Motorsports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Front Row Motorsports made a shocking announcement on Tuesday afternoon that eliminates one of the 34 full-time drivers from the NASCAR Cup Series for now. Needless to say, no one saw this coming.

Zane Smith will drive the No. 36 car in the 2023 Daytona 500; however, he will also compete in the No. 38 car in up to six races during the season. Phoenix I, Talladega I, Sonoma, Texas, the Charlotte ROVAL, and one more undetermined race will be Smith’s schedule.

This means Todd Gilliland, the current driver of the No. 38 car, will only run 30 races as a part-time driver. Gilliland, 22, finished his rookie season with one top-5 finish, two top-10 finishes, and a 23.2 average finishing position.

Related: Jimmie Johnson could drive up to 10 NASCAR Cup Series races in 2023

Evaluating Front Row Motorsports’ decision to make Todd Gilliland a part-time driver

Front Row Motorsports
Oct 1, 2022; Talladega, Alabama, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Todd Gilliland (38) during qualifying for the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

With under two weeks until the Daytona 500, many thought the announcement from Front Row Motorsports would be Smith’s schedule in a third open entry for the 2023 season. That did not end up being the case.

It is very unfortunate to see Gilliland not have a full-time ride after performing well during his rookie season. The performances were not up to the same level as his teammate Michael McDowell; however, nothing suggested this was necessary.

The 22-year-old driver made a massive jump from the NASCAR Truck Series with no starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. It should have been expected to see Gilliland have some struggles during the 2022 season.

Gilliland released the following statement on social media after the news broke.

“As you guys have heard, I won’t be full time in the No. 38 this year. It was a shock when (Front Row Motorsports) told me and I’m disappointed. We’re working really hard to still be behind the wheel for the races I will be missing and plan on putting our best foot forward all season.”

Todd Gilliland on being demoted to part-time by Front Row Motorsports

The only good thing to take away from the situation is that Smith will be locked into six more races with Front Row Motorsports this season. Outside of that, it seems like a very poor decision. Gilliland will obviously pursue entries in those six races he does not have on his schedule.

There is much to like about Gilliland’s future in the Cup Series; however, this is a bump in the road that many drivers end up facing eventually. Rick Ware Racing and Live Fast Motorsports appear to be good options for those six races since they don’t have full-time drivers in some chartered entries.

Gilliland will almost surely have a place in NASCAR’s top level after two championships in the development ranks and a few wins in the Truck Series. But, it may take time to find a home that gives him a true opportunity.