Despite having to go to a back-up car in the Can-Am Duels and overcoming an early incident, the veteran driver gave Ricky Benton Racing a 14th-place finish in its first entry in the Daytona 500.
Veteran car owner Ricky Benton, who has fielded a truck with 79 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2010, entered the 500 for the first time with Gilliland behind the wheel of the No. 92 Black’s Tire Service/Carquest Auto Parts Ford.
Benton was happy with how his small team responded throughout the weekend.
“I can't say enough about the job David did in the Daytona 500,” said Benton. “He ran a smart race based on what we knew would happen as the race progressed and put us in a position to have a great finish.
“This team is truly amazing. When we got wrecked in the Duel, no one panicked. (Crew chief) Mike (Hester) got a plan together and within minutes of the primary car being dropped off the rollback, the guys were working to get what we needed off of it, had the backup off the hauler and were making the switchover.
“They essentially built a new car, at the track, in a day.”
Although his team is made up of mostly part-time and volunteer crew members, the group worked throughout the weekend to get the back-up car ready for the race.
“I am incredibly proud of everyone's effort and can't thank them enough for their work,” added Benton. “Also, very appreciative of everyone at Black's Tire, Carquest, Valvoline, Goodyear and Highland Construction for going racing with us and making this dream come true.”
Gilliland, who also came close to winning the Truck Series season opener on Friday night driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, said it felt good to get behind the wheel of a Cup car for the first time since 2016.
“After getting wrecked in the qualifying race, Mike (Hester) and the team did a great job of getting the back-up put together in a crunch,” Gilliland said. “As soon as we were able to get back on track in Saturday's practice, I knew we had a better car than the one we started with and that is a testament to what this team can do.
“We were not able to run many practice laps - and none in the draft - so the car didn't quite have the feel we wanted at the start of the race, but Mike made some good adjustments and made the car better as the race went along.
“With it being RBR's first race in Cup, our goal was to finish the race. To be able to finish in 14th without a scratch on the car was a great day for these guys and I am proud to have been a part of it.”