Ep. 114 | Todd Gilliland
Hey everyone welcome in the racing writers. Podcast I'm your host Kelly Crandall it is April six here on this Monday. Which means it's almost been a month since we have seen cars on the track. I hope you and your family friends are saying safe. Bring this unprecedented time and saying saying to. Hopefully I can help with that as the podcast rolls on this week. Todd Gill is back on the show driver of the number thirty eight front row motorsports Ford F one fifty in the truck series in this episode. We're going to hear about starting fresh with a new team and a new team and has also new truck series so todd reveals what his emotions were when this deal started to come together. Of course todd was pretty beat up last year for what was considered a lack of performance. Kyle Busch Motor sports which included missing the playoffs. Todd is going to share with us. How much weight on him. What it meant to finally get a win late in the year and Martinsville and whether twenty twenty can be the reset that he needs mentally. I found that really interesting that and more including what he's been up to during this racing hiatus and where he stands on this surgeon. Ira seeing interest. Let's get to it. Here's Todd Gillan. On the racing writers podcast. Let's not do that. Let's do this instead. It's all it's been. What a week or so since this whole thing started just in general. How are you staying busy? Todd during this unexpected racing hiatus what have you been up to pretty much the same stuff that you do not just hanging out going to shop as much as you can but eventually the my guys will have much more else tough to work on There's only so many parts so many trucks to put together so play video games. I did a whole puzzle site which was interesting very different from what I normally do. So just stay busy as best we can and having fun at the same time so it is something where you can treat it. Almost like mentally at. It is an off season so you would do kind of what you would do during the off season where you know. You're not going to be racing for the foreseeable future but be as prepared as you can mentally prepared things like that absolutely and this gives us me and my team a lot of time to prepare obviously does for everyone else too. So you can't take this as too much of a vacation can have to stay sharp and be ready because I don't think schedules come out yet. But when we go back. Racing Tim be incredibly busy. So you have to be prepared and ready for whatever comes next because no one really knows. Got To be ready for whatever and ready for anything. Well that was the next thing I wanted to ask before. We jump into some racing talk. Which is when we get a schedule. I would imagine for all three series if we don't cancel any races. It's going to be pretty tight schedule for you. Guys in the truck series are not necessarily used to that right. You're used to one or two races here. They are you ready for that. What could be a constant race after race after race? You thought about that yet. Yeah I think my team has to and that's like you said maybe we don't have enough trucks to do that but we have to be smart about the way we go about it so I feel like everyone will be in the same boat there. The trucks could definitely fit in a lot more races but the cup series is GonNa be crazy busy just because they don't have any off weekends so that's part of it though. I think we're all going to be kind of scrambling when that time comes but I think will be ready for you know we can turn around trucks pretty fast and I'm looking forward to it. I hope a busy summer of raising will be really fun once. This all blows over so two races in Daytona in Las Vegas. Do you have an idea after those two races kind of what this team is capable of? Yeah I've been actually really happy with the speed that we had at those first two races. Daytona. We're able to race are way up to the front and I feel like we put ourselves in position to win at the end And we're kind of in a wreck but that's Daytona all you can do position yourself so and then go into Vegas. We struggled so bad in practice and then no one gave up. We change to all four springs before the race and we're able to run up and second for a while and still. The truck wasn't driving exactly how I wanted to so I feel like the speed was really good. Felt comfortable like I could race. It really well. So hopefully that carries on and hopefully we can get our trucks a little bit faster by themselves. Wave qualified where we wanted to. But like. I said we've raised the well so just keep working on the little things you know. Build faster trucks every week. Yeah you Kinda hit on the good and the bad there the speed but want to drive a little bit better when you think about those two races though what stands out of things that you know you guys can do well and again. It might be a little tough because it's only been two races and two completely opposite races when you go from a superspeedway to las but are there things already that you saw in those races of okay. We can do this well. Yeah I think I'm just really proud of the team that we've built in general to the shark and working really hard. My pit crew was amazing Vegas. I gained like twenty spots altogether on pit road which they kept us in the race. And my spotter Komen