As part of Tipico’s ‘Ride with Zane’ promotion, we are featuring a series about NASCAR Truck Series driver Zane Smith and his Front Row Motorsports team. This Saturday, Smith’s truck will feature the Tipico logo during his next race in Ohio.
Jerry Freeze gave up a successful lawn care business for a life in racing. Why? To mow down the competition? Go out in blades of glory? Be a cut above?
OK, enough with the puns. Freeze gave up his life in grass 27 years ago, found his niche in racing and never looked back. Now, he’s general manager of Front Row Motorsports, who won last year’s NASCAR Trucks championship with one of the fastest rising stars in racing – Zane Smith.
“It’s been way more beneficial for me and my family than I ever could have imagined,” Freeze says.
Freeze has been with FRM since 2009, working for the team that owner Bob Jenkins founded in 2006. Prior to that, Freeze got his start with NASCAR working for the legendary Petty Enterprises team from 1998 to 2009, until it dissolved during the U.S. recession.
And in his previous life, Freeze honed his business and management chops by starting and running a lawn care business from 1983 to 1996.
“I was always a big fan of NASCAR,” Freeze says. “I thought maybe I can have a role behind the scenes. So I sold my business and I came to Charlotte. I knew some people and I knocked on the right doors.”
Incredible First Victory
As GM of FRM, Freeze has his hands on many aspects of the team – whether it’s organizing the logistics of getting people and trucks to a new race venue each week or getting a leaky shop roof fixed.
Freeze loves managing multiple aspects of the FRM operation, but nothing compares to reaching Victory Lane on a Friday or Saturday afternoon.
“The most fun I could ever expect to have was when we won our first race in 2013 (the Aaron’s 499 on May 5, 2013),” Freeze recalls. “David Ragan won and David Gilliland was second. It really took a team effort to win.
“We were running on our tires as long as we could. Both Davids were really good restrictor plate racers. On the last couple of laps, David and David hooked up and passed six cars on the last lap. David Gilliland was such a great teammate. He pushed David Ragan to the win and still got second place.”
Witness To A Rising Star
Freeze has had plenty of opportunities to enjoy Victory Lane over the past two years. Zane Smith joined FRM for the 2022 season after finishing as the season runner-up for two straight years with his previous team, GMS Racing.
In 2022, Smith won four races – including the championship race at Phoenix in November. This season, Smith has two wins and six top-five finishes overall and is in second place in the Truck Series standings as of July 1. The playoffs Round of 8 begins Sept. 14.
“Zane has got a lot of talent, he’s doing a great job at FRM. He’s really fun to watch,” Freeze said. “He’s got a controlled aggression, and never gets bent out of shape. He’s only concerned about what he can control.”
FRM has also helped Smith get experience in the Cup Series, where it seems inevitable he will wind up eventually.
“Zane has seven Cup races on his schedule this year. He’s gotten a good feel of what it takes to be a success at the next level,” Freeze says. “Zane isn’t a big hurry to do Cup racing, he wants to feel that he’s ready for it, but I think he’s close. The future for him is limitless.”
While Smith’s Cup Series future is unknown at this point, he and Freeze are locked in on winning a second straight trucks title.
“This season we started out strong, and we hit some hiccups, but we’ll get our mojo back and hopefully we’ll get into the final four.
“The truck team sets a high bar. We expect to be in the final four, and if we do that we’ve met our expectations. The goal we set was to get to the playoffs.”
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