By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
JOLIET, Ill. — Making just his fourth career start in the ARCA Racing Series, Todd Gilliland had another strong showing in the SCOTT 150 at Chicagoland Speedway, leading 28 laps in the second-half of the race. However, a late-race caution erased Gilliland’s large lead, sent the leaders to pit road for fresh tires and resulted in a frantic green-white-checkered finish.
The end result was a third-place finish and the second straight frustrating ARCA race in the No. 54 DGR-Crosley Toyota. In May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gilliland had a dominant machine, leading a race-high 60 laps.
“A caution for cars that shouldn’t be out there,” Gilliland said of why he wasn’t the one celebrating in victory lane. “It’s ruined our race the last two.”
Rolling off the grid in the eight position, the 18-year-old picked up four positions in the first five laps. At the halfway point, he was running second and closing on race-leader Michael Self. Gilliland took the lead for the first time of the night at Lap 68 and had a comfortable lead of over four seconds with 10 laps to go.
A spin by the No. 20 Toyota of Leilani Munter, who was running three laps down, brought out the yellow flag at Lap 95 of 100 and completely changed the complexion of the race.
Riley Herbst elected to stay out on old tires while the rest of the leaders pitted for fresh General Tire rubber. Gilliland won the race off pit road by taking two tires but was followed by eventual race-winner Michael Self and a host of others that elected to put on four tires.
“I figured I was in trouble at that point,” Gilliland said of when he learned of how many cars took four tires. “I really don’t think I would have been if I would have got a better restart and just rolled the bottom a little bit better, but we didn’t. If anything I have to learn how to get a little bit better at restarts for tomorrow.
“But nonetheless, I had such a fast DGR-Crosley Frontline Enterprises Toyota. It’s all about finishing these races. The middle part doesn’t pay anything. That’s on us a little bit too, but I think we were in the perfect position. It’s just going to be about turning the page now and looking forward to tomorrow and refocusing a little bit.”
Gilliland is pulling double-duty this weekend at Chicagoland, competing in tomorrow night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.
“I learned a lot about the race track, like how much time you make up going to the bottom on the front stretch. Just all that stuff that might help put me a little bit ahead of all the rest of my competitors tomorrow.”