Presley. He's the Best I've ever had and like I said just being able to gather all the information after practice and make an educated guess on what we needed to be really proud of the whole circle of of guys that it takes to put together a whole race. I feel like we put together a pretty solid race for like I said the truck not being the fast one there. You mentioned Coleman. Are you working with him for the first time or have you worked with him before those are together which is stands out that you think he'll be good with when it comes to you? I think he's just really good with the draft stuff like that the aerodynamic side from the sparse and he can see what's going on a lot more and he's helped me a ton with that. You know every spotter. That's part of their job. Now is is seeing that every week but I feel like he's just really taken it to the next level with me obviously haven't break his laskey. They work really hard every week in on Cup side and then he spots for awesome singer can xfinity too so I think a sponsor for good guys every single week. That's three chances three times the experience so he sees a lot throughout the weekend and that experience has helped me a ton. Brad seems very complimentary of the job. Coleman does so if a cup champion is saying that you should be in good hands. That's always the goal. I think they teach each other and learn off each other. So change is scary but it had to have been a little bit overwhelming to not only change teams but join a team. That is fresh out of the box and starting a truck program was it or kind of. What was the feeling when this all started to happen? It's like okay this is GonNa be new for all of us like when I first heard about it. I was super excited and then as a time came. I got super nervous too. So but also you gotTa have confidence. I think as once again the first couple of people for my team. I feel like I could see the the team. The goal that we are searching for the type of people were looking for and just to be able to find a lot of lot hardworking racers to be on my team. I think that was really important. Once I saw my team I like I said I got way less nervous and more excited about it again. But it is lot changing manufacturers. I'd been Toyota for my whole life. Since I was fifteen with them and then come to Ford. It's it's really cool. Obviously my family's been with them a lot longer than anywhere else so kind of coming home to them and also remote sports just to to take the opportunity. My Dad raised here obviously for a lot of his career and cool things coming along with a with a great opportunity. And what can you tell us about the makeup of your team? Who's on your team? Who Know that John Lennon crew chief has a little bit of crew chief experience? He's pass engineer over it. I think it was Levine. Family racing but the rest of the guys that you just mentioned when you saw them got you excited who. Who's on the team? What made you excited about that. Makeup Chris Lawson is my truck chief and he was my crew chief Kanan when we won all those races already. Yup So there's a couple of guys that we're at DDR Causley last year in years past that I've been really close with and there's a couple of those guys in a couple of new guys like I said John Leonard Dillon. Capello's my engineer. He raced modified on the west coast. So like I said I think everyone just really understands what it takes to be a winning race team and the work it takes so I don't think it's a surprise. Anyone never gonNA have to work harder than anyone else to be the best. I think you touched on this briefly in the opening when we were talking about this unexpected hiatus. Will this help you guys in a sense? This unexpected break to kind of zero in on some things that you learn from the the first two races maybe get your fleet of trucks prepared. Could you guys turn this into a little positive having this break I think so think the Vegas at ran really well and we're super happy. They didn't office so I think we're we're really prepared. Anyways coming for these next three races I think he was going to be Atlanta Homestead Texas. We had really good trucks lined up. We're excited about it so like you said. I think it's just an opportunity for everyone to regroup and whoever does it the best I think he's going to become best-prepared wherever we go back. Grayson. If THAT'S CHARLOTTE. I think that's our first race right now. So it's weird. He started focusing on like these next three races. And we had a bunch of racists planned out and then you kind of have to scratch all that and kind of your focus to Charlotte which is like way out in the future for us. You mentioned the word regroup. There and I wanted to ask todd after last year. We know all the I guess could say drama. That was around it. When you start fresh in a sense fresh team for you fresh grouper guys all this. Is this a year where you can kind of settle yourself back down recenter yourself regroup and just focus on yourself? What you're doing and not have so much outside voices. If that makes sense yes I think so. Just having people that I feel like really believe in me and that just gives me a lot of confidence going to the Racetrack Philip Myself at Vegas and Daytona being aggressive and just me driving the truck and so the truck kind of driving me being out of