Todd Gilliland hopes to ‘carry the torch’ at Front Row

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 11: Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 gener8tor Ford, prepares to qualify for the the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2024 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

When Front Row Motorsports mainstay Michael McDowell announced earlier this week that he was leaving the organization after seven seasons, it took teammate Todd Gilliland by surprise.

“Part of me is surprised he’s leaving, just because—same as you guys see—he’s been there a long time, and he’s really built the organization up into what it is today, in my opinion,” Gilliland said on Saturday at Darlington Raceway. “He’s been a huge part of that.

“Yes, I am surprised he’s leaving, but at the same time, he’s been doing so well you have to think there’s going to be opportunities. So, yes, I’m definitely sad to see him go just based on how much his does, his leadership within the team.”

McDowell’s exit to Spire Motorsports potentially thrusts Gilliland into a leadership role at Front Row, where his father, David Gilliland, drove for six full seasons.

“I did some interview where I said hopefully I can take the torch where I can do the leadership deal, and I joked at the moment (to McDowell), ‘I didn’t want it to be this soon—you didn’t need to leave this early.’”

Before he can assume a leadership position at Front Row, however, Gilliland has to have a deal in place for next season. Team owner Bob Jenkins operates on a year-to-year basis, and one of the reasons the 2021 Daytona 500 winner chose was the offer of a longer-term deal with Spire.