NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

2010 Rides: Nos. 34/37/38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, Nos. 7/07 Robby Gordon Motorsports Toyota
2010 Primary Sponsor: Extenze
2010 Owners: Bob Jenkins (Nos. 34/37/38), Robby Gordon (Nos. 7/07)
2010 Crew Chiefs: Steve Lane (No. 7/07), Greg Conner, Peter Sospenzo, Brian Burns (Nos. 34/37/38)
2010 Stats: 28 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 0 poles, 35th in points

High Point: After being forced out of the seat his sponsor funded for the Daytona 500 after NASCAR refused to license him for superspeedway racing at the Cup level, Conway made his debut at Daytona in the July 400-miler. Despite fighting suspension problems within his car the entire night, by missing the Big One, Conway was able to score a top-15 finish by evening’s end… not only a career best for him at any level of NASCAR racing, but the best in the history of the Front Row Motorsports organization.

Conway also proved to be the last freshman standing en route to winning the 2010 Rookie of the Year title, as Terry Cook found himself out of a full-time ride by the start of the summer months. Conway was the first rookie to win the ROTY award in the Cup ranks without attempting every race on the circuit since Kevin Harvick back in 2001.

Low Point: Conway drove for two race teams in 2010, and both of them currently have lawsuits filed against him and his sponsor Extenze for lack of payment. While his on-track results were, as expected, lackluster (only six top-30 finishes across the entire season), the amount of legal trouble that his sponsorship has generated goes beyond anything seen since the partnership between 360 OTC and Bill Davis Racing fell apart in 2007.

Conway’s tenure at FRM ended, according to the driver, at the very last minute at the Michigan International Speedway in August, when the team informed him less than an hour before practice started that Tony Raines would be driving his car and that the Extenze decals were being removed from the machine. FRM refuted that story, stating they had informed Conway and Extenze nearly a week prior that if the payment they expected was not received, Conway would not be racing.

And while that weekend at Michigan may be the most specific of the low points for the 2010 season, the legal squabbles and the lack of funding that led Conway to start-and-park the No. 7 car a number of times in the fall contributed to an entire second half of the season that was far more damaging than the stats sheet showed.

Summary: Conway’s 2010 campaign on the track went about as well as could be expected for a rookie as green as he was in the cars he was driving. Contrary to some media fears, Conway was not a roving wrecking ball on the racetrack, and for his lack of speed did a solid job all year long staying out of trouble while under green.

That said, his results were far from flashy, and didn’t improve tremendously as the year went on. While the driver may well have learned a ton of lessons on the track, considering both his rides and the gap of experience that he’s still trying to bridge, those results aren’t likely going to get any better in the near future.

Team Ranking: Third at Front Row. Conway was clearly on the bottom rung at FRM, as the team swapped cars no less than three times with him to maintain the rookie a locked-in spot in the field. Both current drivers for the team, David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil, noted that while Conway did everything he could and needed to as a Cup rookie, it was almost a relief to have the team go to a third veteran in its No. 38 car starting at Michigan.

Over at RGM, however, when he wasn’t starting-and-parking Conway’s results were not too far off those of even team owner Robby Gordon, with the No. 7 team more often than not racing the track, not the pack.

2011 Outlook: Speaking before the media at Homestead after locking up the 2010 ROTY crown, Conway noted that his plans for 2011 were undecided, but that a partial Cup schedule and racing in the Nationwide Series in some capacity was the plan for both himself and sponsor BioTab Neutraceuticals, who is planning to spend their 2011 NASCAR dollars promoting their Alteril brand.

However, with now both Front Row and RGM filing suits against the sponsor, one can’t help but wonder if Extenze and Conway are actually going to be able to find a steady home next year. Look for a Daytona 500 appearance with a one-off team, but beyond that the future for driver and brand is murky at best.

2010 Frontstretch Grade: D

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