The sports world is abuzz this week as college basketball kicks off "March Madness" on the hardwood. But David Gilliland is ready for NASCAR's version of "March Madness" - on concrete.
The Sprint Cup Series runs its first short-track race of the 2012 season this weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where the tempers always seem to be as short as the laps. The driver of the No. 38 Taco Bell Ford has a history of speed on the .533-mile oval. Gilliland is also among the top 10 Sprint Cup Series "closers" at Bristol - drivers who improve the most positions in the final laps of a race. He ranks seventh in the closer ranks over the past 14 races at the track.
Sunday's Food City 500 will be Gilliland's 12th Cup career start at the action-packed oval. He has one top-10 finish - a career-best 9th-place finish in 2008.
Comments from Taco Bell team driver David Gilliland going to Bristol:
"Bristol is one of those races that you circle on the schedule. You always get excited about going there. Everybody's talking about 'March Madness' this week. Well, I'll tell you what, Bristol is NASCAR's version of March Madness. It's always high action, high stakes and lots of pushing and shoving. I can't wait. I always look forward to going.
"It can be a tough track, but my new crew chief, Pat Tryson, has been doing this for 15 years or so, so he brings a ton of experience to our team. He's actually won at Bristol before. So, I'm looking forward to getting in the car on Friday and working with him to see how fast we can be.
"You have to go to Bristol with confidence or it will eat you up. I'm fortunate that I raced at a similar track, Mesa Marin (California), earlier in my career before I got to the Cup series. So, even when I first came to Bristol, it felt familiar. Having that comfort level, having good success in the past, having a winning crew chief on the pit box - all those things help with confidence.
"I'm definitely ready to shorten things up. Last week at Las Vegas, our car just was not happy. We know that the mile-and-a-half's are not our strongest tracks, and that race especially wound up being a very long day. So, I think a weekend at Bristol is just what the doctor ordered."