In 2010, Dave Gilliland said goodbye farewell to start and park teams after bouncing around severely underfunded teams in 2009. Since he has joined Front Row Motorsports, Gilliland has developed into a driver that has led a little team and created enthusiasm for a team owned by fast food entrepreneur, Bob Jenkins.
Last year, the California native finished a career-best 26th in points with the No. 38 team. However, the team has gone in the wrong direction this year. There are multiple variables that have thrown Front Row Motorsports a giant curveball, but none bigger than the aero changes which NASCAR enforced over the off-season.
“We are a little bit behind right now, but we are always looking to improve and hopefully our goal is to get to 25th in points,” Gilliland said in an exclusive interview with Speedway Digest on Saturday morning. “We are running all different springs, different ride heights, different sway bars – just different everything. Without testing, we are learning stuff as we go for what we need. We are just kind of learning on the fly.”
But it is more than just adjusting to the new parts and setups which the team needs to use. The organization is severely underfunded. Jenkins has notably funded the team out of his own pocket over the years, but they have been able to receive additional funding as they continue to have success.
“I think (we) just need funding and sponsorship really. We don’t have the budget that these other teams have, so with new partners and sponsorships comes resources and that would help a little bit,” Gilliland said.
And they have done just that. This year, Front Row Motorsports has had four different companies (not including those owned by Jenkins) aboard the No. 34 and No. 38 Fords. Moreover, besides qualifying well at Bristol, this small organization has struggled to run well during qualifying with the new format. Being that step or two behind has truly hurt the team Gilliland said. But there is hope for the organization as Gilliland says Front Row Motorsports is like family to him now.
“I wish we could put a little bit longer contracts together, but I understand Bob (Jenkins) and the entire team’s side of it. They are doing what they can do. I have a great relationship with our car owner, Bob, and we are like family. It is good to go to work for a company that you have that type of relationship with, and that is something special,” he said.
Though Gilliland has not started to discuss renewing his contract, he wants to stay with the organization. The results might not be what he wants, but with silly season starting to spark, Gilliland is expected to resign with the team. But this is nothing new for him as he has been working on one year deals for Front Row Motorsports since he signed on with the team due to the presence of a lack of funding.
“We haven’t really talked about it (contract negotiations) yet. We usually wait a little longer throughout the year. I like Front Row Motorsports, and I have been there for a long time. I have seen it progress and have been part of helping it get built and was a part of their first win at Talladega. I enjoy being a part of being a part of building the program.”
For Gilliland, a turning point in the team’s day-to-day operation would be completing an alliance with one of the larger teams – similar to what JTG Daugherty Racing and Germain Racing has done with Richard Childress Racing. Even though FRM receives Roush-Yates engines, that is about all they get. While Team Penske and Roush-Fenway Racing are doing their own thing, Ford has stepped up to give a helping hand to this little team.
Now, Gilliland’s son, Todd Gilliland, is starting his racing career. At 13-years-old, he won his first career Late Model event at Ace Speedway in North Carolina at the beginning of May. Not only was it huge victory, but it symbolized so much for the entire Gilliland family.
“It has been tough (to go focus on his career while working with his son), but it has been very enjoyable. He is a great racecar driver, and I think he has a really bright future ahead of him. We are obviously doing everything we can to help him and give him the best opportunities on and off the track. It is something that I love doing.”
Even though Gilliland was not present for his son’s victory, he has been able to guide him on and off the track. For the father-son combination, they are examples as to how great it is to have amazing moments with family. NASCAR’s latest “NASCAR with Dad” initiative does just that as fans can share pictures and stories about going to the track as a father/son combination.