Pitting Outside The Box With Todd Gilliland

Todd Gilliland & David Gilliland

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with the driver of the Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford F-150, Todd Gilliland. It had been two years since I last was able to sit down with Gilliland to talk about racing. We spent about 30 minutes discussing past, present, and future items related to Todd’s racing career.

I hope that you will find this interview educational, as well as interesting.

Working On My Redneck: Since we last talked, March of 2018, what has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?

Todd Gilliland: I think that it has been learning to communicate. Working with that many new people over at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), has made me grow as a person. Additionally, just learning and gaining experience at the various race tracks has been a challenge. But as I said at the beginning, the hardest thing that I have had to learn is just how to communicate with the different people.

Working On My Redneck: Is that communicating with people in general, or communicating with your team?

Todd Gilliland: No, it is communicating with my team as to what I need in a race truck. The first team to get their truck adjusted to what the driver is looking for is usually the fastest truck on the track. That is a huge step, communicating with my team, and it is something that I have to get better at doing.

WOMR: How did this deal with Front Row Motorsports come together?

TG: Well my dad (David Gilliland) has done a really good job of maintaining a friendship with his old boss, Bob Jenkins, who is the owner of Front Row Motorsports. Bob Jenkins wanted to do something new. DGR-Crosley had the trucks, so they combined their efforts for this truck team. I am super thankful that FRM wanted to come down to the Truck Series and dip their toes into this series. I think that it is really cool that a Cup team would come down to the Truck Series and get involved.

WOMR: So how does this this arrangement work between at DGR-Crosley and Front Row Motorsports?

TG: So these are DGR trucks. All of my crew work there at DGR. And during the week we work very close to the DGR 15 Truck (Tanner Gray). I treat him as a teammate and we try to work together to benefit both of our teams.

WOMR: I know that last year DGR-Crosley would run as many as four trucks at certain races. So I am assuming that because of your dad’s excess inventory, that allowed Bob Jenkins and FRM to come and play in the Truck Series. Is that kind of how it is working?

TG: Yeah, they have a lot of trucks there at DGR. They probably didn’t have enough trucks to be running four and five trucks at some races. But, that is how this is working. We got a few of Tyler Ankrum’s truck from last year and Tanner Gray got a few. So we have a few nice trucks and we are going to build a few more new ones. I am really excited for this year. We have a whole new group of good guys and we will work hard each week.

WOMR: So are the crewmembers from DGR?

TG: Actually, most are brand new guys that Front Row Motorsports went out and hired for this team.

WOMR: Todd, this is your third year in the Truck Series, what do you bring to this team to make it successful?

TG: I think that my experience is going to help this team be successful. I have won races in the K&N Series and last year in the Truck Series. So knowing what it takes to win races should help this team get better.

WOMR: Since this is a brand new team this year, when you get to Phoenix for the last race of the year what will it take for you to look back and declare 2020 to be a successful season?

TG: Well all of us on this team fully expect to be at Phoenix competing for the championship. But the real goal is to do well enough to be included in the final four at Phoenix. Without being in the final four, you cannot win the championship! Therefore,I fully expect us to be in the final four at Phoenix.

WOMR: What was the biggest roadblock that you had to overcome last year?

TG: No doubt it was trying to earn respect from your team members as well as from the other competitors. For instance, if my dad tells the team to do something they do it because they respect him and know that it is the right thing to do. If a new driver tells them to do something they may not do it because there is a lack of trust and respect. However, if you are successful early on in the season, the team will rally around you and belief that you are making the right decision.

WOMR: Todd, do you think that having Gilliland as your last name has been a hinderance or a help?

TG: Oh I think that has definitely been a help. With all the friendships and partnerships that my dad was able to cultivate it has been a great help. We have Speedco onboard and that was a company that first was a sponsor of my dad’s. Just having the phone numbers of all those relationships and having the confidence to call and talk to them has been a great help in bringing them onboard with us.

WOMR: If Bob Jenkins had not decide to partner up with DGR this year would you be racing for your dad this year?

TG: I don’t know. We began talking to Bob Jenkins during the middle of last year. That was our plan for quite a long time, to partner up with Front Row Motorsports. It still takes a lot of money to get a truck to the race track these days, so I really don’t know what I would be doing without Front Row Motorsports.

WOMR: Now that your 2020 is all mapped out, are there any races that you have circled on the schedule that you really would like to win, or must win? It would seem logical that there may be a race or races that are more important to certain driver to win.

TG: It is really weird to think about it, but I really want to win at Eldora. I have ran really well there the last two years, but I really want to win that race! But I really don’t look at any one track that I want to or have to win. Now I really love Gateway (World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway). I have finished second two years in a row there. I would really love to win that race.

WOMR: Is that your favorite track?

TG: I think so, but lot of the race tracks are fun. Now that I am gaining more knowledge about the aerodynamics of those larger mile and a half tracks, I feel like I can be much more competitive on them, too. Now the more that I think about it, the more I really do want to win at Phoenix!

WOMR: Speaking of Eldora, how difficult is to race this big heavy truck on dirt?

TG: Well, I only drove a car on dirt one time. So my experience was minimal prior to Eldora. So at Eldora, you just don’t expect it to drive good. But I think that some of the dirt guys who race there expect the truck to drive as good as their dirt car. It isn’t going to happen because they just doesn’t handle that good. I think that since I didn’t have much experience on dirt it just made it fun and somewhat easier for me!

WOMR: How difficult was it to catch on to how to drive this big heavy truck on dirt?

TG: I just tried to have fun at Eldora. The good thing for me is that I have been lucky to have good handling trucks at Eldora. I mean there is a setup for every track, so I have been extremely lucky to unload good there both times. I just drive it like I am having fun and it didn’ take too long to catch on!

WOMR: Todd, since there are only two races on the superspeedways, one at Daytona and one at Talladega, do you like racing at those facilities?

TG: Yes, I love Daytona and Talladega. I love to get out there and push other trucks and make a difference. I believe that there is a lot of luck involved, as well as talent. It is a 200 mph chess game. If you pay close attention, you can begin to think what the other drivers are thinking during the race.

WOMR: When you are in the pack racing at either track can you feel the turbulent air all around you?

TG: Oh yes! It is crazy, you can hear the air. When you get behind another car your speed increases by about 10 mph. You can feel it and hear it suck you in the draft.

WOMR: How far behind the truck in front of you can you fell it suck you into their draft?

TG: If you can see a truck in front of you, you are getting some kind of help from it. The closer you get to that truck, the stronger the draft you get.

WOMR: Speaking of getting a tow from the truck ahead of you, did it surprise you at the rate of overtake this year?

TG: Yes. It will definitely get you in trouble if you are ready for that! The best draft is when two trucks get side-by-side. Being side-by-side punches such a big hole in the air that the overtake is huge and you have a much easier time passing. It is important to pass and get by the other truck as quick as possible.

WOMR: So does superspeedway racing teach you to trust your spotter implicitly?

TG: Absolutely. They can see way more than you so if they tell you to do something you don’t have much time to think about it. You just have to trust them and believe in them.

WOMR: When you are running side-by-side with another truck can you hear their motor or do you just hear the air rushing over your truck body?

TG; When they are on your left you can hear them because their exhaust is on the right side of the truck is nearest you. But you really feel the turbulent air from other trucks, no matter what side they are on.

With that question answered it was time to let Todd get on his racing suit, fire up those horses, and “let the big dog eat”!

I hope that you were entertained and that you were able to get past the exterior of the race car driver and see interior of what makes Gilliland tick.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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