By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – A dominant day in the ARCA Racing Series return to Charlotte Motor Speedway slipped away for Todd Gilliland. His No. 54 Frontline Enterprises Toyota Camry was the favorite to win the General Tire 150 after Gilliland topped the charts in testing, practice, and qualifying.
On the final restart, Gilliland restarted in second, but the car was just too tight. Slight contact with Sheldon Creed sent him up the track while Creed fought for control. Both drivers regained control, but Gilliland continued to slip backwards. By the time the checkered flag waved, he had slipped to the fourth position.
Gilliland led from the start of the race until just past lap 60. In the heavy lap traffic, he clipped a lap car, tearing a hole in the left front fender. The damage tightened the car, robbing Gilliland of the speed that his DGR-CROSLEY Toyota dominated the race to that point with.
“It was just too tight,” Gilliland said. “I got into a lap car and tore a huge hole in the nose. That made it way, way tighter. And that’s when I started falling way back from those guys (Jones and Creed). That’s just a mistake, but I’m still super proud of the super-fast Frontline Enterprises Toyota Camry that they brought me again. We’ll try to win the next few. That’s what it’s about, to learn, and I definitely learned a bit tonight.”
This was ARCA’s first race at Charlotte since 2004. It was also the first ARCA race in which the PJ1 traction compound was on the racetrack. The compound was sprayed in the upper groove in the turns, and has been commonly used at Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte in NASCAR competition in recent years.
“I was just riding at the beginning, I wasn’t even pushing it that hard. I thought we were in really good shape. It’s just trying to keep up with adjustments a little bit better. With this PJ1 stuff on the upper grooves, the stuff changes so quick. It’s so hard to keep up with. It’s just something that I’m going to have to get used to, and hopefully move forward with less mistakes.”
The fourth-place finish was Gilliland’s second top-five in the ARCA Racing Series and third top-10. This was also his third start and first since the 2015 season.
Gilliland’s next ARCA start will come at Pocono Raceway on June 1 as he uses it to prepare for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the track later this year.