By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
New team, new number and a whole new outlook for Todd Gilliland, who’s now in his third season in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
Along with it, gone are the much publicized turmoil Todd had at Kyle Busch Motorsports and hello to a familiar entity as he’s driving the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford F-150.
“It was a real cool off season with how everything came together,” Todd on joining FRM. “For me, it’s my first time driving for Front Row Motorsports, but I’ve been around the whole Jenkins family my whole life growing up. It’s cool to be back representing them.
“We got a lot of cool connections this year and the alliance with DGR-Crosley, we also have a lot of great people working on my trucks and a lot of great trucks coming out of that building, so I’m excited.”
Not just the race team Todd is familiar with, but also the truck number etched on his Ford F-150. Both things further establishes family ties as Todd’s father, David Gilliland, also drove the No. 38 for much of his NASCAR national touring career.
David scored all three of his Cup Series poles with that number, including the 2007 Daytona 500 when he drove for Robert Yates Racing. David also spent seven seasons with FRM where he had his best season in 2013, with a runner-up finish at Talladega and finished 26th in points.
Additionally, Todd’s grandfather, Butch Gilliland, made his mark with that number on the West Coast throughout the 1990s, scoring eight of his 13 ARCA Menards Series West (then known as Winston West) victories for car owner Bill Stroppe.
David knows it’s super special for his son carrying the family legacy and having an opportunity driving for the Bob Jenkins led team.
“I grew up working on that car with my dad and won a championship together as me being my dad’s crew chief,” David said. “My dad made some Cup starts in the 38 I think, and we have, and now for Todd to be in that number is super special. Our alliance with Front Row Motorsports and Bob Jenkins this year, they’re incredible people so a lot of family ties in this whole thing.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Todd driving the 38 this year. He’s probably got the best opportunity of making the most of it of any of us. As it should be and I’m excited to see how he’ll do with it.”
Todd understands how much it meant driving the No. 38, but didn’t realize how long the family drove that number until the announcement in January along with fans finding “so much random information” about it.
“Growing up, my dad got his first Cup starts in the 38 with a different team. Then it seems like the number would keep coming back to him with every team,” Todd said. “It’s really cool to be able to continue that on, but I didn’t actually realize how much my family had run it until this year and opportunity came up. Even more when the pictures and history come up. Hopefully, I can add my own little part to the number 38.”
It’s clear that Todd is excited on expanding the family legacy and driving for the Jenkins family, but he’s also directly focus on proving everyone that he’s still among the top prospects in the sport.
This is due in most part that after 50 Truck Series starts, he has one truck win and have yet to make the playoffs, which expanded from eight to 10 drivers this year.
Clearly, not an ideal start to Todd’s national touring career after running rush shots in both the West and East Series from 2016-17, highlighted with 20 wins and two West titles for Bill McAnally Racing.
“It’s definitely a big year for me,” Todd said. “I feel more confident than ever going to the racetrack with the team I have and the opportunity we have to do this year. There’s so many good trucks and I think after the season is done, hopefully the amount of success we have that we’re even more proud of that.
“That’s what I’m really looking forward to is beating some of the best in the Truck Series and going after a championship.”
Todd added that his win at Martinsville last October boosted his confidence and is glad to get that monkey off his back before beginning his new racing chapter.
“We’ve been so close and after awhile you just don’t even know what else to do to get to that spot. It just felt really good that it all came together and what we’re doing is right,” Todd on finally winning in the Truck Series last season. “Also, it let’s you see those next steps once you get there and realize it’s not as far away as it is if you finish second a lot. Still, to get that first win out of the way means a lot to me and excited to go chase for more this year.”
The win also created tremendous amount of stress after calling out Kyle Busch to stay in his motor home seconds after taking the checkered flag. It became the symbol of their tensions, which became publicized after Busch wasn’t happy with his team’s performance months prior to Martinsville.
Despite Todd winning and him speaking with Kyle about the incident, he was replaced by Raphael Lessard after the 2019 season.
“I put myself in a bad position and I think everybody knew that,” Todd said. “I just made a mistake and a good opportunity to learn from. Obviously, I talked to Kyle after that but after those few days, I just soaked in the wind and kind of refocused. I put all of that behind me and it was over with. I’ve learned from it and be better from it.”
With 2019 behind his rear view mirror, the 19-year-old also doesn’t have to fully worry about home schooling and taking online courses. Something he had to juggle a lot while racing in the regionals and early in his national career. The greatest example came in 2017 when Todd was competing for both East and West championships.
“That was the hardest part for me – school and racing,” Todd said. “It’s all about people you know and have to surround yourself with a good race team that you can trust on getting the race cars done so you can focus on your school.
“That’s your job during the week, it’s to get schoolwork done and stuff like that. Then basically your second job is racing on the weekends. That was really cool for me, but I’m really happy to be done with school and racing is all my focus right now.”
Just two races into the 23-race campaign, Todd sits ninth in points after finishing seventh at Las Vegas February 21. It was a total team effort as his No. 38 team had strong pit stops throughout the 134-lap race. More importantly, they’ve made adjustments on Todd’s Ford F-150 which saw him struggling finding pace in both practice and qualifying to being competitive during the race.
The next race will be the Georgia 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway March 14, where Todd finished ninth in his first race at the 1.5-mile circuit last year.
Having a strong start to the season is real important for Todd, but is also aware that it’s still a long time from the first three races to the regular season finale at Michigan International Speedway August 8.
“That’s one of those things where it’s really cool and sets your momentum off really good if you do get a good start. If you don’t, you can’t panic because there’s still a long regular season,” Todd said. “There’s two ways to look at it and you just have to reevaluate after the first two or three races. You’ll either have really good momentum coming from the first three or it’s just a kind of a good place to restart.”