Front Row Motorsports press release
Gilliland Knows He Needs to Get in the Groove
Phoenix Is Like Home but New Configuration Poses Challenges
Statesville, N.C. (November 8, 2011) - David Gilliland is always comfortable going to Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. After all, the one-mile oval in the desert is one of the tracks he cut his racing teeth on. But the Kobalt Tools 500 race weekend will be his first trip to the track since it was reconfigured after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced there in February. The track has a new surface, new elevation changes and a change in the angle of the "dogleg" on the backstretch.
For the February race, the No. 34 team arrived in Phoenix with a strong car and high confidence after finishing third in the Daytona 500, but Gilliland's Ford Fusion suffered damage in a multi-car accident. He went on to finish 22nd.
In 11 total Sprint Cup starts, Gilliland has a top-15 and two top-20 finishes at the one-mile oval with a best result of 15th.
Comments from Front Row Motorsports driver David Gilliland heading into Phoenix:
"Phoenix is like a home track to me. I raced there a bunch back in the West Series and had a win where we started from the pole. So I love going there and feel comfortable going there. Of course, it's going to be different this time because they've reconfigured the track so it's going to be kind of like going to a whole new track.
"One of the things that everybody is saying is that there's only one groove on the new track. That's obviously going to make things even more challenging because it's going to make it that much harder to pass. I guess they've been bringing in some driving-school cars to run a bunch of laps around to rubber in a second groove before this weekend. Hopefully that will help. If not, it's going to be a fight to get into the bottom groove. Anybody up high is going to be hung out to dry.
"We came to Phoenix pretty confident last time (in February). We were coming off our third-place finish in the Daytona 500, we had a really good car and were really happy with it in practice. But we picked up some damage from a wreck that we got a little piece of and it really messed with the car and took away some our competitiveness. So, we're hoping this time we can go back, keep our nose clean and really have a good run at a place where we know we can run well.
"Phoenix is definitely close enough to home (Riverside, Calif.) that we'll have family and friends there. It's always cool going out west. It just gives you that feeling of being home. Like I said, I raced there in the West Series and also a little in Nationwide before moving up to the Cup Series. I always look forward to going back."