Ford Performance – Todd Gilliland Martinsville 1 Transcript

Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 Gener8tor Skills Ford Mustang, builds momentum into Martinsville Speedway following his best finish of the season so far – eighth on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway. Gilliland, a 2019 Martinsville winner in the Truck series, has two top-10 performances this year (Bristol Dirt, 8th; Circuit of The Americas, 10th). He will be making his 45th Cup series start in his sophomore season.

TODD GILLILAND, No. 38 Gener8tor Skills Ford Mustang – YOU’VE HAD TWO TOP-10 FINISHES IN THE LAST THREE RACES. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SOME MOMENTUM GOING INTO MARTINSVILLE? “I think the last four weeks in general have been a big confidence booster. I was kind of joking with my crew chief about how fast my expectations have changed. Like I was actually kind of disappointed after Bristol, because I felt like we were  few changes away from contending in the top-five… kind of top-three area. Definitely, overall, really confident – especially going into Martinsville, which is one of my favorite race tracks. I see no reason why we can’t keep this momentum rolling.”


YOU HAVE THE MARTINSVILLE CLOCK STRATEGICALLY PLACED BEHIND YOU. THAT IS ONE OF THE MOST ICONIC TROPHIES IN THE SPORT. HOW DID THAT VICTORY FEEL, ALSO KNOWING THAT WAS GOING TO BE YOUR PRIZE? “It is… I actually didn’t do it on purpose. It’s right here in the living room. It’s a perfect place in my opinion. To me, especially, I think Martinsville has such a special place in my heart. I think I ran my first late model race there when I was 15 years-old. Growing up in late model stocks, to me, that was like the biggest race. Going to Martinsville then, I was really close. A second year I went there in late models, and then we always ran well there in the Trucks. So to finally be able to win one was so special. To me, it’s probably one of the coolest trophies out there – top-five coolest in the Cup series I’d say.”


AFTER YOUR FINISH ON BRISTOL DIRT, WHERE DO YOU STAND ON DIRT RACING IN THE SPORT? “I might be the unpopular opinion, but I’ve always loved it. I just feel like it’s so much fun. It’s definitely really tough… to see guys just spin-out on their own… I half spun-out on my own there in Stage 1… it’s very challenging. At some point, it’s maybe not the best look. But when you see the clips of the guys running three-wide for the lead during big slide-jobs, it’s just so much different than what we normally do. To me, it’s a really cool and fun departure from the norm. These cars aren’t probably made for dirt, but to me, they’ve been always so much fun to drive on dirt.”


HOW MUCH IMPROVEMENT HAVE YOU SEEN AT FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS FROM LAST YEAR? “Especially on my team, I think it has been really cool to see Ryan Bergenty take charge of our team – set expectations high, set the standard high for our team and guys. It’s been really cool to watch from the beginning of the season which didn’t go so well, seeing guys like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work’ or whatever to the last four weeks, which have been really, really good for my team. It’s been a lot of the same guys that have beaten down for years, and this Cup series is really tough. It can still happen just as easily this weekend. Just going to enjoy the good times, and it shows that the hard work is paying off.”


CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DYNAMIC BETWEEN YOU AND CREW CHIEF RYAN BERGENTY? “Anytime you get a new crew chief, it definitely takes a little bit of getting used to. He’s a really intense guy, from the Northeast. I always joke with him. He’s really intense, and comes from a modified background. It’s funny, I give him a hard time about that. But overall, it’s really hard to fake trusting and having confidence in each other. To me, I’m very thankful that we’ve had this stretch of races where I feel very confident in him. Hopefully, he feels the same with me. That’s really, really hard to get at the beginning of any relationship, just because you’re not on the same page to begin with and then things just maybe go separate ways. But, I feel very confident right now going to the racetrack with him and the team we have.”


HAS BEING YOUNG IN THE SERIES ADDED ANY STRESS? “I mean there was definitely some pressure when we were trying to find fill-in races. But, I don’t know. I was just thinking about that this morning, and I don’t really feel like I’ve prepared any differently or raced any differently at all. Our cars have been faster, and our communication has been better along the way. I think that’s racing in general – sometimes you can prepare as much as you can, but you’ll still run back, and other times you’ll feel a little bit underprepared but still go out and run fast. I’m just thankful for fast cars.”


BOTH YOUR TOP-10 FINISHES CAME FROM A WIDE-VARIETY OF TRACK CONFIGURATIONS – ONE AT A ROAD COURSE AND THE OTHER ON A DIRT SHORT TRACK. HAVE YOU ENJOYED THE TRACK DIVERSITY ON THE SCHEDULE SO FAR? “I think, for me, this is probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the schedule – for sure. It seems like the West Coast is sort of where you get your bearings of where the best teams are going to be, and from there, it’s really fun to go to Atlanta, COTA, to a short-track in Richmond – which I really love short tracks, because I grew up racing those. Love the road courses, and then the dirt race… for Front Row Motorsports, that’s where we kind of feel like we can go and compete well. We need to perform well at those races, because there are going to be other places where maybe we aren’t our best. I think it’s really good, but saying it and going out and doing it are two different things. It’s been really nice to see us be able to execute that. To me, I just love doing something different every week. If we ran mile-and-a-halfs every week, I’d be pretty bored out there.”


