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Front Row Motorsports (FRM) will run reigning NASCAR Truck Series champion Zane Smith as an open entry in the Daytona 500. He will be one of six drivers attempting to make the field, five of which have never started 500 before.
The rising star will pilot the No. 36 FRM Ford Mustang in the event. Centene Corporation is partnering with the team and Ambetter Health will serve as a primary sponsor on the car.
“I’m fortunate to have a great sponsor of Centene’s stature to step up and support me and Front Row Motorsports as I look to gain racing experience in the NASCAR Cup Series while at the same time defending the NASCAR Craftsman title,” said Smith in a release from the team. “I’m excited to represent Ambetter Health and Wellcare as Centene continues to grow their involvement in NASCAR and their healthcare presence across the United States.”
Smith made his Cup Series debut at Gateway last year, subbing for Chris Buescher at RFK Racing. He was very impressive in that lone appearance, finishing 17th and on the lead lap.
Additionally, Smith will run at least five races behind the wheel of the chartered No. 38 car. The regular driver of that entry, Todd Gilliland, will be forced to the sidelines for those events.
In response to the news, Gilliland released the following statement on social media: “As you guys have heard I won’t be full time in the 38 this year. It was a shock when they told me and I’m disappointed. We’re working really hard to still be behind the wheel for the races I will be missing and plan on putting our best foot forward all season.”
Smith will replace Gilliland at Phoenix in March, Talladega in April, Sonoma in June, Texas in September, and the Charlotte Roval in October.