In a bit of a shocking development in terms of the NASCAR Cup Series Silly Season, John Hunter Nemechek announced on Monday that he won’t be returning to Front Row Motorsports in 2021. Nemechek, 23, finished 27th in points as a rookie this past season and all signs indicated that both he and his teammate Michael McDowell would be returning to the team next year.
Instead, Nemechek has indicated that he has found something else to drive.
“I’m so thankful for the chance that Bob Jenkins, Jerry Freeze and all our partners took on myself this past season,” Nemechek said via his social media accounts on Monday afternoon. “I would like to thank every employee for the opportunity and the hard work that they put into myself and the #38 team at Front Row Motorsports. I’m grateful for my time, relationships and all the knowledge I have gained. I appreciate the patience of our fans, with future plans to be announced at a later date.”
FRM issued a statement themselves thanking Nemechek for his time with the organization and noted that the rookie driver helped elevate their program in 2020.
“We want to thank John Hunter for being a part of Front Row Motorsports and beginning his NASCAR Cup Series career with us,” Jenkins said.
This wasn’t the only time FRM has acknowledged Nemechek elevating them.
“I think John Hunter has brought, one, some attention to Front Row Motorsports because of his good runs,” crew chief for the 34 car, Drew Blickensderfer said during the summer. “Whenever a rookie and youth kind of come and do that, people look at it a little differently, so I think he’s brought some attention to Front Row.
“The other thing John Hunter has, and I think we all kind of realized it maybe a few years ago more than just a year ago, the talent he has when he was winning races in his dad’s truck. And then he kind of got lost in the mix. He wasn’t one of the big three in XFINITY last year. He wasn’t Cole (Custer) or Christopher Bell or Tyler Reddick, so you kind of lost the mix of him coming into his rookie season, but I think whatever saw in him is the ability to be fast, and when he came in here he immediately picked up on Sunday and was fast.
“When you have a guy who can come into your organization and run fast lap times, and sometimes you’re gonna take the good with the bad, you’re gonna put yourself in bad situations, you’re gonna get wrecked, you’re gonna wreck yourself, you’re gonna do things like that, but when you show how much speed the car has in it, you start focusing on things a little differently. In your Monday meeting you’re not worried about your brakes weren’t quite right, or the transmission didn’t shift quite right. You’re worried about, ‘How do I get faster because this guy is showing speed.’ So he brings into the Monday meeting, ‘Hey, I was fast even though I wrecked,’ and the 34 and other people that are associated with us can look at that and say, ‘Okay, our cars have that speed in them, how do we get it with our veteran drivers to be able to complete the whole race.
“How do we teach John Hunter to be there for the long haul, the things that rookies go through, how do you race around this guy versus that guy – things like that. Those are the things that he’ll still learn, but he already has the speed and that’s the hard thing and that in a company is very valuable. You start focusing in on things that are more important for racing then some of the things that you don’t worry about if you’re running mid-pack, so he’s helped the 38, the 34, all of us with showing how much speed our cars have.”
His driver in Michael McDowell agreed then and says that the speed was a byproduct of how much work FRM had put into their organization over the last several years.
“Our cars have had more speed this year than we’ve ever had at Front Row, so that’s helped us, obviously, with performance and getting the results that we need to get,” McDowell said back this past July. “But they’ve done an exceptional job unloading really close without any practice and having our cars very competitive, which is hard to do.”