By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – A victory was just not in the cards for Todd Gilliland in the UNOH 200. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver overcame adversity to score a top-five finish at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Gilliland had to rebound in his No. 4 Banfield Pet Hospital Toyota Tundra after hitting Jesse Little and spinning on lap 69 early in Stage 2. While pitting for minor repairs, the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver was penalized a lap for pitting outside the box. Little received the worst of the damage, remaining on track until a tire rub forced them to pit under green.
As Gilliland clawed his way back through the field, he battled with teammate Noah Gragson, with the duo beating each other near the end of Stage 2. During the stage break, Gilliland took the wave around to move back onto the lead lap. He then climbed through the pack, passing truck after truck until he broke into the top-five on the final lap.
“Spinning out, your pride is crushed,” Gilliland explained. “It’s one of the worst things that can happen. That one lap penalty put us behind. After that, Kyle (Busch) came on the radio and said that we needed to work the top. We’ve watched plenty of film with him doing it, so there was no reason we couldn’t. Luckily, we were able to get around those guys fairly quick.
“That was a lot of fun. That was the most fun I’ve had in a Truck race by far, coming home fifth. We just need to keep clicking off those top-five finishes. We’re getting closer and closer every week.”
Gilliland’s hopes for making the Playoffs came to an end despite the top-five finish. The 18-year-old, who missed four races due to his age, had to win to enter the Playoff field. The closest Gilliland came to earning a win was at Gateway Motorsports Park, when he finished runner-up to Justin Haley, who was in this same position last season. Gilliland said he had no regrets on how the season has played out to date,
“People act like this is the end of the season. We still have a few more races. Our season is not over. I just need to keep learning. Hopefully I have a long career doing this. We can’t just let this one race, or one season put us behind. We need to go out and run like I know we can the rest of the year.”
The fifth-place finish is the third top-five finish for Gilliland this season. It also moves him up to 11th in the Championship Points Standings. Gilliland still trails both Myatt Snider and Dalton Sargeant in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Points Standings.