By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
For the first three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races of the season, Todd Gilliland has been forced to watch as others drive his truck. Gilliland has to wait until his 18th birthday on May 15 before he is eligible to compete on tracks greater than 1.1-miles in length. He will pilot the No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Gilliland did compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway. After an exciting and fierce battle for the lead with his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Harrison Burton, Gilliland took the victory.
“It’s been very hard,” Gilliland explained as others have driven his truck. “I’m a racer and all I want to do is race. Seeing other people jump in the truck you are going to be in the rest of the year is really tough, but you have to take every opportunity you have to learn and catch up to the guys who already have three more races worth of experience than I do.”
Despite not being able to drive in the Truck Series so far this year, Gilliland has been at the track each week. He has sat on the sidelines, on the pit box listening to the radio communications as his father, David Gilliland, team owner Kyle Busch, and fellow up-and-coming driver Spencer Davis each had a turn behind the wheel.
“Anytime you can listen to someone on the radio and especially a Cup champion like Kyle Busch, is always a great honor,” Gilliland said. “Just the way that he can break down every corner of the race car and what needs to be fixed the most and what can wait. I think that’s all stuff you can learn from and what is going to take you to the next level.”
Gilliland has six career starts in the Truck Series with two top-five and three top-10 finishes. He has one previous start at the 0.526-mile paperclip. Gilliland started 13th and finished in fifth. In his return to the track, he will drive the same chassis, KBM-025, that his teammate, Noah Gragson drove to victory lane last fall.
“I think it’s going to be tough. The race is all about restarts and track position, so having a fast truck and being able to qualify up front and hopefully controlling the race. Last year in the fall, we were kind of just in the middle of the pack and were able to capitalize and make our Tundra a lot better to keep track position. I’d like to be able to control the race a little bit better this time.”
Now Gilliland, who is competing for Rookie of the Year Honors, will prepare for his first start of the year on Saturday, March 24, at NASCAR’s oldest track Martinsville Speedway.