By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
CONCORD, N.C. – For Todd Gilliland, recent results in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series have been a welcome reassurance.
The 2019 season for the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver have had one speed bump after another. Although Gilliland had speed in his No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra, mistakes have cost him finishes inside the top-five at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Three straight incidents at Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Dover International Speedway kept the 19-year-old driver from top-10 finishes. An off-weekend for the Truck Series allowed Gilliland to earn a win at Talladega Superspeedway in ARCA competition.
Gilliland followed that up with a top-five finish at Kansas Speedway. It was his first top-five finish since he ran out of fuel while leading at Texas last fall. Kansas also marked the first time that Gilliland had started and finished inside the top-five since Michigan International Speedway, 16 races ago.
“It’s been a long time since we qualified in the top five and finished in the top five,” Gilliland admitted. “That was our goal. At the end of last year – middle of last year, I felt like no matter what we did, we were running back half of the top five and if I missed out or the pit crew or something, we’d finish eighth or 10th.
“This year we’ve struggled to run in the top 10, so that was definitely a good thing for our whole team. We’ve kind of just said we’re going to go and take our best truck and put our best foot forward every single week and we’re just going to make it happen.”
Earlier this season, team owner Kyle Busch was critical of his second-year driver. One week after that criticism, Gilliland earned a top-10 finish at Las Vegas. The criticism, combined with on-track incidents put a strain on his confidence.
“My confidence was really low, but I just look back and say we can all do it,” Gilliland explained. “My crew chief, Marcus Richmond, has won a lot of races. I’ve won a lot of races and it’s just about putting it together and getting the whole weekend more fluid.”
At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gilliland was second and third fastest in the two practice sessions for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200.