David Gilliland is probably the happiest second-place finisher around. After pushing his teammate David Ragan to victory for Front Row Motorsports' first Sprint Cup victory last weekend at Talladega Superspeeday, Gilliland has been just as central to the team celebration as the guy who crossed the finish line first.
The driver of the No. 38 Long John Silver's Ford is in his fourth season with the Statesville, N.C.-based team, has watched it grow and progress every season and has persevered in trying to get owner Bob Jenkins his first win. He did just that on Sunday in Talladega, Ala., and now continues his efforts to achieve his own victory in the Cup series with the next stop being Darlington (S.C.) Raceway for this weekend's historic Southern 500.
In six starts at the 1.366-mile oval, Gilliland has one top-20 finish.
Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland heading to Darlington:
"We're still all smiling and in a great mood from Talladega. It was just a huge day for Front Row Motorsports. We're a little team building. I feel like we're getting better each and every week. I feel like this new car has really helped us a lot this year to be more competitive at every style of race track that we go to, so it's definitely big for us. I know Frank Kerr, my new crew chief, has a big wish list of parts and pieces he wants for our race car, trying to make them lighter and faster, and I'm sure he'll get a couple of those. Hopefully, that will help.
"I was trying to beat (Ragan) for sure, but we had to get there first. Once I pushed him out to the lead, the 99 was on my side and David had kind of got enough of a lead that I wasn't going to pass him, and at that point I was obviously trying to finish second. I've had some great finishes in restrictor plate races in the past and I still obviously want to get that first win, but we'll take second for sure and a first with our teammate.
"Darlington is an awesome racetrack. It's unique. Richmond you can relate to Phoenix, Bristol you can kind of relate to Dover. Darlington you can't relate it to anywhere. It's its own place, and there's no other racetrack in the country, at least that I've ever raced on, that's even close. It's a tough track. It definitely lives up to its nickname each and every year. It's very challenging, but it's a lot of fun.
"It's difficult. The track changes as it rubbers up, obviously, and it's hard on tires, even after they repaved it. I think it slows down a lot throughout the race and changes a lot between the practices and the race. So you have to look back on and rely on your notes to try to get as close as you can."