Michael McDowell Has His Crew Chief for 2022

Michael McDowell

Getty Michael McDowell has his crew chief for the 2022 season.

The defending Daytona 500 winner has a critical piece in place for his upcoming NASCAR Cup Series season. Michael McDowell will enter the season with Blake Harris as his new crew chief.

Front Row Motorsports broke the news on January 6 with a press release. The team announced that Harris will be a full-time crew chief for the first time in his career after most recently serving as a car chief for Martin Truex Jr. He will begin his duties immediately and will serve as McDowell’s crew chief during the Next Gen tests at Daytona International Speedway on January 11-12.

“Blake has proven to be championship leader who is ready to take McDowell and our No. 34 team to the next level,” said Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, in a statement. “He’s young but has a wealth of knowledge and experience with one of the best teams in the NASCAR Cup Series. He played a key role in wins and a championship. Blake is the type of person we want to help us continue to contend.”

Harris replaces Drew Blickensderfer, who departed Front Row Motorsports after the 2021 season, ending a three-year run with McDowell. Blickensderfer moved to Stewart-Haas Racing and took over as Aric Almirola’s crew chief.

Harris Has Contributed To Numerous Wins in NASCAR

While Harris only has one race of crew chief experience in his NASCAR tenure — October 28, 2020, at Texas Motor Speedway — he has helped multiple teams reach Victory Lane. He worked with Truex at both Furniture Row Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. Harris also spent time at Evernham Motorsports, the organization that boasted Kasey Kahne, Bill Elliott, Elliott Sadler, Jeremy Mayfield, and Casey Atwood as some of the top drivers.

Harris’ time working as a car chief featured more than two dozen wins at the Cup Series level. This includes eight wins and the Cup Series championship during the 2017 season. Now he will strive to add more after moving to the top of the pit box.

Now that he is a crew chief, Harris will join forces with McDowell. The driver of the No. 35 is fresh off a career season in which he won his first Cup Series race — the Daytona 500 — and reached the playoffs. McDowell also posted a career-high five top-10 finishes and two top-fives.

“I’ve had many opportunities in the past,” Harris told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Dave Moody on January 6. “I wanted to make sure it was the right fit, the right scenario. I think they needed a guy like me here for this group, and that’s why I’m super excited to give it a shot with Michael.”

The Harris Hire Continues an Offseason of Change

Michael McDowell

GettyMichael McDowell practices for the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway.

The addition of Harris as the crew chief is the latest piece of big news for Front Row Motorsports. The team has spent a considerable amount of time this offseason shaking up the system and preparing for new eras in both the Cup Series and the Camping World Truck Series.

The biggest change involved the Cup Series lineup. FRM announced that Anthony Alfredo would not return to the No. 38 Ford Mustang, which opened up a path for Truck Series driver Todd Gilliland to move up to the Cup Series on a full-time basis. Gilliland will make his Cup Series debut while taking over the Next Gen No. 38.

FRM also announced on November 30 that Zane Smith would switch Truck Series teams after reaching the championship four in 2021 with a stunning win at Martinsville Speedway. He moved from GMS Racing to FRM and took over the No. 38 Ford F-150 for Gilliland. Now Smith will focus on reaching the championship four for the third consecutive season.

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