Chance for long-term security was key to McDowell’s Spire switch

The opportunity to make a change happened quickly for Michael McDowell.

“I think more than anything is I didn’t feel like I wanted to continue to go year-to-year (on contracts) like I have,” McDowell said after signing with Spire Motorsports for the 2025 NASCAR Cup Series. “That wasn’t a great spot for me or my family to be in, especially with a lot of uncertainty within the sport and with all the things that are going on. So, I felt like I had put myself in a position by winning races and making the playoffs to be in a more secure spot than that.”

McDowell will drive the No. 71 Chevrolet beginning next season in a multiyear deal with Spire Motorsports, which was announced Wednesday. It came just hours after McDowell and Front Row Motorsports announced their impending split at season’s end.


The 39-year-old has been a Front Row Motorsports driver for seven years, winning two races and making two appearances in the postseason. He finished a career-best 15th in the Cup Series championship standings last season.

A victory in the Daytona 500 has been the biggest accomplishment for McDowell and the No. 34 team. Front Row Motorsports acknowledged that McDowell is the organization’s leading driver in wins, starts and top-five finishes.

“Just like anything, it always starts as a loose conversation, and then it kind of grows and builds from there,” McDowell said of his deal coming together. “I don’t think there was one trigger as far as, ‘Oh, I better go find a job.’ It wasn’t like that; I’ve known (Spire co-owner) Jeff Dickerson for a long time, he was my first agent at MMI. He got me my first Cup deal at Michael Waltrip Racing, and so we’ve always had an ongoing personal relationship, and we’ve always had banter back and forth.

“It was just that, just going back and forth a little bit. So, the timeframe has really been the last few weeks of things coming together. It’s not like there was this grand plan in December that I’m going to make all these moves; it’s just how it works out.”

Front Row Motorsport picked up McDowell’s option for the 2024 season, so it was out of his hands to stay or look around a year ago. But this time around, when conversations about the future started within Front Row Motorsports, “it didn’t look like that was going to meet everybody’s needs,” he explained. “And then you have a couple of conversations and all of a sudden, before you know it, you’re having real conversations. That’s probably the progression of that.”

It wasn’t an easy decision, however. McDowell has nothing but nice things to say about Front Row Motorsports, which feels like family.

“But I think when I came to the realization when I feel like I’ve poured everything I have into this program that I’m currently in, and there wasn’t anything beyond a year in front of me,” McDowell said. “At that point, I had to make a tough decision that I’m not going to chance it. I’m going to go ahead and do the hard thing and make a move.”

Doug Duchardt, president of Spire Motorsports, described it as a really easy decision to sign McDowell. In doing so, the No. 71 becomes a full-fledged Spire Motorsports team as McDowell replaces Zane Smith, who is being fielded in a Spire Motorsports entry this season in a deal with Trackhouse Racing. The latter has Smith under a long-term contract and is providing Spire Motorsports with some of the personnel and pit crew for Smith.

Duchardt pointed to McDowell’s record behind the wheel, leadership and influence with teammates. McDowell, who has made over 470 starts in the Cup Series, will be teammates with Corey LaJoie, who has made 248 starts and Carson Hocevar, currently a rookie.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to continue to build and be in the Cup Series for many years to come driving and hopefully achieve the ultimate goals of winning races and competing for a championship,” McDowell said. “It’s humbling the many years of fighting it out in the sport and not knowing year to year if you’re going to have a job or a seat, to be in a position where your future’s secure and with a great program. It allows me to really finish what I feel like I’ve started. It’s a great opportunity; I’m really looking forward to it.”

Story originally appeared on Racer