Todd Gilliland Hasn’t Been Flashy but Has Done Enough to Keep His Front Row Motorsports Ride

Todd Gilliland accomplished several firsts in his NASCAR Cup Series career Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that validated the improvement and consistency that could make him the first driver to keep the No. 38 ride for consecutive years since David Ragan retired after the 2019 season.

Gilliland, a 22-year-old Cup Series rookie, had a fantastic weekend from beginning to end at IMS. He reached the final round of qualifying and started the race a career-best ninth. He finished sixth in Stage 1, had an average running position of 14th, led the first four laps of his Cup Series career, and finished in fourth for his first career top-five.

Todd Gilliland hasn’t had a flashy rookie season but has been consistent

He accomplished all that while surreptitiously navigating a myriad of wrecks that created a 

borderline ridiculous race in terms of how drivers approached the race track and their fellow competitors.

Regardless, the best race of Gilliland’s rookie season in the Cup Series gave him a highlight to a campaign that has been a struggle overall, but also one that has provided moments of promise for him and his Front Row Motorsports team.

Gilliland is currently 28th in the points standings, but he reached the final qualifying round of the spring race at Martinsville Speedway and began that race in 10th. He worked his way from a 30th-place start to 16th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after a 15th-place result two weeks prior at Darlington Raceway.

He also finished 17th in July at Atlanta Motor Speedway after he ran as high as second during that event. Plus, the only races he has not completed were the first three superspeedway-style races on the schedule, and bad luck often factors heavily into whether or not a driver is involved in a wreck during those races.

Gilliland spent the first five years of his NASCAR career in the Camping World Truck Series

Before this season, Gilliland had not previously run a NASCAR race in either of the sport’s two highest levels, but he had already run parts of five seasons in the Camping World Truck Series before making the jump. It was also a Truck Series career that featured many ups and downs in a short time.

Gilliland began his career with Kyle Busch Motorsports, one of the Truck Series’s premier organizations. KBM has a pair of Truck Series championships and had placed a driver in the Championship 4 in each of the three seasons before Gilliland hopped on board for six races in 2017.

His first full-time season of 2018 was rocky. He managed a pole award and four top-fives but finished 10th in the final points standings. Gilliland won his first career race in the fall of 2019 at Martinsville but spouted off about Busch on the radio after he crossed the finish line.

“Kyle Busch, you can stay in your (expletive) motorhome,” Gilliland said during his cool-down lap.

That came after Busch had openly criticized Gilliland earlier in the season.

“I don’t know how many times (in 2018) we were in meetings, and I was just yelling at him about ‘Let’s go.’ Our stuff is not that slow,” Busch said. “You got to get up on top of the wheel and make it happen.”

Not surprisingly, that relationship did not last much longer. Gilliland moved to FRM to drive the No. 38 truck for 2020 and essentially matched the stats he had produced at KBM despite a disparity in the amount of resources between the two organizations.

Gilliland then won in the No. 38 truck in 2021 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and finished a career-best seventh in the points standings.

Gilliland has driven the No. 38 to heights not seen since his dad piloted the car

Todd Gilliland ahead of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400
Todd Gilliland waves to fans onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 26, 2022 | Logan Riely/Getty Images

That led to his current Cup Series opportunity with FRM, the same team his father, David Gilliland, ended his full-time career with in 2015.

In fact, Todd’s fourth-place finish at IMS was only the second top-five for the No. 38 FRM car and the first since David Gilliland ran second to his teammate Ragan in the 2013 spring race at Talladega Superspeedway.

FRM has cycled through a different driver each season since Ragan retired. John Hunter Nemechek, who ironically now drives Gilliland’s old No. 4 truck for KBM, ran the 2020 season in the No. 38, and Anthony Alfredo drove it in 2021.

They finished 27th and 30th in the points standings, respectively, so Gilliland’s current 28th-place spot is in line with the typical performance of that team. The No. 38 team has never finished higher than 25th in the standings.

Gilliland has shown enough potential to eventually be able to elevate the No. 38 team if he has enough time to grow into the role, especially with his success on road courses where he could possibly steal a win and, therefore, a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs.

It’s time for the organization to give him that chance.

All stats courtesy of Racing Reference

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