YOU SAID YOUR CARS ARE FASTER. CAN YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT TO ANYTHING FROM LAST YEAR, OR IS IT A COMBINATION OF JUST EXECUTING BETTER AND LESSONS LEARNED? “I don’t think there’s really one thing you can point it to. I think that’s racing in general, just all the small details of it. I think I’m definitely in a better place than I was at this point last year – just having a year under my belt of knowing what to expect, kind of managing the race better from start-to-finish. These short practices, I kind of know more of what I need, and I think the team does too. With a whole year of experience with the NextGen car, we can get to a better place. I think we’ve definitely been unloading faster, or just in a better place with a year of notes. I don’t think it’s one thing in particular. My crew chief is very detail oriented. He was the car chief on the No. 34 last year. All that stuff has been really good, to point us in a better direction.”


DOES IT FEEL LIKE YOU’VE ALREADY MADE SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS FROM LAST YEAR? “I think it does to me. I think you can pick-out this part of the schedule where we might be stronger than, say, another section. But I am still really proud that we’re able to go out there and do well. The road courses last year are where we were our best. So to get a good finish there [COTA]… I think over the duration of about a month now, we’ve been running way better than we did last year. Last year when we got these finishes, it was kind of random in my opinion – one week we’d show up and be good, and then the next week we’d be really bad. So, just to do it over four weeks against this kind of competition, in my opinion, shows a little bit of improvement.”


HOW MUCH OF A CATALYST HAS ZANE SMITH’S PRESENCE WITH THE TEAM BEEN? “I feel like the answer to that is that I’ve been really giving 100 percent, right? Truthfully, there’s always pressure. There’s always the next best guy coming up. So, I feel like there’s as much pressure last year as there is this year. I think this year it may be more publicized, because it’s all out there. But, there’s always going to be another guy trying to get in your car and do the better job. To me, it’s just nice to be able to come out and have a better year. You never know. You always try to just be better. I try to be better, and maybe subconsciously a little bit, I’ve been more focused. But honestly, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of the same stuff. Honestly, the Truck team helps just going out and winning races. It brings the whole morale up in the shop – that those are our standards and to be the best we can.”


WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THIS YEAR AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY? “I think Martinsville this year should be a little different with the lower downforce package that we’re running there. We’ll see. I think that has helped, and I feel like I’ve noticed more of a difference at Richmond than Phoenix. So, hopefully it’ll be a good race. I love short-track racing – it’s just what I grew up doing. Just beating and banging, I feel like you can do a lot more with the car. Should be a lot of fun. This race can usually go green and gets pretty strung out. So, it’s important to qualify well. I’d say that’s where most of my studying is going into right now, is trying to get a good qualifying lap. We see guys lock-up the left-front tire a lot in qualifying, so just getting a good starting spot can really set you up for the whole weekend.”

DOES THE SHORT TRACK PACKAGE COMPLIMENT YOUR DRIVING STYLE OR IS IT AN ADDED CHALLENGE? “It really hasn’t been a huge difference for just single-car, driving by yourself. I’d like to think it’s a little bit better in traffic, but for me, it honestly hasn’t been a huge difference. I’m hoping we can pass a little bit easier at Martinsville. It’s all directionally, the right way of taking grip away, and it’s pretty interesting with these cars. You can just downshift to fourth gear and pretty much map the gas. That just really shows how much grip these cars have. I’m sure it’ll be a little bit less than that, and that’ll be nice to hopefully get someone loose off the corner and be able to pass them. Maybe more separation within the field, but really, that’s what makes you able to pass is when someone’s slower by a couple tenths instead of a half-tenth which is actually common at Martinsville – the field is so tight. That’s what makes it so tough to pass.”


HOW DOES A DRIVER ADAPT WEEK-TO-WEEK WITH DRASTIC TRACK VARIATIONS – FROM SHORT-TRACKS TO SUPERSPEEDWAYS, ROAD COURSES TO DIRT? “I think last year at this time, it really threw me for more of a loop because you’re really preparing for one thing and then it’s completely different the next week. It seems like by the time you go to another road course, because COTA was just a couple weeks ago, it seems like it’s totally washed out of your memory because you’ve done so many different things since then. But for me, this year, I’ve been trying to plan ahead and be more prepared. My team and engineers have been giving me a lot more data to look at the week of the race. It’s been really good. We’ve been more prepared as a team, rather than kind of two separate entities of the driver and team doing different things. That’s been really nice, to keep everyone on the same page. It is still really tough, especially on the teams. They are preparing a superspeedway car right now and a short-track car at the same time. I’d say it’s more hard on them than me.”


HAS THERE BEEN A DEFINING MOMENT SO FAR THIS SEASON, WHERE YOU FEEL LIKE THINGS ARE CLICKING? “I don’t think there’s really been one moment that made me feel more confident. I think it’s, like anything and in sports, it’s a snowball of getting better and better. Sometimes it’s a little off and you lose a little bit of confidence, but you try to keep the ball rolling in the right direction. For me, we’ve really picked up momentum the last four weeks. So, the whole mood in the shop has been really good. It’s been really cool. It’s been giving me the opportunity to be more of a leader in the shop, just having better results to lift everyone up. And also, Michael [McDowell] has been doing just as well getting a top-10 also at Richmond. So, I’m just really proud of the whole team. They’ve been knocking out some fast cars. I always try to be mature and do the best I can in bringing the people up around me.”

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