Michael McDowell, the 2021 Daytona 500 winner, is returning to Front Row Motorsports in 2022 to follow up on his first career victory in The Great American Race and his trip to the NASCAR playoffs. But his Daytona Defense will be guided by a different voice atop the pit box for Front Row's No. 34 team.
On Friday, Front Row Motorsports announced that crew chief Drew Blickensderfer has informed the team that he would be leaving to pursue "other options". Blickensderfer had been crew chief for the No. 34 team since 2019, working with McDowell for all three of his seasons at Front Row.
A replacement for Blickensderfer will be announced at a later date.
"Drew helped lead the No. 34 team to new heights since coming to Front Row Motorsports, highlighted by winning the Daytona 500," read a statement by team owner Bob Jenkins. "We are now in the process of securing the next leader in our organization to continue the solid foundation that has been built. We wish Drew the best in his next endeavors."
A Cup Series crew chief since 2009, Blickensderfer's greatest success has come in setting up cars for superspeedway races. He won the 2009 Daytona 500 with Matt Kenseth in his very first race as a Cup crew chief, and followed it up with McDowell's 2021 victory a decade later.
Blickensderfer also won the 2011 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona as the crew chief for David Ragan. Other drivers Blickensderfer has worked with include Jeff Burton, Marcos Ambrose, Sam Hornish Jr., Aric Almirola and Bubba Wallace.
As crew chief for McDowell, Blickensderfer helped the longtime Cup journeyman experience an unprecedented level of success. In addition to his Daytona 500 victory, Blickensderfer also guided McDowell to four Top 5s, 11 Top 10s, and a career-best 16th-place finish in the championship standings during their three seasons together.