By: Ashley McCubbin
Todd Gilliland has been putting the performances together back-to-back in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series, as he enters this weekend’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 on the heels of three straight top-six finishes.
Ahead of this weekend’s event at Kentucky Speedway, the Front Row Motorsports driver shared some thoughts with POPULAR SPEED.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering Kentucky?
TODD GILLILAND: I’m excited to get to Kentucky. I’ve ran good there before, and we’re coming off a couple solid finishes. So looking to getting there and being fast once again.
PS: What’s the toughest challenge in running these races without practice?
TODD: I think for me it’s the lack of notes that my team has. Front Row Motorsports being new, we’re working with David Gilliland Racing a little bit, but really, we don’t much to go off. So I think that’s the hardest part. We’re just learning all together on the fly.
At least I have experience at these race tracks on the driver’s side of it; I feel like I have a little more knowledge of what to expect going into turn one. But it’s still really tough on the teams; every week stuff changes. So just keeping up with everything – even the height of the truck when we start the race is the biggest thing.
PS: What are your thoughts on your season thus far?
TODD: I think it’s been really good. I think it’s what we expected, really. It’s what you’d expect, but you can’t ever be disappointed with how we’ve been running. Obviously we want to get wins, but we’re six races in and we’re a brand new team so we always have to keep that in the back of our hands. I’m really proud of the group of people we have.
When we finished fourth last weekend at Pocono, we were all a little disappointed because we’ve been running better. It’s a fine balance. I have to keep them happy with top-fives because that’s what we need to win championships, but also we need to go get wins and be contending week-in-week-out.
PS: What do you feel that you need to do better to be stronger?
TODD: I think it’s a little bit of speed in our trucks and a little bit of handling. I feel our trucks drove pretty good at Homestead and Atlanta where we finished fourth and sixth. Then at Pocono we tried to get our trucks faster, and they didn’t end up driving as good, but we were still able to stay up there. So I think if we could get our trucks a little bit faster speed wise but handle better at the same time, that’s what we need. We’re pretty close, just small details is the biggest thing.
PS: You spent the past couple years at KBM. What has the transition been like going from an organization with teammates, to being the lone truck for Front Row?
TODD: I think, for me, it’s a good thing. I’ve never been anywhere like Kyle Busch Motorsports and that taught me so much. Like you said, it operates like a big team, like a Cup team is ran; all of that stuff is very valuable information, just living and being there. I think that built me up as a person and I don’t think I could’ve done a lone truck team when I first came into the truck series.
So I think I’m a more responsible driver, as far as not tearing stuff up. It just makes for the details, turnaround tougher each week just being one team, but I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of guys.
PS: We’ve seen their success in Cup recently with both (John Hunter) Nemechek and (Michael) McDowell. Do you feel that any of that can translate over to the truck series?
TODD: I don’t know. I think maybe just a little momentum if anything. I talked to team owner Bob Jenkins. He’s thrilled with this year. Front Row has picked up 15-20 spots weekly and that’s crazy in the Cup series. Hopefully we can start winning races. I was talking to the guys the other week and they thought we were going to be their best finish every week, but man those Cup guys are giving us a run for our money. That’s really awesome to see. I don’t think too much can translate, but just a little bit of momentum and seeing Front Row more on TV.
PS: What track are you looking forward to beyond this weekend at Kentucky?
TODD: I’m really looking forward to the double header at Kansas running two days in a row; I really loved running that track last year. You really hate if you wreck the first day, though. I think that race is going to be a little bit about making it to the second race and giving the guys a chance to work on it. I feel the second race you’ll see the guys who were able to get their stuff better – sort of like a practice plan. I’m really looking forward to that and seeing if we translate these good runs without practice into being able and having a game plan for the second day.
PS: Being a second generation racer and everybody knowing your dad’s career in the sport, does that give you any added pressure?
TODD: I think it’s a little bit of pressure, but a lot of opportunity. Just having the relationships that my dad has made – even Front Row Motorsports. He ran there for five or six years, and just having an opportunity here in the truck series this year. So I say it’s more of an opportunity than anything and maybe expectations are a little higher, but I’m thankful to have him and for him to be able to steer me a bit.
PS: Given your road to get here, what would be one piece of advice you’d have for the next up and coming driver?
TODD: I think just patience. That’s one thing that my dad has taught for me forever. As far as patience on the race track and not making bad passes and forcing stuff there, but also away from the track. Being patient with your moves up the ladder, making sure you always have to be ready because like this year with Ryan Newman getting hurt, there’s always opportunities to move up. You have to be ready, but also be patience about that. I think one bad race can hurt you more than a few good races, so always be ready.
I also took the time to ask Front Row Motorsports’ General Manager Jerry Freeze about Gilliland’s performance. You can hear the audio clip in the video below.