Most people will remember the dramatic 1-2 finish where David Gilliland pushed teammate David Ragan to victory at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway earlier this year. But Gilliland and the No. 38 Long John Silver's team probably look at their improvement at the Sprint Cup Series' mile-and-a-half tracks as their biggest accomplishment in 2013.
Going into this weekend's race at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, the team is averaging a 25th-place finish at 1.5-milers, compared to a 29th-place average finish throughout 2012. The team also has more lead-lap finishes this year on intermediate tracks than one year ago.
Gilliland looks to show that continued progress in the series' season finale Sunday when he'll make his eighth career start at Homestead.
The No. 38 Ford Fusion will carry a decal for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society this race weekend. The Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by this unpredictable disease affecting the central nervous system. For those seeking more information about MS and the program services offered, they can visit www.nationalMSsociety.org and join the MS movement.
Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland heading to Homestead:
"Homestead is always a little different. It's always a unique race because the Chase is ending there, and guys have their championship hopes on the line. So, it's kind of a unique race in that aspect. But it's a great racetrack. I really enjoy racing there. It doesn't have a whole lot of banking, but it's fast. It's a fast mile-and-a-half. It reminds me of Pikes Peak (International Raceway), which I raced out in Colorado.
"We've had some success at Homestead. It's a place where you move around the racetrack a lot. There are a lot of grooves, a lot of different lines you can run. So, we're looking forward to going there. It's always a special weekend because my wife's birthday is that weekend. It's also a big race for Ford, so we'll be spending some time with some of the executives from Ford and we'll, of course, want to run well for them in the last race of the season. It loses a lot of grip every year we go down there. The Miami sun is pretty intense. It definitely loses more grip each year than any of the other racetracks we go to, I feel like.
"Obviously we want a good finish for the season. Right now we're in position for our best points finish since coming to Front Row Motorsports, so that's an important step to make. We made huge gains on our mile-and-a-half program this year. Tracks that we used to dread going to are now decent tracks for us. And obviously the 1-2 finish at Talladega in May was a high point of the year for us. This team has progressed every year and it's important to show our sponsors that so we can come back with an even stronger program next year.
"Our car will have a decal for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society this week. We have team members with loved ones affected by this disease and we wanted to show our support and raise some awareness among the NASCAR audience. And now we just heard that Trevor Bayne has been diagnosed with it, so we aren't the only team affected by it. We obviously wish him the best and expect he'll be on track rubbing fenders with us for a long time. Advances in treatments have come a long way and with more support, there might actually be a cure someday for everyone affected."