As the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team enters the second half of the season, David Gilliland is looking forward to rewriting his own history at one of racing's most historic tracks. He has just three starts at the Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway and two top-20 finishes, but as the team continues to elevate its performance level, Gilliland feels better about his chances at collecting his best finish yet at the two-and-a-half-mile speedway known as the "Brickyard."
Some of the biggest and best moments in motorsports history occurred at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Gilliland has his own memories from the track. He attended the very first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the speedway back in 1994 with his father, 1997 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Butch Gilliland, making his return visits to the track even more nostalgic.
"I think just the history of the Brickyard is what makes it so special. I remember the first time I ever went to the track was with my dad in 1994 for the inaugural Sprint Cup race. My dad wasn't racing, actually, but we went to try to help a friend of ours try to make the race. Just going through the museum, seeing the bricks on the start-finish line and just thinking about all of the history and everything that has happened at that track is cool. And to be able to do that with my father makes it even more special. He was racing a lot and I just loved being around it. Then, just to go to Indy with him, that is something I'll never forget.
"And at that time, for stock cars to be racing there was something unheard of. Growing up, I don't think my father or I ever thought we were going to see that day. Growing up on the west coast, anywhere really, Indy was about Foyt, Unser and Andretti. And being west coast guys, the Unsers were big names. We really didn't think names like Wallace or Earnhardt were ever going to be a part of Indy. Then, here we were working in the same garages as these guys. It's cool, too, because I can bring my family and my son, Todd. We can have that same experience. Some people are giving this race a hard time, but this is still Indy and it's always special.
"Racing there, it's pretty cool. It's a unique track and different than anything else we race on. It's a challenge with the fast speeds and flat turns. But, we feel good about the car we are taking there. We have been better at some of the tracks where handling makes a big difference and that's helping us.
"I think the first half of our season has been pretty good. I think as a company, Front Row Motorsports, I feel like we have really elevated our performance level from where we were last year. At the same time, I think we still have a ways to go. Our whole team and Peter (crew chief Peter Sospenzo) and I are all striving to be more competitive each and every week we unload.
"We're not quite there yet, but I definitely feel like we've taken some huge steps from where we were last year if you compare the first half of each season. I feel like we are heading in the right direction, but without a huge sponsor behind us it's hard to take those steps as fast as we'd like. We're definitely ahead of where we were last year and that's a plus.
"Two weeks ago at Loudon was a good example. We've never been all that great at flat tracks, and we actually struggled with our set-up through practice and qualifying. But we didn't give up and kept working at it. Peter and the guys made some really smart changes for race day and made our car better. And through pit strategy and just by continuing to work on the car, we came away with a top-25 finish. Maybe a year ago, we would've been 35th. But we've learned a lot and are applying what we've learned to help our race result."
Front Row Motorsports PR