Two months ago, Front Row Motorsports headed to Michigan International Speedway following a week of headlines of a cheating scandal and penalties for the Travis Kvapil team. This past week, FRM headed to the track amidst rumors that FRM and ExtenZe were jettisoning the Raybestos Rookie of the Year frontrunner Kevin Conway.
Robert Wilhovsky, Director of Motorsports Marketing for ExtenZe Racing issued this statement in response to the rumors. “Contrary to some Internet reports out there that recently surfaced after the NASCAR race weekend concluded at Watkins Glen, ExtenZe and Alteril are 100% committed to Kevin Conway and the sport of NASCAR. While we are currently evaluating our options for 2011, Kevin Conway has been and will continue to be the foundation of our NASCAR program in the years ahead.”
Just before practice at MIS, Conway was eventually replaced in favor of Tony Raines. ExtenZe Racing immediately chose to stand by their man and go wherever he goes. Conway said to SIRIUS NASCAR Radio’s Pat Patterson that it was a little bit of a difference in philosophies and money.
FRM general manager Jerry Freeze told SIRIUS NASCAR Radio’s Clair B. Lang, “Kevin comes along with the sponsorship and they are very much a package deal.” He stated the deal was just for this year. Freeze said he “expects if they come back in 2010 it will be with Front Row Motorsports and certainly with Kevin driving. Their options and our options are open for 2011. And we were working towards continuing it in 2011 and then we kind of hit the fork in the road here in the last couple of weeks. Where it goes in 2011 is anyone’s guess. We’d really like it to be here, but certainly we’ll all have to work towards that.”
Conway tweeted, “While I am very disappointed in FRM’s decision, I’m excited about the rest of 2010 and 2011 with ExtenZe.”
Rumors have Conway and ExtenZe looking at other unsponsored teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top 35 in owner points, such as Robby Gordon Motorsports and TRG Motorsports. Conway told Patterson that chances are seven out of 10 that he will be driving this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Don’t count out the possibility of Conway moving to the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year. Previously Conway had stated that he had Nationwide plans materializing for later in the season.
Sunday in Brooklyn, Michigan, Front Row Motorsports didn’t fare much different than they did two months ago at this track. Again Kvapil’s Long John Silver’s Ford finished one lap down, in the 30th position this time, where he was 31st in June. Gilliland’s Taco Bell Ford ended up five laps down, instead of three like last time. He was 36th place Sunday, just below his 35th spot in June.
The difference was that Raines’ Front Row Motorsports Ford didn’t have the mechanical problems that Conway’s ExtenZe Racing Ford faced in June. Raines finished one lap back in the 31st position. Conway only turned 38 laps in his first visit to the Irish Hills, due to broken valve springs and a broken valve causing an engine related DNF.
“We fought loose. Loose in and loose off,” said Raines. “We did get it a little better but never really got all the looseness out completely. In the middle of the race, we got a little worse, handling-wise, and then we got it back toward the end. We learned a little bit. We ran the whole race and didn’t tear anything up. So we’ll build on that for next week. Obviously, with me stepping in to the car this week, it was the first time in this car, with this crew and crew chief. So all things considered, it wasn’t a bad day.”
Freeze stated that Raines will have to qualify the No. 38 on time at Bristol. This is designed to take the pressure off of Gilliland and Kvapil.
Expect FRM to cut back to two cars after this race, with just Kvapil and David Gilliland driving the No. 34 and No. 37 Ford Fusions, unless sponsorship returns to the No. 38 car.
Part-time Front Row Motorsports driver Robert Richardson, Jr. was transported to a local hospital following a crash in the MIS Nationwide Series race on Saturday. Richardson blacked out temporarily after the backstretch wall, caused by contact from Steve Wallace.
“That was, by far, the hardest hit I’ve ever experienced in a race car,” Richardson said. “NASCAR took the black box out and I look forward to seeing what their data says about the crash. I dinged my head pretty good there, banged up my leg and I have a nice bruise on my upper abdomen.”
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