STATESVILLE, N.C. - Short tracks like Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway are among the race venues that David Gilliland circles on his calendar. The Front Row Motorsports driver has shown that his team can be competitive at the high-banked, action-packed track, and he expects no different for this week's Irwin Tools Night Race.
As Gilliland prepares for one of the biggest races of the season, he's also preparing for a new stage in his job as a dad. His 13-year-old son, Todd, tested his first late-model stock car last week, a moment that the elder Gilliland compared to watching his son take his first steps as a baby.
Todd wrapped up a successful quarter midget racing career this summer and is now following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Butch, into the world of stock car racing. He's expected to compete in his first race in September.
Comments from Dockside Logistics team driver David Gilliland about Bristol and his son's first time in a stock car:
"Bristol is a great racetrack. I really enjoy going there, and I've enjoyed all the configurations, no one more than the next. The last race went well, even though I don't think they got exactly what they were looking for when they ground it. It's just a fun place to race.
"We feel confident going back as a team. It's one of our better racetracks as a team and as an organization. I feel like with the cars we have to take there, we have a very good chance of going there and being very competitive. (Crew chief) Frank (Kerr) and I and everyone at Front Row Motorsports are really looking forward to going to Bristol.
"For us, it seems like our cars run better on the higher-banked tracks. They're kind of an equalizer for us. We've always seemed to run well there, and it's a racetrack that reminds me of a track I had a lot of success on out in California, Mesa Marin Raceway, which is not there anymore. I always think of that track when we go to Bristol, and I look forward to going there every time.
"Racing under the lights at Bristol, to me, is like no other place we go. Just because all the fans, with the stands the way they are, everybody is just right on top of you. It's just an experience that is second to none.
"My son, Todd, just did his first late model test last week. He's moving up from quarter midgets. He's only 13, but we've been practicing in my car up and down the driveway. We tested a late-model stock car last Wednesday at Hickory Motor Speedway, and he did incredible. I can't believe it. He ran basically the same speeds that I ran shaking it down, and it was his first time ever in a stock car. It was a little scary.
"I don't know how he picked it up so fast. But he did a great job, and I'm proud of him. We're going to go test some more and hopefully have his first race around September 28 at Hickory.
"When he first got in the car and took off and let the clutch out and grabbed second gear, I felt like when he was a baby, watching him take his first steps and walking away. It was weird. I was a hundred times more nervous than (wife) Michelle. She was at ease because she felt like he was hundreds times safer in the stock car than the quarter midget. He did a great job."
Front Row Motorsports