Race Weekend Central

Todd Gilliland Discusses NASCAR Cup Rookie Season, Familial Racing & Front Row Transition

After making huge strides in his second season with Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (16 top-10 finishes, 10 top fives and a victory at Circuit of the Americas), Todd Gilliland subsequently made the jump straight to the Cup Series for 2022.

The now-22-year-old is with the same team, but the vehicle, competition level and much more have changed for Gilliland. Not only that, but Cup as a whole switched to the Next Gen car, adding yet another adjustment.

The son of NASCAR veteran David Gilliland has yet to record a top-10 finish this year, but has put together multiple top 20s — five in fact — through 13 races so far this season. His best Cup result of 15th came just two weeks ago at Darlington Raceway. Gilliland is a third-generation driver with father David and grandfather Butch, all three of whom have driven the No. 38 at some point or another.

Frontstretch caught up with Gilliland at Richmond Raceway in early April, where he discussed growing up in a racing family, his move to Cup, being one of the first Cup drivers born in the 21st century and more.

Adam Cheek, Frontstretch: What were the differences between your switch from Kyle Busch Motorsports to FRM in Trucks vs. your switch from Trucks to Cup with FRM?

Todd Gilliland: So I feel like the Trucks — like moving from KBM to Front Row — is honestly like a second chance. Obviously, we ran really bad at KBM, and it’s hard to get a second chance sometimes. So yeah, it was definitely super fortunate — Front Row’s able to start that Truck team, and they’re just gonna build it.

That was the coolest part for me too, […] I felt like I was a part of it, like we built it together. And then moving up to the Cup Series, like you said, is a different challenge, but it’s kind of cool to still be within the same shop. And I think just being there in the Trucks gave me a good head start of knowing some of the people, knowing how they go about business.

Cheek: You’re racing alongside a couple other rookies in Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. Do you guys have any sort of relationship because of that?

Gilliland: As far as the rookie deal goes, it’s really nice to have. I’m friends with Harrison. I don’t really know Cindric too much, but yeah, we’re going through the same stuff, so it’s really nice to be able to talk to each other. Our teams each have their own thing, but since we’re rookies, I feel like it’s almost less secretive because we’re just trying to figure things out on the fly.

Cheek: I just turned 24, so I feel old talking to you — you and Harrison were both born in the 21st century. What’s that experience been like?

Gilliland: It’s really cool. Like, I always [ask] people, ‘How was it in the 1900s?’ But it’s just cool. I feel like growing up, I was always one of the youngest ones always racing against guys. And then, after four or five years in the Truck Series, there were a lot of guys younger than me.

So it’s kind of weird, and now we’re kind of back to being the younger guy again. But it’s cool […] like I said, that’s kind of what I’ve been used to my whole life growing up.

Cheek: And David, your dad, has so much experience in all three of NASCAR’s series. How has he helped you along the way?

Gilliland: I feel like communication, it’s the biggest part of it he can help with. He’s been through it, he’s dealt with teams that maybe communicate better than others, and that’s the biggest thing. Hopefully, it can just give me a head start on trying to communicate what I need in the car. And then also just throughout the week of getting stuff better, to [the] next week, and then also just the schedule. He told me, ‘It’s a tough one,’ but I don’t think you ever really know till you’re out doing it yourself.

Cheek: And he was obviously with Front Row for a long time. Did his connection with the team help you at all in meeting them and getting that chance?

Gilliland: Yeah, I think just having him in racing has helped me with so many different connections. I think even just having a name that like people recognize, I feel like it’s given me such a good head start racing around the veterans of the Cup Series already. I feel like everyone’s racing me really good.

Definitely as far as connections, it’s like people answer the phone [personally] rather than, you know, someone else if you’re just kind of growing up and trying to get into it.

See also
Podcast: Michael McDowell on Next Gen Progress, F1's American Growth, NASCAR Race Lengths

Cheek: And with the move to Cup, you’re coming in at a time where you’re a rookie while Cup is using the Next Gen and everything. How much of a help was your dad in getting used to the level of competition and did he give you any advice?

Gilliland: I don’t feel like he really gave me too much advice. He knew it was gonna be tough, but no one really knows what to expect with the Next Gen car, so I think you have to have your open mindset. Like you have to be realistic but also kind of have high expectations, just because I think this is a good opportunity to be able to make a difference and just get better as a whole team. So I feel like that’s our biggest thing is [to] be realistic, but obviously striving to get a lot better.

Cheek: Going back to the age question, how do you put racing against Harrison as opposed to guys like Kevin Harvick, who were racing basically when you were born?

Gilliland: It is crazy. Like, even in the Truck Series, Matt Crafton‘s first full-time year was, like, 2000. That’s something you’re never gonna fully get over, is how much experience those guys have compared to you. So it’s just about making up as much as possible. But yeah, guys like that, just because they have so much experience, they can make your life really bad or get it on the racetrack, so you got to have them on your side for sure.

Cheek: How nice was it to make the transition to Cup with the same team, as opposed to changing environments entirely?

Gilliland: It is nice, like you said, the environment was pretty much the same — just being at the shop — but it is still really tough to learn a whole new team. It’s all different people, so it’s been good.

I think that’s part of life, you got to take the best from everyone around you, [and] you’re trying to get the best out of them also.

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via