David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Ford Fusion, was the highest qualifying Ford for tomorrow's Dickies 500. Gilliland will start seventh and is hoping to improve on a career-best 15th-place finish, which he has achieved twice (Talladega...
David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Ford Fusion, was the highest qualifying Ford for tomorrow's Dickies 500. Gilliland will start seventh and is hoping to improve on a career-best 15th-place finish, which he has achieved twice (Talladega and Atlanta). He, along with crew chief Todd Parrott, spoke about the team's progress since Gilliland got behind the wheel in August at Michigan.
DAVID GILLILAND - No. 38 M&M's Ford Fusion
YOU MUST BE FEELING PRETTY OPTIMISTIC AFTER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. "Yeah. We had a great test at Homestead and really learned a lot front-end wise on what I need and what I like in the car and it's been great. I expect it to transfer for the rest of the year and all of next year. In my opinion, I found a feel that I need in these cars to go fast and in the last two weeks it's really paid off."
YOU'VE FINISHED 15TH TWICE AND THAT'S YOUR BEST FINISH. DO YOU FEEL THAT'S WHAT YOUR TEAM IS CAPABLE OF THESE LAST THREE RACES? "Absolutely. Last week we were on our way to a top 10 for sure and we had a flat tire under green with about 80 laps to go. That was a heartbreaker, but we were able to go back and work our way back up to 15th, which I think shows a lot for our team. It's real exciting. With testing the way it is it's so hard for someone new to come in and just start racing these tracks on these tires. Everyone says, 'Have you gone to Kentucky or whatever,' but you still can't race on the tires that you're racing on, so the Homestead test really helped out a lot and I'm looking forward to next year to be able to be part of all the tests and complete our notebooks."
YOU'VE MADE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO GIVE OTHER GUYS ROOM ON THE TRACK. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? "I've won a lot of races and I know how it is to race guys that aren't in contention to win. When it's not your day, it's not your day. When it is your day, you'll be able to take advantage of it and bring home a good finish if the guys will give you a little bit of room out there. It just makes it easier. It makes it easier for them and makes it easier for us when we have a good day."
DOES THAT HELP AS FAR AS GAINING THE CONFIDENCE OF YOUR COMPETITORS THAT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING WRONG? "Yeah, I think so. Last week at Atlanta we had the best car we've had and passing guys wasn't hard at all. They gave me room when I needed it, just like I gave them room earlier in the year when I started. It all comes back. You're racing these guys every week, so you've just got to remember that."
BUT THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN GIVING GUYS ROOM AND CHALLENGING THEM FOR A SPOT, RIGHT? "You've just got to go by feel and how the car is working at the time. There's a lot of stuff that goes into it, like what lap it is, but sometimes it's like walking a tight-rope, especially coming in as the new guy here. We want to stay here for a long time and to do that you just have to be careful and smart."
FROM A PERSONALITY STANDPOINT IS THIS HARD FOR YOU TO GET THIS EXPERIENCE AND FOR IT TO TAKE THIS MUCH TIME? "I've never struggled like we have here at the beginning of this deal, but I've never raced in a series as competitive as this either. I feel like we've made great progress as a team, and I feel like we're not done making progress. We've been getting better and better each week. This week we're the fastest qualifying Ford in qualifying and in practice too, so I feel we're making progress. Doug and Robert, you can see their attitude is changing and they have smiles on their faces. Our Busch program is coming along good and I feel like we're definitely headed in the right direction as a team."
TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief - No. 38 M&M'S Ford Fusion
HOW WOULD YOU SAY THINGS ARE GOING NOW? "You take a guy that, to me, is as green as he is as a rookie, and coming into a big boy sport like this, is really tough. Even with years of experience it's a tough sport, so to be put in the position that he was put in -- to come and drive at Robert Yates Racing and with an elite sponsor like M&M's -- is asking a lot. There's nothing wrong with this race team. It's just gonna take time to get it built back up. It's no different than Richard Childress Racing and what those guys have done. David's done a great job, but it's just gonna take time for him to get used to these cars, with very little spoiler and a whole lot of horsepower, to get the feel that he's looking for. Our communication gets better each week. As a group our team gets better each week and our cars are getting better. The progress is definitely showing. We've run really well at a lot of places and just haven't had the finishes. I look back at Bristol, we had a good car but he just made a rookie mistake. He hit the apron and got in the wall, and at other places the same thing has happened. I keep hearing him talk about the Homestead test and he's probably right. We went to Homestead and tested and with the way testing is now, unless you go to these other places like Nashville and Kentucky and test, it's hard to get ahead. Our main goal is I want to get cars built as far as from a people and personnel standpoint, so I really haven't been in a position to go to all those different places, so the Homestead test was really big for us. We learned a lot of things. We got to run for two solid days and made changes to the cars to address the things that David liked to feel, so we've just gotten better."
HAVE YOU BEEN LIKE A JOCKEY IN THE SENSE THAT YOU START OUT WITH THE REIGNS BEING KIND OF TIGHT AND THEN LOOSEN THEM AS TIME GOES ON? "Yeah. The first few races we tore race cars up and the reigns were tight. Even now there's a feeling that we have to ease into this thing. We have to get walking before we can start running, but he's got a lot of talent. Like last week at Atlanta. It was after practice and he said, 'Man, this place is definitely different.' I said, 'Yeah, everyplace you go to is gonna be different.' We were talking about Jeff Gordon and how well he runs there, but I had to point out to him that Jeff has run about 450 races and that was his first time there. To run like we did last week at Atlanta, we had a race car that I felt was capable of winning the race. We had a flat tire, but he was as fast as Tony. Still, it was a solid top 10 car and as we're building for next year. If we can finish in the top 15, I think that's really big for someone to come in at his level and jump into this car. I think that would say a lot."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE ON SCHEDULE AS FAR AS BEING PREPARED FOR '07? "Yeah, absolutely. The biggest thing we're behind on is the car of tomorrow stuff, but we're not the only ones. The rules aren't set in stone. There are still things up in the air, so nobody really knows what to expect there. NASCAR is still working through it, so far as that part of it goes, yeah, we're a little bit behind, but we're building cars and stuff for the mile-and-a-half tracks for next year and with the progress we've made in the last three or four weeks, I would say we're looking pretty good."
-credit: ford racing