An ever more confident Todd Gilliland looking for more Sundays like Atlanta

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 25: Todd Gilliland (#38 Front Row Motorsports Georgia Peanuts Ford) leads a mid race restart during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 race on February 25, 2024 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


Tood Gilliland had never led more than 11 laps in 72 starts in his young NASCAR Cup series career.

That all changed Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Gilliland’s Front Row Motorsports actually started to get everyone’s attention at the season opening Daytona 500. Michael McDowell, former Daytona 500 winner, took the second starting spot for the sport’s biggest race. He would lead 6 laps before crashing out in the closing laps.

Gilliand meanwhile led 16 laps and was in the mix before he too was swept up in the same crash.

Fast forward to Saturday at Atlanta and Front Row again made some noise. McDowell scored his first career Cup pole while grabbed fourth.

In a chaotic race filled with several crashes, it was Gilliland who led the way for the team. In fact, he led the field for a race high 58 laps. That shattered his previous career high Cup series laps led record earned the week before at Daytona.

“My car was really fast,” Gilliland said. “We’ve shown that the last couple of weeks. Just the progress from my team. Right at this moment, it definitely feels like a huge, missed opportunity. I lost some track position and got caught in the middle and then just got behind that wreck, which ultimately bent a toe link.”

Despite that damage Gilliland was racing inside the top 10 much of the rest of the race. A late race caution, however, proved to be his undoing. While the leaders elected to stay out, his crew brought him in for tires. As the field was coming back to the final green flag of the race, one of those tires flattened and he was forced to pit.

“I feel like I made a lot of good moves, but obviously the one at the end where it all counts I didn’t,” he said. “I’ll put the emphasis on a really fast car and my team did an amazing job. I just wish I could have done a little bit better at the end.”

Gilliand finished 26th.

“It felt really good,” he said of leading the race. “In my heart, I definitely believe that I can do it with those guys week in and week out. Our car was really fast. I was making really aggressive moves, but really in control the whole time. That’s what it takes is my confidence gets more and more, and hopefully those guys’ confidence around me gets better with every lap also.

“We’ve just got to keep doing that and hopefully the better runs will come more consistently and race up front with those guys more and more.”




Greg Engle