When David Gilliland hits Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for practice on Friday, it might feel like he's driving the .526-mile oval for the first time. That's because his No. 38 team is bringing a completely different set-up for its Ford Fusion than they've run before.
Crew chief Pat Tryson, who's had success at the half-mile with previous teams, has brought new ideas to the No. 38 team as it has prepared for Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500. The race weekend will also mark the return of the blue-and-yellow Long John Silver's paint scheme to a Front Row Motorsports Ford.
This weekend's event will be Gilliland's 12th Sprint Cup career start at Martinsville. His best finish at the paper-clip-shaped track is 19th (2010).
Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland going to Martinsville:
"Martinsville is always a challenge. Probably next to Bristol, it's one of the most physically demanding tracks. And if I said it was a favorite of mine, I'd be lying. But my crew chief, Pat Tryson, is pretty excited about going there, and he feels like he's got some stuff that's going to help us run well there. So, I am probably the most excited I've been for a Martinsville race because he has had so much success there in the past. And the set-up stuff that he wants to run is completely different from anything I've ever run there before.
"It's a track that makes for an exciting race, though. It comes down to a lot of pit calls and track position. We've had some good runs going the past couple years and just had some bad-luck stuff happen to us. Hopefully this time, we won't have anything like that happen and we'll come out of there with a good weekend. The team has been working on our Martinsville car for a while, and it's probably the most prepared we've been for that style of racetrack. So, I'm excited to try what Pat has in store for me.
"It's such a tough track. You're just up on the wheel the entire time, you're hard on the brakes and you're fighting like crazy for track position. And if your car's not handling well, it's going to be a long day because there's nowhere to hide - you're just in the way. So, it's going to be really important to take full advantage of the practice time on Friday to get our race set-up the best it can be, but also make sure we can qualify well so we have a good starting position for Sunday.
"Hopefully we'll have a rain-free weekend at Martinsville. Last weekend at Fontana was weird. We knew the rain was coming; it was just a matter of when. We wound up racing the rain just as much as we were racing each other on the track. But it was still a good weekend. It's always good to go home to Southern California. It's almost like a reunion every year because I get to see all the people who helped me in the early days of my racing career."