David Gilliland nearly won his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race May 5 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The veteran Front Row Motorsports driver made several late passes to reach the front, but he wound up second behind teammate David Ragan. It’s the closest Gilliland has come to visiting victory lane at NASCAR’s highest level.
Gilliland’s goal for 2014 is to turn his longstanding dream of winning into a reality.
“The 2013 season was good for me and for Front Row Motorsports as a team,” he said. “We made some gains on the performance side and picked up from where we were, but my goal is to win in the Cup Series, and I haven’t done that yet.”
Gilliland burst on the NASCAR scene when he scored an upset Nationwide Series – then known as the Busch Series – win at Kentucky Speedway in 2006. He made his Cup debut soon after, but never came as close to winning as he did in 2013.
Gilliland, the son of former Sprint Cup and Winston West racer Butch Gilliland, is no stranger to being paired with talent. He was a teammate of Tiger Woods on Western High’s golf team as a kid.
Gilliland believed he’d have more opportunities to win races than golf tournaments, so he stuck to the track instead of the course.
His return to FRM next season, joined again by Ragan, helps the race team in its efforts to get one of its drivers to victory lane in consecutive years. Not having to switch drivers and set up cars differently will aid in development as the team works on its second season with Ford’s version of the Gen 6 car.
“It’s really good,” Gilliland said. “Everybody’s working really hard. We’ve really made some good gains on our cars.”
Front Row Motorsports upgraded its short-track program in 2013, after struggling on the sport’s short tracks in 2012. Gilliland pointed to new brakes and lighter cars as two catalysts for potential success in 2014.
“Our road-course stuff is better, too. Across the board, we’re improving,” Gilliland said.
“I’m looking forward to next season,” he said. “Our team has been working hard already to get cars built and get ready for Daytona. We’re excited to be back, and we’re going to try to keep picking up and doing well next season.”
Changes to ride heights in the Sprint Cup cars will make things more challenging for every team in the series next year. Gilliland said during a Dec. 11 test that the cars should be faster in 2014, even after more than half of the series’ tracks had their qualifying records shattered.
Many changes NASCAR has proposed are in an attempt to create more passing during races.
“As you work on the car and it gets faster, you have to work on finding a balance,” he said of the potential increases in passing. “NASCAR is headed in the right direction, and they’re taking the steps to find that balance. I'm excited for next year.”