David Gilliland, driver of the No. 34 Taco Bell Ford Fusion, had the best finish in Front Row Motorsports history last week when he finished third in the Daytona 500. Gilliland spoke to reporters about that accomplishment and his hopes for this weekend in the PIR infield media center before Friday's practice.
WHAT DOES A FINISH LIKE DAYTONA DO FOR YOU AND THE TEAM? "It was a huge day for myself and Front Row Motorsports - confidence for me, confidence for our team, the guys. Walking in the garage Jeff Gordon came up to me and said, 'Hey, great job,' and other drivers and stuff, so it's something that at Front Row Motorsports last year, we weren't nearly as competitive as we'd like to be, but we feel like we've taken some big steps over the winter to be more competitive and I think that was a great first stop. Now, we've got to back it up this week and continue to build. Momentum is a big thing in this sport and our guys, everybody's attitude in the shop, I went in there everyday this week and everybody is kind of high-stepping and excited. They've got the fire in their eyes and ready to go again. I'm excited about it. I'm excited to come back here to Phoenix. This is a track where I've had a lot of success in other series, and we've got much better race cars than we had last year, so I'm looking forward to trying to carry the momentum."
HOW DO YOU EVALUATE YOUR CAREER AS A WHOLE? DO YOU STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE? "It's definitely been a rollercoaster ride. Coming into the series with Robert Yates Racing, we had a great opportunity there, but when I went over there Elliott Sadler was leaving and Dale Jarrett was leaving and the place was kind of on a downhill swing. We tried our best to try and get it going back up, but just couldn't do it. I feel like I'm ready. I feel like I'm the best driver I've ever been right now and feel like we're ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes our way. We're gonna make the most of everything we've got at Front Row Motorsports. Bob Jenkins, we're definitely not the highest funded team out here, probably one of the lower funded teams, but we've got great equipment and great motors this year and we're gonna make the most of it. My goal is to win in the Cup Series. I've won in every other series I've raced in and finished second in the Cup Series, so we've been close, but just got a little bit to go. I want to win and, hopefully, if not this year, hopefully, we can create some other opportunities to get into a situation where we can win, but I feel good about our chances."
IS THIS THE REAL START TO THE SEASON? "They give points for last week, but it's just a different kind of racing. There are four of those races in our season and it's a different kind of racing. It was different this year than it's ever been, but, yeah, I think so. I think this is the start. Next week at Vegas, those are the most type of tracks that we race on, the mile-and-a-half stuff. I feel like those are where we really need to concentrate on, but definitely this is just a different kind of racing. I kind of have mixed feelings about it, but as far as the way your cars are gonna drive here is gonna transfer onto more races throughout the season than last week for sure."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE COMMUNICATION WITH THE TWO-CAR DRAFT LAST WEEK? "I tell everybody how weird it was because in that race you had to rely on somebody else. It's kind of weird to rely on one of your competitors that you're trying to beat, and you have to. It's not like, 'Yeah, we'll do this.' You have to do it in order to get to the front, so that was kind of weird. The communication, we've got some work to do on our radios where we can talk to other people, so it's definitely a different kind of racing, but it wasn't too bad. I think definitely at every speedway race from here on out you're gonna see that. I think you would have seen it before if people knew how to do it better, but, now, learning how to back up and get connected and go, and how much faster it is, that's just the type of racing you're gonna see. But I think the race on Sunday was definitely more exciting than I thought it was gonna be. In the past at like Talladega, if you remember when they first repaved it, it was just a single-file line for 60-70-80 laps and everybody was kind of bored with that, and it wasn't that way this year. For as bad as I thought it was gonna be, the race ended up, from people that I talked to that watched it, very exciting."
IS YOUR SON STILL IN RACING? "Yeah, he's racing quarter midgets. He enjoys it. It's what he wants to do. I'm trying to encourage him to try other stuff and make sure it's really what he wants to do, but it's just so hard with our schedule to be able to do it and have him race the way I'd like him to, but he does. He races, not as much as I'd like to or he'd like to, but he does a good job. He just needs to race more often. I'm kind of up in the air right now. He's gonna be 11 this year and I'm kind of up in the air of whether to keep him in quarter midgets or try and move him on to something else. That is still what he wants to do."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SEASON NOW? "I said my goal as a realistic goal is to try and be in the top 20 in points. I feel like with the cars that we have, the motors we have, and what we have to work with at Front Row Motorsports, that's a realistic goal. Obviously, we'd like to set our goals higher, but with what we have to work with, I think that's the parameters we're working in."
WHAT WAS THE ORIGIN OF THE CAR YOU RAN LAST WEEK? "It was one of the RPM cars. I don't know the exact history, but I know it was one of Kasey Kahne's cars that he drove last year and really liked, so that's what I'm saying. We've got some great cars. They're not new cars. We're not building new cars every week like Hendrick, Gibbs and Roush, but the step that we've taken by getting those cars, compared to what we had last year, we're light years ahead of where we were, so we're still maybe not on the exact same platform, but we're definitely many steps closer."
ARE YOU RUNNING THE FR9? "Yeah, we're running the new FR9 engines all year, so that's another thing different from last year. Bob has stepped up our engine program this year with Roush Yates and I think that's gonna help us more than anything."
HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT TO RACE WITH YOUR SON? "The quarter midget racing is actually pretty expensive. For me, to do it and have him race a full season, I have a full-time guy that works for me. I have a race shop that he's got to work out of and you've got to have a trailer and a truck to go. It's expensive, and the cars. We just bought a new quarter midget last year and I think it was something like $12,000 and that's with a three-horsepower Honda engine, but it's got a carbon fiber body, titanium axles. Speed costs money and how fast do you want to go. It's the same thing we're up against here. It's an expensive deal."
-source: ford racing