control like this is the things that put yourself in bad situation so I think those just really fun. I'll so excited to go back to the racetrack. And that's the thing that you have to do you. Can't you have to enjoy every single week and I think everyone's enjoyed it attorneys? I races we keep that up Winnings always more fun so get victory land. I think everyone enjoy it more. Had IT NOT BEEN FUN? Had it you know after lie with way things developing last year. I mean how down on yourself were you. I was pretty down myself because eventually I mean it's partial you personally truck partially teammates. It's everything it takes to win but also when one part of its missing or another part you don't run how you want to so I think at some point you have to think man. Can I still do this but I think you always believe in yourself as a race Cordova? It's your job to be ready for the next opportunity when it comes up and I think getting that win at mearns rule is huge. Because I had never given up on our teamer or nothing and I think everyone was still working really hard so at the end of the season when everyone's kind of beat down any ways to be to go win at Martinsville. I thought that was really cool for for everyone to get that boost confidence back and now a new year new attitude. It's back to having fun right like you. You mentioned you just feel better. You feel different. That's always good. Yeah exactly so. I'll super excited to for the opportunity over there. I felt like every chance. Every time we went to the racetrack could have an opportunity to win. But after so long not you kind of expect to run where you think you will and but now this year again I feel like we can go out and compete for wins weekend and week out and be the dominant trucks. That's what I'm most excited about. It's GonNa take some time though right. We gotTA GET BACK. GotTA GET BACK. So we can't go to the simulator right now. The wind tunnel testing. No nothing so just kind of got a wait and see young driver like you not being able to go to the simulator. Does that her at all. I'd say a little bit just being out of the car for eight weeks. I mean you're gonNA see whatever can come back fastest but I think eventually it'll open backup before we go racing so I'd say maybe it hurts. Engineers a little bit more puts them behind on their work to go to the future. You know we haven't read anything for Charlotte. They have to have a certain file to do their simulation stuff so no that they can't work and all that yet but just give them some time to regroup like we've been talking so over the last couple of years I wanted to ask. How have you changed over the last couple years you come from Canaan where you're having so much success you move to the truck series good team with Toyota? Then you got the downside. Now you're coming back up. We just talked about your refresh restart here with front row motorsports. Just how have you changed over the last couple years as this as your career has changed through the last couple of years? And You keep taking more more and more steps forward. I've grown up a ton going into KBM. I didn't really know what to expect. I was seventeen years old at the beginning I wasn't even old enough to run Daytona on a few of those races at the beginning of two thousand eighteen so I was just taking it all in. It was crazy today. Tone WITH KYLE. Busch motorsports a great team. I couldn't even recent. My Dad was racing so I was hanging out the whole time. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I expected to win races right away because I believed in myself and my team but we just didn't do it but I definitely learned a lot having to grow up. Do that stuff work with people for the first time being out from under my dad's wing put it. He was always right there. He's my spotter. In K N N and then two thousand eighteen. He started his own truck team racing against us so focus and I had my own focus. I think does the biggest thing that's not having him. You know every single second lien on kind of having to make some decisions for myself and put myself in a small group of people just like my crew chief engineer myself so I learned a lot about what racing's like in the top three levels and I think. Kvm does really good job of upgrading. A bigger team. You're not the only driver who has had success in previous series and then as they move up it gets harder and harder and harder like the recent example. I've been using his look at Christopher Bell right like we're used to Christopher dominating the last couple years and expanded and oh man he might be in for a long year in the Cup series right. They have some terrible luck right now. What is it like for driver and again not we're not speaking on KBM but in general what is it like for driver when you find so much success early in this case for you kaneohe right. What is it like then when a driver finds that success but then starts moving up and it's not coming as quickly? How big of a reality check? Is that for a driver? Yeah I think it happens really fast like you said just Steven Tyler Co customer. An crystal ball all ran like really bad in the cubs fans this year. I think it's crazy to see. Everyone says you know it's by far. The biggest step is from xfinity cop and I think that's incredible. See this year. Those guys were