Stability Has Gilliland & Front Row Looking Up

Todd Gilliland

Todd Gilliland (38) is seeking his first NASCAR Cup Series win in this weekend's Daytona 500. (Photo by NKP/NKP photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A year of fluidity and instability for Todd Gilliland last year in the NASCAR Cup Series has given way to renewed consistency with Front Row Motorsports.

After Gilliland split time between Front Row and Rick Ware Racing to fill out the 2023 Cup Series season, he returns to Bob Jenkins’ team full time this year behind the wheel of the No. 38 Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

Being able to have a full 36-race season with the same team, led by crew chief Ryan Bergenty, is something that Gilliland called “huge” during Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday.

“Last year we definitely made the most of the circumstances that we were presented with, and I was definitely very thankful to fill in the races I did with Rick Ware Racing to have a full season … but to have the best results, obviously, you want to have the same group of guys every week and be able to build on them and have momentum week in and week out,” Gilliland told Motorsports Hotspot. “For me, I’m excited to have the same crew chief for a full season, have the same spotter [Brit Andersen] for a full season, and really to be able to build on some things that we did last year and, hopefully, take a few steps forward this year.”

Despite the flux of driving for two different race teams last year, Gilliland still had his best season to date as a Cup Series driver, with four top-10 finishes and a season-best of eighth at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway dirt track in April.

The third-generation driver tied his best points finish of 28th and improved both his average starting position and average finish by more than a full spot overall.

It’s a firmer foundation that has Gilliland looking forward to the future, as well as reflecting on how far he’s come since debuting at NASCAR’s top level in 2022.

“I feel like I’ve learned so much already [in the Cup Series],” noted Gilliland. “I think you have to continue to learn every single year in order to be successful, and I’m sure that in another three years I’ll feel like it’s even crazier what I know then that I didn’t know right now. I’m just super excited, really, to be able to come back here [to Daytona and to Front Row] and to continue to learn.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited or more comfortable to just show up to [Daytona 500] Media Day, be around the other drivers, and to feel like I fit into all the things that are going on here,” Gilliland added. “I think that [wisdom] just comes with time and being around guys who make the right moves and really know what they’re doing at this level.”

Though Gilliland has run well in the draft at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway, he’s crashed out of both his prior Daytona 500 appearances and failed to finish in all four of his Cup Series starts at the World Center of Racing.

He knows that it’s “impossible to predict” what’s going to happen at the 2.5-mile Daytona tri-oval, though Gilliland admitted “it helps to have a plan” entering race day.

“This is definitely a unique race,” said Gilliland. “Everyone has a plan going into the race. It's about executing it and then surviving, but also working as a team, whether that’s via manufacturers or your teammates. For me, I feel like there’s a lot to be learned in the Duels [qualifying races]. Where it’s half the field, which is usually what it ends up being at the end of the 500 … I definitely think there’s a ton to be learned on Thursday night that can carry over to Sunday and chasing the Harley J. Earl [Trophy].”

Todd Gilliland

Todd Gilliland speaks to reporters during Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday. (Jacob Seelman photo)

Can Gilliland become the fourth first-time Daytona 500 winner in the last four years this weekend?

“Anything’s possible,” he said with a faint smile. “I think we’re showing up here knowing that we can contend and run well this weekend, if not win.”

But looking further out beyond Daytona Speedweeks, Gilliland tipped that teammate Michael McDowell’s speed from last season – as well as his solid playoff performance – has all of Front Row Motorsports buoyed as they seek to make the Cup Series postseason for a second straight year.

“The speed that the [No.] 34 car had, really from the summertime to the end of the year, was incredible to see. There’s definitely a lot to be learned from that,” said Gilliland. “I think our speed at the beginning of last year was really good … and then it kind of flip flopped to where Michael had some really good runs and obviously got the win at Indianapolis [on the road course]. I think that people forget, though, he was right near being in on points, too, around some really, really good cars. So that’s the stuff that we have to look at.

“I think anything is possible for us this year as a race team,” he added. “For me, I definitely have to be able to be more consistent and keep those results week in and week out. But Michael’s definitely shown us the potential of our race cars and our organization, and that has me excited for both Daytona and the year ahead.”

Gilliland’s quest for a Daytona 500 victory will take place Feb. 18 during the 66th running of the Great American Race. Coverage kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET, live on FOX, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.