By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Less than a week after Kyle Busch Motorsports team owner Kyle Busch said that his driver needed to ‘pick up the pace,’ Todd Gilliland did just that with a top-10 finish. The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series competitor has speed throughout the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In the long 74-lap run to the finish, Gilliland attempted to drive his No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra in the tire tracks of his KBM team owner. He restarted third, but slowly faded. Over halfway into the final stage, Gilliland had slipped to the bottom of the top-10. Crew chief Marcus Richmond elected to bring his driver to pit road at the end of green flag pit stops. Gilliland returned to the race just outside the top-five.
Over the final 30 laps of the race, Gilliland held firm. He found himself several seconds behind Sheldon Creed. Gilliland was also six seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter. In the middle of a ‘no man’s land,’ the 18-year-old cruised to a seventh-place finish.
“Overall, it was not one of our worst nights or best nights,” Gilliland admitted. “We got points in both stages. I ended up seventh, so it’s just about being smart in these races. That’s what we did tonight. Our truck was good. It could have been a little bit better.
“I punched a little bit of a hole in the front headlight in the start of the race. That didn’t help us at all. It kept getting worse and worse. It was soft and the air was pushing it in. Definitely my bad there, I think we could have ran better without that. Not one of our worse weekends for sure. I had a lot more fun here in Las Vegas than Atlanta.”
The seventh-place finish is just the second top-10 this season for Gilliland. It is also the 14th top-10 of his career.
The top-10 finish moves Gilliland from 11th in the championship points standings, to be in a three-way tie for seventh with Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes. Gilliland is 21-points behind points leader Grant Enfinger. Although tied for seventh, he would lose the tie breaker for the playoffs, best finish, to both of the ThorSport Racing drivers.