super super good last year and then I'm sure they'll get there but just crazy. The first few races ran how they wanted to. I'm sure so. It's definitely a reality. Check though right away now is able to win first four races in so that just once you win. You're just like there and after four. Use expect to win every single week. Almost so I feel like I made that transition really easy whereas K B or the trucks once. You don't win right away. It's kind of hard to get there. I think once you get that first win you kind of note it's like can you feel more confident you can do it at that level so once you get the first one out of the way it helps a ton. Is it like a confidence thing like a mental thing of okay I can do this a reassuring I've done it before at this level night. You know I think if we can keep doing it so I think the first ones like I said enough of that. They should come easier front row. Motorsports again this is not a new operation for you so to speak because you mentioned a dad race tier and so you knew them. You've said that before you know owner Bob Jenkins and all that. Do you have any memories though of being around the team? When Dad was racing I think my coolest memory was at Talladega when they finished and second. I'll send on the pillbox and their you know idea like you have the radio and just listening to spotter we were looking for TV screen obviously the TV's are way behind on the pit box. So here's like looking around. You're blinded they're going down the backstretch and then they come around us and their first and second those an amazing memory. Both teams were going crazy. And I think those the highlight of probably my dad's career just being able to do that as a team and kind of put front row motorsports in Victory Lane for the first time. Obviously in a second but just being a part of it was really cool so win away again circling back to you now being a driver here. It is a new organization in the sense that they're feeling trucks for the first time but is it a little comforting than in a way. You know these. Is You know this operation. It's not like you're just blindly walking in someplace. For the first time I feel like any race team front row included. They all want to win. It's part of it to grow and I feel like the truck series program is GonNa really highlight that that for sports is a winning race team and obviously they've won a cup races Not as consistently as everyone would hope to or want to but I think the truck series is program is trying to show that firm Schwartz's winning race team week in week out and and hopefully keep developing the cup cars to to be competitive top five or for wins in the near future. Can this team win races? Todd can you guys contend for the playoffs absolutely? I think we're expecting to be in the final four at Phoenix. So that's something that I think is everyone's goal if we don't get there. I think we expect Mitt Myself in Tanta Gray kind of the DDR lines trucks to definitely both be in the playoffs and be contenders every week. So you mentioned DDR THERE. Obviously Dad is over there. But you're both for programs me a little bit of an alliance right. How does that work in terms of do you guys? Are you guys able to lean on each other? I mean he's young and still learning too. But obviously you have data over there. How does that work still between these two programs and you having somebody that you can go lean on when you WANNA talk? Something outer have questions helps a lot so our alliance we use all our trucks Like I said there's a couple of people that work from jar now on front row so we pretty much at the shock would run it like a two car team. Me and tanner. We have to work together to share information. I think that's where some of our educated guess was able to come from. We kinda went pretty much. Exactly where tanner was during practice. He was pretty good. And we're really bad. So that's the positive side of it. Obviously sometimes it will be the other way around. You wouldn't necessarily want to help other team but it goes both ways and I think that's just one example of it's really good thing to have more than one team more than one set of information once ice. Look at everything and can be the best you can from that circling back to we. Were talking about the playoffs. What are your thoughts on NASCAR expanding the field this year from eight to ten drivers? I mean last year you were one of those guys on the outside looking in so you know what that feels like. Do you like the move from eight to ten. I think so I think just especially with the amount of competitive trucks are here. I'd say there's like sixteen good trucks that could compete every single week. So that's the crazy part. You know I think the truck series is quite a bit deeper than even xfinity this year. So it's just All part of it. You know the winning these races. I think it'll be even more fun this year. Beating the guys that we're GONNA be beating now. It's at the same time. It's kind of the same peop- racing against like my whole life. So it's kind of crazy. Our everyone moves up together but just different stages and deeper fields. Every time we move up again been talking about and this is your third year truck so it's almost like you're really kind of settled in you. Know the INS and outs of this series. You're becoming