We are only three races into the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, but we’ve had no shortage of surprises to this point in the year. Take one of our new teams in the series, Front Row Motorsports, for example.
FRM is a staple organization in the NASCAR ranks, having won the Daytona 500 with Michael McDowell in 2021 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title with Zane Smith in 2022.
For 2023, the team has expanded into the virtual sphere, joining in as one of the 20 official teams in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. In their first year of eNASCAR Free Agency, the team picked up a Journeyman sim racer and three time winner in Allen Boes as well as an established Rookie and social media sensation in Michael Cosey Jr.
Lead by a sim racer himself in John Dragonetti, Front Row’s Digital and Social Media Manager took on the task of managing the esports side of the venture for their first full season, signing the drivers and finding the partners to place on their virtual rides.
Three races into the 2023 eNASCAR season, and surprisingly, the new eTeam at FRM is on top of the pile, leading the Team Standings by 15 points over the next closest team. In the Driver’s Standings, Cosey Jr sits tied for fourth in his maiden season while the veteran Boes is currently tied for seventh.
FRONT ROW RETURNS TO THE eNASCAR RANKS
To join the series, first there needed to be openings among the 20 official teams. With the loss of Mode Motorsports, Wood Brothers Racing, Spacestation Racing, Clint Bowyer Racing and iRacing Motorsports, there was plenty of room.
Together with the likes of the Pittsburgh Knights, Kansas City Pioneers, Tony Kanaan Esports and FGR Accel eRacing, Front Row Motorsports was able to fill a place on the 2023 team grid and joins as the only new real-world NASCAR team this season.
This technically isn’t Front Row Motorsports’ first appearance in the series. Back in 2021, when XSET joined the series as an official team, their NASCAR ambassador Anthony Alfredo was driving for Front Row Motorsports and Casey Kirwan was tasked with driving Alfredo’s number, the 38, to represent the link. Of course, that wasn’t truly Front Row Motorsports, as this is the first time their name has been associated with the series.
“I think a lot of it was just being able to show that coming into the series, there’s a lot of excitement around it and there’s a lot of growth potential,” said Dragonetti. “For me, being an avid sim racer, and being an iRacer and still being involved in the community, what better way to combine my passion for iRacing and the continued growth of Front Row Motorsports than to combine the two and put together an eNASCAR team.”
As far as the real world teams, it’s not really too common. While JR Motorsports, RFK Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing already participated in the series, some bigger team names like Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, TrackHouse Racing and Team Penske have chosen not to get involved, some like Hendrick having influence with William Byron’s team or RCR with Austin Dillon’s.
EXPERIENCE GAINED IN ADDING BOES
To take on their first season, Front Row Motorsports had to work fast to right fit their team with the right duo. With experience, a three-time eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series winner in Allen Boes joined to drive the No. 34 in 2023. A rookie back in the 2015 season, Boes ran full-time until 2017, returning to the top level again in 2021.
“Back in 2014, when I made my first run at it, it was a season long thing where you had to run the NASCAR iRacing Series,” said Boes. “I was lucky enough to never have to qualify my way in because I don’t think I could have done it, it’s been one of my weak points during my whole career.”
“Coming back in 2020, you’re no longer racing against everybody on the service, you’re against 40 of the best guys in the world at this. It’s just, it’s crazy to think that we’re doing this well, and it’s crazy to think that I’ve been able to be a part of it for six years.”
After returning to top level competition in 2021, Boes’ previous two seasons haven’t really gone to plan.
While at McLaren Shadow, Boes failed to crack the Top 10 through the entire 18 race season and finished 32nd. With McLaren Shadow exiting, the series the same year they came in, Boes wound up moving over to Spacestation Racing. While the finishes were objectively better and more often in the Top 20, he still failed to collect a Top 10 finish.
Now only three races into the 2023 season, in his first year with a real-world NASCAR team, Boes has gotten that Top 10 out of the way twice, and sits seventh in the standings on his return back to being a top driver in the series week in and week out.
The choice for Allen to come to Front Row was an easy one during the Free Agency period. “John and I have been friends for a long time,” said Boes. “We were talking during the whole Free Agency process… I’ve always wanted to drive for a NASCAR team, a lot of good opportunities come with that.”
FUTURE eNASCAR STAR POWER ADDED WITH COSEY JR
On the flip side, Front Row Motorsports’ lineup has a fresh face in the series to drive their No. 38 machine this season. A rookie by the name of Michael Cosey Jr has already started to turn heads this season, but his journey to the top ranks wasn’t easy by any means.
2021 was Cosey’s first attempt to make the series, and after a successful Qualifying Series, things fell apart quickly for the Altus Esports driver in Contender. Starting back at the bottom, Cosey was in a similar predicament again in the 2022 Contender round, but this time, he was able to punch through and take his seat among the Coke Series field.
