Todd Gilliland Showing Strength Early in Truck Season

Photo by Rachel Schuoler / Kickin' the Tires

LAS VEGAS, NV — Todd Gilliland battled for the lead multiple times in Friday’s Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, and finished seventh for his first top 10 of the season.

“I’m good,” said a cheerful Gilliland. “Just strolling through and enjoying the nice weather. Overall, that was a tough race. We struggled really bad all day, qualified 25th. To come home seventh is really not a bad day. It’s all on our pit crew. Those guys gained me 20 spots total tonight.

“It’s a team effort, we win and lose together, and this time they were definitely on it tonight.”

It wasn’t an easy start to the weekend. The Front Row Motorsports driver is leading the team solo in their first full-time Truck season. After a decent run with unfortunate damage at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, he and his pit crew kept his head high to finish seventh on Friday. That moved them up to ninth in the championship standings after just two races in the 2020 season.

“I think it made us a lot tougher,” Gilliland said about the adversity they faced over the Veags weekend. “We had changed four springs, four shocks before this race, and we still went out there and qualified 25th. That’s something that can definitely just put everyone down to where they can’t get back up, but really proud of our team. We kept fighting all day. I think that really shows the attitude and the determination of everyone, and we all just want to go win. We’re going to keep working hard, bring a better truck to Atlanta (Motor Speedway), and just keep clicking them off.”

For Gilliland, racing against his former team on track brought back great memories from what he learned last year and how he’s applying that to this year.

“It was cool,” said Gilliland about racing against his former team on track. “To be one of those guys again, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. Like I said before, I’ve learned a lot. I think I’m a better race car driver, better person from that experience. I always thought that Mobil 1 truck was the best looking truck out there, so to see it from another truck confirmed that. Just really happy to be out there and be able to race with those guys.”

The transition made a lot of fans doubt that Gilliland would be as competitive as he was last year. He points to the people that make it possible behind the scenes, whether with the bigger teams or the start ups. For him, he feels it’s all about the family-feel aspect.

“Obviously both teams have great people,” Gilliland reflected back to last year when he raced for Kyle Busch Motorsports. “Everyone wants to go win at both of those teams. I feel like the companionship of my team this year, feeling like a family, that’s a lot higher. I think we all believe in each other, just that little bit more that it takes to be competitive every week.”

Gilliland’s family comes from a background racing in California. His grandfather, Butch Gilliland, still holds track records at Irwindale Speedway, and his father David ran across all three top NASCAR series spanning 16 years, including a win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2006 at Kentucky Speedway. With Irwindale holding multiple grooves, that has given the 19-year old driver experience on how to handle many lines to pass other drivers to get the clean air for faster lap times, much needed on 1.5-mile ovals.

“I think every race track with multiple grooves really gets you thinking ahead. You try to get around the guys in front of you, because Irwindale is big enough to where you have to get out of the (draft) for it to be better. I think you just got to take all of those things into consideration about timing your passes.”

It’s early in the season, but Gilliland is already impressing many people at the new team. And if their family-bonding aspect continues, he could be a serious threat when the Playoffs approach.

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