A ring for a pole? Not a bad trade for Gilliland

A ring for a pole? Not a bad trade for Gilliland
Lee Spencer
By: Lee Spencer
Jul 5, 2014, 7:12 PM

David Gilliland hopes his luck continues in the Coke Zero 400

Talk about mixed blessings.

It’s not unusual for race car drivers to lose their wedding rings. Racers are notorious for taking off their bands, whether it’s prior to putting on their driving gloves, adjusting on the car, working out in the gym. Then one thing leads to another, and "Poof," it’s gone.

For David Gilliland, who is truly one of the good guys in the garage, losing his wedding ring happened purely by accident.

The Front Row Motorsports driver had spent the last week at the beach with wife Michelle and children Todd and Taylor. Early on, he felt the support of his fellow condo-dwellers.

But when Gilliland was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, he says “it felt like something was under my wedding ring”.

“I reached down to touch it and it popped off,” Gilliland said. “My daughter and all of us looked for it for about two hours in the ocean but that is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

It's not the first time Gilliland's wedding ring has gone missing. His original band was stolen.

David Gilliland celebrates his pole position
David Gilliland celebrates his pole position

Photo by: NASCAR Media

On Friday, however, his luck returned. Gilliland topped the speed chart in the first round of qualifying for the Coke Zero 400 with the No. 38 Love’s Travel Stop Ford. Then the rains came and Gilliland was declared the winner.

For the 38-year-old second generation racer from Riverside, Calif., it was his third career Cup pole and his second on the 2.5-mile track. In his debut at DIS, Gilliland won the pole for the 2007 Daytona 500.

After Gilliland’s accomplishment, his wife tweeted:

While most wives might be furious, @MrsDGilly gets it. She later replied on Twitter, “I guess we will see (on Saturday) how "bad luck" the ring really was.”

The Gillilands have reason to be optimistic. Speedway races have always been wild cards on the schedule due to the unpredictable nature of the racing. Last year Gilliland’s teammate David Ragan proved just that by winning the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway. Under this year’s new qualifying rules for the Chase to the Sprint Cup, Ragan most likely would have earned one of the coveted 16 spots in the play-offs.

Victory lane: race winner David Ragan, Frontrow Motorsports Ford
Victory lane: race winner David Ragan, Frontrow Motorsports Ford

Photo by: Getty Images

Gilliland, who pushed Ragan to first victory for FRM, knows on Saturday at Daytona that winner can just as easily be him.

“Front Row Motorsports, our strong point is definitely speedway racing,” Gilliland said. “It is something that is circled on our calendar from the star of the year. We put a lot of emphasis on it. We have good speedway cars. The restrictor plate tracks are a good equalizer. David Ragan and I both have cars good enough to win and that is an exciting feeling. It is something myself and my teammate don’t have every week. We would like to have that but we don’t. We are looking forward to it.

“Starting from the pole and having the number one pit stall will help and having early track position, all of that is going to help. Love’s Travel Shop, their partnership with us this year I am really proud of and proud to be here with them starting on the pole with me.”

David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports Ford
David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports Ford

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Gilliland says the pole is a huge morale builder for the Bob Jenkins-owned team. His crew chief Frank Kerr worked overtime on the car for Daytona and with the power of the Roush Yates engines, “it has a lot of speed”. For Kerr, the strategy is simple, “Stay up front all day and lead as much as we can.”

And if Gilliland can win on Saturday - what would be his first career Cup victory – he might even be able to afford a new ring.

“I got the ring two years ago when Michelle and I renewed our vows in St. Maarten for our 15th anniversary – and I had never taken it off,” Gilliland told Motorsport.com. “It’s ceramic, so it might be difficult to find a replacement, but I’m working on it.”

NOTE: Three generations of Gillilands - Butch, David and Todd - will race against each other in Super Late Models at the legendary Irwindale Speedway on July 19th – the site of David’s first asphalt win. For David, it will also be the first time he’s competed against his 14-year-old son Todd. “All of our family still lives out there, so it should be a lot of fun,” David said. Butch Gilliland won the 1997 Winston West title (now the K&N Pro Series) and posted 15 career victories on that tour.

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