Noah Gragson and Front Row Motorsports are a good fit at the right time

Both the team and driver needed what the other provides


Those were the determining factors that led to Noah Gragson joining Front Row Motorsports on a multiyear agreement starting next season.


Those were the determining factors that led to Front Row Motorsports inking Noah Gragson to a multiyear agreement starting next season.

In short, this was the perfect time for both to join forces with each other, especially given that both are roughly 25 years into a journey with a common goal — to contend for the NASCAR Cup Series championship.

If that sounds crazy, you haven’t been paying attention, because Gragson has increasingly become the adult everyone around him felt he could be while the NextGen era has benefitted no other organization greater than Front Row.

Gragson has been a changed man since his suspension roughly a year ago next month. He is way more thoughtful, cerebral and considerate all without losing many of his genuine charms. He is a driver that crews love to work with because they work hard, with their driver in the trenches with them, but they still play hard too.

No doubt, Gragson has said many of these things before, about wanting a long-term home, but he has never been more poised to foster it than he is now.

“I think I can bring a positive energy over there, to their group of guys and create a positive atmosphere,” Gragson said during an introductory press event on Wednesday. “Creating the culture is important to me and getting to know their people.”

For Front Row, to be objectively clear, they found a driver that has funding and relationships but also a fan base that will allow them to create their own independent marketing programs off the pairing.

Team owner Bob Jenkins, making a rare appearance away from his non-racing businesses, says Gragson impressed him when they finally met to discuss their mutual interest.

“What I learned is how much respect he has for the sport,” Jenkins said. “He really understands it’s a fan-driven sport. He just relates so well with fans. He’s only been in this series a couple of years but he’s already become one of the most popular drivers. We really think that translates with our marketing partners to what we can do and achieve, so we’re just super excited about what the future holds for Noah and so glad he’s going to be with us for several years.”

Front Row used to be an ironic name because Jenkins’ cars used to be found in the back of the field. They were start-and-parks with a primary car that generally raced for top-30s on the best days. Then came May 5, 2013 when the company won its first race, with a David Ragan and David Gilliland 1-2 finish, and it changed their direction forever.

Winning is addictive, says 15-year general manager Jerry Freeze.

“We had no business winning that race,” Freeze said. “David and David deserve all the credit for how they worked together but our cars were nothing like the cars we beat that day.

“And I think, from that day forward, we started to believe ‘okay, it’s possible for us to be competitive’ and we started to evaluate what steps that would take.

Over the past decade, it has forged relationships with Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports. Now, with the single source supplied NextGen car, it forged a partnership with Team Penske and earned a Tier 1 Ford Performance agreement.

Now it just comes down to the people. 

Losing Michael McDowell, who won the 2021 Daytona 500 and 2023 Brickyard Road Race, alongside crew chief Travis Peterson to Spire is a significant blow. At the same time, Todd Gilliland and Ryan Bergentry have emerged as a playoff caliber pairing.

Gragson is still holding out for the potential of bringing in many of his current crew members from the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 team including crew chief Drew Blickensderfer, who won that 2021 Daytona 500 with McDowell.

“We already have those relationships developed,” Gragson said of Blickensderfer and their team. “We’ve spent all year developing that communication after not knowing them until January 1. So, I certainly hope we can get those guys but time will tell.”

Regardless of who crews the cars, and remember that Front Row still has a third car to find a driver and crew for, the expectation now is that they win and make the playoffs. Gragson says those are the marching orders.

“The boss made it pretty clear that he wants cars in the playoffs and to be competitive every week,” Gragson said. “And when you look at what Michael and Todd are doing, combined with their growth the past couple of years, those are realistic standards now.

“Bob is completely committed and with their resources, we can win.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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