By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
FORT WORTH, Texas — Todd Gilliland endured a devastating defeat after running out of gas on the final lap of the JAG Metals 350 while leading on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
The talented 18-year-old was out front for a race-high 60 of the 147 laps, commanding a solid lead of 1.3 seconds over Justin Haley on the last lap and looking poised for his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. However, everything came undone on the backstretch as Gilliland’s No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra began to slow his pace, which enabled Haley to take advantage and go on to win the race and punch his ticket to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Gilliland finally managed to coast past the finish line to finish fourth.
“I have no idea how we were on fuel,” Gilliland said.
“I thought we were good. I am very disappointed but very proud at the same time. My team gave me a great truck and I wrecked in qualifying. We were still able to come out here and contend for a win. We win and lose as a team. I made a mistake and we ran out of gas. It is what it is. I am so proud of everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports. We tried a completely different package this weekend. It definitely shows that we were better. We’re here to gain on it every week.
“As disappointed as we were tonight. To come from the back and almost win was a solid night.”
Unfortunately, the outcome overshadows an otherwise incredible performance for Gilliland, who was forced to start the race from the back of the field following a wreck in qualifying.
According to Gilliland, crew chief Marcus Richmond had estimated the fuel run going three laps farther than the scheduled race distance.
“My crew chief thought we were good to lap 150,” Gilliland said. “By everyone’s calculations, we should still be out there doing a burnout. That’s all you can go off of.
“I don’t feel like we made any big changes. More just trying to get ourselves clean air. At Texas here, it’s super important. I think you could see that when the 52 (Stewart Friesen) was behind me and then once he got past me and I was in dirty air, I got tight and he pulled away.
“Just about putting ourselves in the right positions and with the cards we were dealt, I felt like that was all we could do. I still definitely could have been faster.”
With two races remaining in the 2018 season, the focus now turns to a trip to Arizona at ISM Raceway, where Gilliland finished seventh in what was then his sixth start in the series last year.
“Obviously, KBM has had really fast equipment there (ISM Raceway) in the past,” Gilliland said.
“Actually did the Truck race there last year, but you probably didn’t know I was in it because I was in the back. Hopefully we’re up front again next weekend and this is really good momentum for us at least heading into these last two weeks.
“We had a really rough stretch before this, but no doubt in my mind that we can rebound and go win Phoenix.”