Countdown to the Showdown: David Gilliland spotlight

Countdown To The Showdown: David Gilliland Ready To Take on NASCAR Grand National Division Stars DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 23, 2004) -- The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, slated for Nov. 11-13 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, is designed to...

Countdown To The Showdown: David Gilliland Ready To Take on NASCAR Grand National Division Stars

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 23, 2004) -- The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, slated for Nov. 11-13 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, is designed to showcase NASCAR's regional racing series competitors to a national audience -- a one-time chance to see NASCAR's future stars before they break into the top echelons of the sport.

This special invitational event highlights two divisions -- the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and the NASCAR Grand National Division -- which work in concert to provide a career path for regional racers aspiring to compete in NASCAR's national series. The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, which encompasses four Late Model series, serves as the first step, followed by the Grand National Division, which is designed to be the final training ground for drivers bound towards the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series or NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

David Gilliland, of Riverside, Calif., has taken full advantage of NASCAR's system. He began his driving career in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series at Irwindale and competed in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series before tackling the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series in 2004. During his stint in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Gilliland won three Southwest Series events at Irwindale and placed third in last year's inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown. Currently, Gilliland is the leading Auto Meter rookie of the year contender in the West Series and he's looking forward to taking on the country's top regional racers once again.

"I thought last year's event was great," said Gilliland. "The race format was good and the live TV was good for all the racers. At the levels we're at, it's important to try and get some exposure. I think that only good things can come from it."

Although he watched last year's Grand National portion of the Toyota All-Star Showdown from the sidelines, he took plenty of mental notes. Gilliland, 28, has a history with the division he now drives in -- he was the crew chief when his father, Butch, won the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series championship in 1997.

Gilliland, along with the rest of the crowd in attendance and a national audience on SPEED Channel, certainly noticed the unexpected success of the Busch North Series drivers on this unfamiliar turf. The "visiting" Busch North Series drivers claimed eight of the top-10 finishing positions in the 125-lap Grand National Division race.

"I was surprised last year that the Busch North guys came out here and did so well," said Gilliland. "They adapted really quickly to the track and did really well. It was a great race -- it was good competition and I think it'll be even better this year. I'm really looking forward to it."

As for his future, Gilliland has done all he can to showcase his skills. Along with the Southwest Series success at Irwindale and other tracks, Gilliland won his first West Series event March 27 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif.

"We're hoping something will happen to take us to the next level," said Gilliland."At the Toyota All-Star Showdown, you're bringing the highest ranked drivers from across the United States to one place, to race against one another. It gives you an opportunity to shine against the best of the best."

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

Where: Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway

When: Nov. 11-13, 2004

Who: Top 10 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division drivers from four series -- Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. ... Top 15 NASCAR Grand National Division drivers from two series -- Busch North Series and West Series.

TV: SPEED Channel

Posted awards: $500,000.

Track layout: Half-mile oval

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers David Gilliland