“I felt really good about myself as a driver, but I got very much humbled in my first year in the Contender,” Cosey said. “I thought I was just going to go straight on to Coke, I felt like I was good enough driver, and, you know, you figured out a lot about yourself, and you got to learn a lot of stuff, and, you know, just wasn’t my year.”
As an incoming rookie, and with a pedigree that already includes being a top NASCAR gaming content creator and winner of multiple big community races on the iRacing platform, including the 2021 eRacr.gg Firecracker 400, I suspected that windVOW8820 would be a hot commodity during the Free Agency period.
“It’s really exciting,” said Cosey. “Aligning yourself with a real-world Cup organization and a successful one at that, really stands out. It’s my first year in the series, and (together with Allen) I thought it was a good pairing as well. He’s got a lot of experience in the series. I think it’s all is coming together quite well.”
BUSINESS PLANS FOR THE FIRST YEAR TEAM
Taking on the responsibility of managing the two sim drivers, Dragonetti finds himself in a new position while still working his normal day-to-day with the real world team.
With that will come some growing pains, but not too different that what Elliott Sadler Esports’ Co-Owner Seth Reiter told me when I spoke to him, FRM is managing the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series division of the team as its own branch of the existing business.
“I look at it from the same perspective that my General Manager Jerry (Freeze) looks at it through,” Dragonetti said. “It’s a branch of the business, so what we’re going to do is try to incorporate anything, any possible way we can. We’re still kind of getting into the swing of it, we’ve got some things that are in the works that we can start to do on social media to have more of a more of a presence.”
“We are planning to have both Michael and Allen come out in whichever markets are local and close to them, whichever ones they choose and interact with fans, do Q&A’s, sign autographs. I’m still trying to figure that all out, but we can continue the growth and put ourselves out there in a different way that other teams don’t yet have the means to do, there’s a lot of untapped potential that I want to get into.”
What races might those be?
“I know Southern 500 is always a race that I tried to go to, the atmosphere there is a lot of fun,” Boes chimed in.
“I’ve got a lot of options to choose from locally,” Cosey added. “Richmond is coming up here soon. Dover’s not too terribly far away. I would really like to get out to the Martinsville fall race. That’s always one of my favorites to go to every year.”
ARE PLAYOFFS OR A TEAM TITLE IN FRM’S FUTURE?
Tonight (28th March), the fourth race of the season at Richmond Raceway will be one of the biggest tests yet for the fledgling team. A track that categorically hasn’t been good to most rookies sans that one outlier by Vicente Salas a few years ago, it’s also a track that Boes has had an up and down time at, with a best finish of second in 2016 and a worst finish of last in 2022.
Beyond Richmond, there’s a Monza race and a Talladega race before the real meat of the season is met. The whole of Front Row Motorsports is optimistic, but cautious, with still 15 races left to decide the 2023 season.
“I didn’t think that we would be able to get to this point so quickly,” said Dragonetti. “I think, what helped me help us get to this point was my involvement with iRacing for the past decade, I know who these people are, I’ve raced against them before. I’m not up to their level, but I still know who they are, I know what their skill sets are. I’ve seen their stats.”
Like, I know of the battles between Cosey and (Brandon) Kettelle during like the FireCracker 400 I’ve sponsored Allen in past seasons when we were still able to do things like that. Just knowing everybody, knowing what everyone’s stats are, I know what their skill sets are and know what their potential is, so to be able to pick two guys who were overlooked, I was surprised.”
“It’s just a testament to everyone at Altus and everyone at Deadzone. It shows all the hours of work and dedication they put into this. It makes me feel good as a quasi-owner that I made the right decision in picking both of these guys and knowing that they’re going to perform to the best of their abilities, and the best of their abilities has put us, so far after three races, on top of the Team Standings. It’s incredible.”
Both drivers also have confidence in their programs, and both believe that the great start to the season for both could lead to being in the conversation later in the season. For now though, neither wants to get too far ahead of things, and they’re taking it race by race, hoping to keep the momentum going.
“With Tucker (Minter) having a win, being behind me (in points), I guess we’d be sitting tied for eighth in the Playoff Standings,” Boes said. “I haven’t been able to think about playoffs for last two years because my performance hasn’t quite been there. Being three races in, this is a huge confidence booster. It was needed.”
I just have to keep it up, though. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but playoffs are the goal and we’ll have to go from there. If I could make it to the playoffs, maybe then we’ll set that goal to get to the final four. Right now, definitely playoffs.”
“It’s a tricky one,” Cosey said. “My first year in the series, I’m just trying to take it one race at a time. Playoffs, honestly, are not even a thought for me personally. I’ve had a really great start to the season, which is great, but my main goal has not changed. I want to make the Top 20 and not get relegated, I’d like to have a locked-in spot for next season.”