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Michael McDowell | NASCAR Silly Season: Michael McDowell Leaves Front Row, Joins Spire

What Michael McDowell’s Move to Spire Means for Silly Season & Remainder of 2024

by Elliot Hicks

The first big Cup Series driver change/domino has fallen as Michael McDowell will leave the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 and drive the Spire Motorsports No. 71 starting next year.


What Michael McDowell’s Move to Spire Means for Silly Season & Remainder of 2024

For McDowell, this shows, at the very least, that he’s confident enough in the ever-growing Spire team to continue its upward trends. Carson Hocevar is 22nd in the driver standings in their No. 77 car, and though Corey LaJoie and Zane Smith haven’t had the best years so far, they’ve shown flashes of brilliance that overall put more faith in the team than I’ve ever had before.

Having a driver like Michael McDowell – who took Front Row from a mediocre field-filler with that one 2013 Talladega win to one of Ford’s best and most surprising teams earning wins on merit – can only help the Spire program continue to get better and force their way into weekly contention for at least T10 finishes.

Potential 2024 NASCAR Betting & DFS Effects

Announcing this move relatively early in the season locks in “McNasty” to a solid future in what could be a wild offseason of changes in the Cup Series. But it also may impact his 2024 performance, as he not only will leave Front Row, but will be leaving Ford as a manufacturer. He and his team could now be at risk of being edged or completely frozen out of enthusiastic manufacturer support.

This would obviously make him much more undesirable in NASCAR fantasy and betting markets. Or – if I take off my tinfoil hat – it could just be a great motivator for McDowell to earn his third career Cup win and go out on a high note.

NASCAR Silly Season Dominoes

For Spire, announcing that Michael McDowell will drive the No. 71 means that Zane Smith will return to the hands of Trackhouse Racing after being loaned out for 2024. The only issue there is that Trackhouse doesn’t currently have an open Cup Series seat. Will they move Daniel Suarez out for Smith, or perhaps loan him out again? With how poorly Zane has run, I couldn’t rule out an Xfinity Series season for him if the Cup dominoes don’t fall their way.

With that said, I think the dominoes very well could fall to Trackhouse being able to acquire a third charter, if not more. Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has been rumored to be downsizing, if not merging with Front Row or leaving the series entirely. That would result in multiple charters being put up for sale (assuming they still would exist after the end of this year).

Justin Marks has shown before that he is willing to do what it takes to advance Trachouse to an elite motorsports powerhouse, and he likely wouldn’t let Smith go if it had any say in the matter. I don’t think a mediocre rookie Cup season would completely sour him on the 2022 Truck Series champion.

There’s a ton of speculation that could be made all around the ever-evolving potential silliest of silly seasons to come. If SHR downsizes or folds, it would create an absurd amount of scattering in the driver and charter market. For now, it will be exciting to wait and see where all of the pieces continue to fall into place around McDowell’s new ride and the rest of the 2025 Cup Series grid.

Thanks for reading my opinion on “What Michael McDowell’s Move to Spire Means for Silly Season & Remainder of 2024.” Be sure to follow me on Twitter/X @ehicks39 for more NASCAR takes and betting advice. 

*Photo Credit: Peter Casey – USA TODAY Sports*

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