Gilliland Writes Underdog Story
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 22, 2011 | 5:00 P.M. EST
David Gilliland started near the rear of the field but was able to draft his way to the front. (Photo: Getty Images)
Gilliland started near the rear of the field but was able to draft his way to the front and stay there for the closing laps to take home the solid finish behind the wheel of his Taco Bell Ford.
“Yeah, we had a great day,” said Giililand. “It's a 500-mile race. I don't think I finished the last three or four restrictor plate races we've ran just running good. Knew we needed to be there at the end. Everybody at Front Row Motorsports did a good job of giving us a good racecar and we knew that. Had to preserve it to the end.”
Giililand burst onto the NASCAR scene a few years ago when he drove an independent and unsponsored car to victory in the Nationwide Series at Kentucky Speedway. The now veteran driver compared that accomplishment with finishing third in the sport’s biggest race.
“It's right up there,” Giililand said. “Without the first win, I wouldn't be here to win third. Real excited. I finished second at Infineon. I think this tops that. It's Daytona. Just really proud of our team. In the media day last week, I told a bunch of the people you can look for Front Row Motorsports to be the most improved team from last year.”
The three-car Front Row team has made improvements in the off-season that Gilliland believes will pay dividends beyond his stellar run to open the season at Daytona.
“We stepped up our motor program to run the FR-9 motor,” he said. “(Team owner) Bob Jenkins bought a bunch of motors from RPM. It's taken us 10 steps ahead on the competition side. I'm proud to have weathered the storm last year and now have a top-three finish at Daytona for not only myself, but Bob Jenkins. He does this deal out of his pockets. To come and do that and be here with the success is something to be proud of.”
With Bayne’s victory and a few other unheralded drivers turning in impressive efforts on Sunday, the 2011 Sprint Cup season has started off as the year of the underdog.
Gilliland thinks that’s a good thing.
“I think it's good,” Gilliland said. “It's a credit to NASCAR and their new rules with the new cars, trying to get the rules closer, to let teams like us, Front Row Motorsports, have a chance to come out here and be competitive on a track like this.
“I think a lot of it's the rules and credit to NASCAR making these races more competitive, you know, tightening up the rules. I like it. It gives us a chance.”