2022 FRM Talladega II Race Report: McDowell and Gilliland Finish Top 10, Smith Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive with 17th

Front Row Motorsports (FRM) went superspeedway racing this past weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway as Zane Smith, Todd Gilliland, and Michael McDowell all saw high-speed action.


Zane Smith and the No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops, PEAK Performance Ford F-150 rebounded to a 17th-place finish after blowing a right-rear tire at the end of Stage Two, leaving Talladega 18 points above the playoff cutline.


Todd Gilliland’s Georgia Peanuts No. 38 team grabbed their second top-10 of his rookie season with a seventh-place finish after running inside the top-10 for a majority of Sunday’s race.


Michael McDowell in the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops, PEAK Performance Ford Mustang came up just short of the victory with a close third-place finish, his career-best 12th top-10 of the season. 


Zane Smith entered Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff race with a 21-point advantage on the cutline, hoping to maintain that gap at the wildcard track, Talladega Superspeedway. 


After a good qualifying effort on Friday, Smith started from the fourth position and was able to maintain track position throughout stage one, finishing that stage in the second position and gaining valuable stage points. 


On the final lap of the second stage, the No. 38 Love’s/PEAK Performance Ford would suffer a flat tire, still finishing that stage in the ninth position. The team would lose track position under the stage break making repairs from the damage caused by the tire, and with a couple of late cautions, Smith was unable to make up ground. 


Finishing the race in 17th, Smith exited Talladega with an 18-point buffer on the cutline entering a two-week break for the Truck Series.

“Honestly, I am really happy that we finished this race,” said Smith. “It was really close there at the end with that big wreck, but we were able to cross the line and keep a decent points advantage on the cutline heading into Homestead. I’m thankful to Love’s and PEAK for coming on board this weekend, and I’m proud of my guys for never giving up after that tire went down, on to Homestead.”


Todd Gilliland and the No. 38 Georgia Peanuts team grabbed their second top-10 of 2022 at Talladega with a seventh-place finish after Gilliland ran up front for the majority of the 500-mile event.


Starting from the 34th position, Gilliland and the crew worked fast, and by the end of stage one, found themselves in 12th. The No. 38 team’s goal was to keep track position all race, and they accomplished just that.


Gilliland put the No. 38 in position to challenge for the win in the closing laps, but with a late race caution with five laps to go, the momentum was lost on the restart, and the No. 38 finished in the seventh position.

“It is great to be disappointed with a seventh-place finish,” said Gilliland. “The No. 38 Georgia Peanuts Ford handled really well in the draft and we were able to make some great moves to get us up front. My guys did a great job on pit road all day to keep us in line with the lead pack. We’ve had some speed these past few weeks without the results to show for it, so it is great to come away with a top-10.”


The Peak Performance, Love’s Travel Stops Ford team of Michael McDowell had a slow start to the weekend. Qualifying toward the lower end of the field, the team expected to qualify where they did, having a car well prepared for the draft.


Through the first two stages of the race, McDowell and his team wanted to play it safe, and conserve their car until it was time to go. With handling issues in the end of the first stage needing multiple long stops, the team took the cautions as opportunities to make their car the best it could be later in the race. After losing the draft to end the second stage, would mean the team could use the chance to top off the car with fuel, so stops in stage three could be as short as needed.


With the strategy developing the way the Love’s, Peak Performance team expected, with some help by cautions, the team would take fuel only on the final stop to gain track position from the mid-teens, up into the top-five running positions. Defending well and working with other Ford drivers, McDowell would be the second car on the bottom line with ten laps remaining. Unfortunately, a timely run by another competitor would hurt the ability for McDowell to force his way up a lane into the tri-oval, giving the Love’s, Peak Performance team a third place finish as they crossed the line.


“It was a fun day, but disappointing to up at the end just short. We had a great Love’s Travel Stops, Peak Performance Ford Mustang. I thought we were in the right place at the end, but didn’t get it done when it counted. We didn’t get to victory lane, but everyone on the team did a great job, and we will head to the Roval knowing we have another shot at it.”


Next, FRM will stay home in North Carolina for NASCAR Cup Series action at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the ROVAL.


Speedway Digest Staff
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