one of the more experienced drivers. I guess you could say this field. That's pretty crazy just thinking about like every east more truck races and probably like you said a lot of guys will be racing. Yeah Yeah exactly. I was there one time. I know what they're like. Yeah we can beat them so in mentioning third year in the truck series. We get so used to young drivers maybe a year or two. And then it's up and onto the next thing you've kind of settled in again like I just said to the series. Is that by choice? Kinda taking it slow or has it also been a little bit of there? Just hasn't been the right opportunity yet to move up so I think you know seventeen year old me rolling up to Daytona. I think perfect scenario we would have obviously won the lottery aces and doesn't eighteen and competed for championship. Maybe second year in trucks go win a championship and then move up and do something different. But obviously when you don't run how you want to you have to go back and rethink things and kind of regroup so I think that's a great opportunity. I've say I didn't really have anything so front runner sports. Taking this opportunity on me is huge. Like I said a bunch of times just being able to build a team like we wanted to and hopefully go out here and compete and really show get myself back to the level that we were in Canaan when everyone thought I was one of the top drivers and I really still think I am but just to to prove to everyone else again and hopefully get more opportunities in the future. This is a huge year for me. I got one last question for your kind of two prongs. Let me start with the first part which I saw. You've been doing what some I racing right. You've been competing in what they're calling it the replacements one hundred have you always been an IRA sir? Is that something new that you've just got into? I have never really ran. I racing too much and I haven't been released yet my first ones tonight. So gotta go practice a little bit. Hopefully try not make too big fool of myself. I saw Jimmy Johnson rectal yesterday. That was pretty funny as great for some time champion but provided some much comic relief that we all need it exactly and actually it turned out to be a really good race in the end to also entertain so hopefully we can put on a good race tonight. Ours won't be on TV. But it'll be on twitch I think so. Check it out. I think it'll be a lot of fun. Was that just something again you get into doing during this break. Just try the IRA for sure. You know a bunch of my friends race in it and it's really just fun. Obviously we love to drive race cars and even if it's on I racing so just little competition and a little bit of fun to all right so that segues into my final question for you. Todd is where do you stand on a NASCAR? Everybody industry coming together and using I racing and e sports as this thing to kind of drive fans to of hey we can still entertain you while we're not racing. Do you think that's a good thing the way that we're kind of pushing this whole east sports thing right now? I think so? I think something. That's really good. I've seen a lot is no their sport can get as close as NASCAR canned simulating. They're real thing. The real finished product of racing. So I thought put it on on. National Television was amazing. You know it's something you never thought of at the beginning of this year you never thought I race would be on TV Dale Jr. Denny Hamlin battling for the win but that's part of it. I hope that we gained some new fans out of this I think Denny Hamlin's been on sportscenter a couple of times as a great opportunity The sports world with so many people having nothing to talk about nothing to watch if Nascar can like you said entertain you for a couple hours on Sunday. That's great 'cause there's a lot of people that have nothing to watch that that will definitely venture into Nascar for the first time. Maybe tally appreciate the time. I appreciate you coming out of our social distance. Worst we're still practicing social distancing. I appreciate being able to get out of my apartment at least come. Have some human interaction. So thank you great to be on. Thank you todd and thank you Jeff. Denison of front row for welcoming me to the shop. Before the corona virus outbreak started to escalate to where we all are now which is hopefully in quarantine and not on a beach. Somewhere as I said the top of the show. I hope you are staying safe. Let's all do it. We need to to beat this and get back to some sense of normalcy until that happens. I'll be here with some more shows. And why not just let you know what's coming up over the next couple of weeks on April thirteenth? We're going to chat with Justin Haley. About how bored. He has been these few weeks in maybe about his career to on April twentieth. We have a great in depth conversation with Jack Irving and Tyler Gibbs of T. R. D. They are going to share US insight onto Toyota's direct investment program. How it works. And how evolved over the years? And on April twenty seventh. It's Nascar veteran Michael McDowell on the first four races of the season which feel so long ago at this point finding a home with front row. And if he's been content with how his career has been playing out that is all to come and I hope you'll tune in right here on the racing writers podcasts.