Friday, Dec 02

Ford Performance NASCAR: Todd Gilliland COTA Media Advance

Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 Boot Barn Ford Mustang, won last year’s inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.  Now in his first season at the NASCAR Cup Series level, Gilliland participated in a media call this morning to talk about this weekend’s event.


TODD GILLILAND, No. 38 Boot Barn Ford Mustang – HOW DID NOT HAVING YOUR CREW CHIEF IMPACT YOU LAST WEEK AND HOW SEVERE IS THE PENALTY?  “It’s definitely never a good thing, especially being a rookie trying to work with my crew chief for the first time.  It happened in our second race of the season, so I feel like we were just getting in a good flow of our rhythm every weekend and just to have that broken up now for four weeks is really really tough, but we have my Truck Series crew chief, Chris Lawson, calling the races, so we’re still down a guy throughout the whole tech process, throughout practice to make changes.  Obviously, we can still be in communication with Seth as far as text messages and calling him after, but just that small communication gap that we have now where you don’t have time to have that gap.  You have to make decisions faster than ever with limited practice and all this, so to answer the first part it’s really tough to have a communication gap.  I mean, it gets frustrating at times just because you don’t get answers as fast as you would like to, and then as far as the severity of the penalty, obviously I think we’re kind of biased to it, but we think it’s a little bit too much for us, just because – at least my understanding and I’m probably getting one side of the story – but the rule was kind of created back when crew chiefs were the ones kind of making the call of how many lugnuts to put on and nowadays you’re not trying to get an advantage.  I guess you’re trying to have a fast pit stop so that leads to mistakes, but the rule kind of came up within a different era of pit stops and lugnuts than we are in now.”


WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK AT ATLANTA?  IT’S HARD TO TELL FROM THE VIDEO.  “Atlanta, I definitely feel super super dumb about that.  When we got in the first wreck we bent a right-rear toe link, so we were on pit road and went five laps down with that.  We were just trying to get them back.  We took one wave around, me and the 34 did at the same time, so we ended up pitting and coming back out we ended up together drafting.  And then I guess it was a lack of communication and a lack of me asking what I should do.  I’ve never really gotten lapped super quick like that, especially at a superspeedway type place.  It’s probably the worst possible scenario, but just throughout practice and stuff I had seen guys getting out of the draft on top, so in my mind I had never really even thought twice that we were both just gonna go to the top once the pack was half a straightaway back and we were just gonna get out of the way that way, but then as soon as I moved up and I saw the 34 stay on the bottom I knew I had screwed up pretty big.  I should have asked.  I feel really really bad about making myself look dumb, first off, by making the pack split us.  I’ve been on the other side of it and it’s super super frustrating when lapped cars do that, so I feel bad about it, but, like I said, I guess communication error.  I should have asked, but then the wreck I feel like I just got too high.  I was top of four-wide, three-wide and I was trying to get out of the way as fast as possible and then I got up into the dirt and kind of just spun out.”


YOU WON IN THE TRUCK SERIES AT COTA LAST YEAR.  HOW MUCH DOES HAVING THAT EXPERIENCE HELP YOU HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND?  “I think it gives me a lot of confidence, especially since we talk about the Next Gen car being an equalizer, and then COTA also.  Everyone has only been there one time and I didn’t realize talking to my teammate Michael McDowell that they only ran like one lap in the dry all weekend, which was for qualifying I believe.  We were able to practice in the dry the day before and even that I feel like I have more laps in the dry than anyone there, so I’m just really looking forward to it.  It’s a beautiful racetrack.  I love road course racing in general.  It’s a lot of fun.  It seems like you’re always busy inside the car, so, overall, I’d say I have a lot of confidence going to COTA and I’m just super excited about it in general.”


HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE YOUR SEASON SO FAR?  “I think through the first five races I’m actually kind of happy with how it’s been going.  It’s hard to set real expectations, but I’d say the first four races at least, obviously last week I feel it went really bad, probably as bad as possible for me, but before that I feel like we’ve been staying out of trouble and feel like I’ve been racing good cars, good drivers and I feel like gaining their respect for the most part.  That’s hard to do over the course of 500 miles or 400 miles is be the one that doesn’t make the mistake, so I feel good about that.  I think, overall, it’s been going really well.”


WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AT COTA AND WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD ROAD COURSE RACER?  “That’s a tough one.  I feel like to be a good road course racer, I was joking with my team yesterday and said it’s pretty simple when you think about it, you just gas it as hard as you can and brake as late and as hard as you can into the next corner, so that’s what I’ve always just had a lot of fun with it – just drive as hard as you can every single lap.  I think the Next Gen car is just gonna be challenging in general on the road course.  Front Row Motorsports has never been to a test with it, so we’re just kind of putting our best guess out there, which I guess is kind of how it’s been all year going to the racetrack, but I think there’s just not much notes on the Next Gen car that’s gonna race on a road course, so we’re gonna be learning a lot every single lap, but I think the biggest thing that makes a road course racer good is just being really precise on where they hit every line every lap.”


DO YOU HAVE TO GO AND TALK TO CODY WARE OR DID HE REACH OUT TO YOU BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED?  DID YOU TALK TO ANYBODY ELSE?  “I texted Cody right after.  He just started working out at the same place I do the week before, so I just talked to him for the first time and then I go and do that, so I texted him right away.  I felt really bad.  Like he said, he was running a really good race.  It’s tough to stay on the lead lap for these things and he was doing a really good job of that.  I always hate to take people out by dumb mistakes, but as far as everyone else, I didn’t even know where the start.  Like you said, literally the whole field passed me and I knew we were in a bad spot, so I didn’t reach out to anyone else, but obviously I feel bad that I did it to everyone.”


WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED WITH THIS NEW CAR AND ITS ABILITY TO TAKE DAMAGE AND CONTINUE RACING?  “It is tough.  I feel like I hit the wall decently hard with the right side the first time, and so it’s a little bit different.  I feel like the right-rear bent easier than what it would have with last year’s car, but the difference is with the Next Gen car we were able to take the five laps and fix it to where I was actually just as competitive as before, whereas with the old car it might have not bent as much, but you definitely weren’t gonna be able to fix it during the race.  I think there are kind of two sides to it.  I think the Next Gen car, being able to fix the cars is awesome.  I’ve kept saying we were going five laps down, but my team and I think we can get it to where we can change that part much faster during the race scenario, and then just seeing Ross Chastain.  Before he hit the wall like that, with a steel body the right side is pancaked in and it’s not gonna be competitive.  I think he finished in second place, but it’s not gonna be that competitive when you go back out, so I think that’s the biggest thing is the composite body is much nicer.  It popped back out, pop off the tire, which is a huge thing, and then just being able to switch out a rear toe link or some parts during the race I think will be nicer, too.”


HOW MUCH WILL THE COMPOSITE BODY CHANGE THINGS?  WILL THIS SPORT BECOME EVEN MORE PHYSICAL IF THE BODY CAN TAKE MORE BEATING AND BANGING?  “I can definitely see it getting more physical.  It almost just takes me back to watching the Xfinity cars.  I feel like they don’t have a worry in their mind about the body.  It’s gonna pop back out, so that’s a good thing for the fans and also kind of a bad thing and sometimes frustrating thing for the drivers, so I guess we’ll see.  We’ll see how it goes.  I think the Cup Series guys race with a lot of respect, but also you see it get really physical sometimes anyway, so I can definitely see it going that way.”


WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON RICHMOND AND EXPECTATIONS GOING THERE IN A CUP CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME?  “I’m expecting a tough race at Richmond.  I had a tough time there in the truck, just the front straightaway you don’t have much grip at all.  You’re always just trying to get the power down and then a really long Cup race with a lot more power, I think will just make that even that much harder, but my team and I have been working really hard and based off Phoenix stuff, like I said, we just don’t have many notes.  So, we’re trying to compare Phoenix and Richmond and been in the simulator, so just trying to get our best foot forward.  I feel like this is gonna be our first time of kind of having something to go off of, so part of me is really excited that I think we can put our best foot forward and unload fast at Richmond, but part of me knows I still have a lot to learn at Richmond also.”


DO YOU THINK NOT DOING THE TEST AT THE ROVAL PUTS YOU AT A DISADVANTAGE AT COTA?  “I guess there are kind of two parts to it.  I think it puts us at a bit of a disadvantage just not ever having one on the road course, just to know some little things, but also that test was so early on that so many different parts of the car have changes, so many different rules.  I think not being there, we’re trying to say that it’s maybe not as big of a disadvantage because the rules have changed, but I think certainly going to the road course this weekend we’d all wish that Front Row would have been at that test back then to at least have a little bit of a notebook.”


HOW ARE YOU GUYS MANAGING YOUR CAR FLEET FROM A DRIVER’S PERSPECTIVE?  “Last week, I walked in the shop and I think it was the most I’ve ever seen is we had seven Next Gen car bodies on just sitting there.  I don’t exactly how many are race ready, but it’s definitely kind of an interesting feeling going to the racetrack knowing you have one backup car for two teams, not that you ever want to use it or expect to, but it’s just a nice safety blanket to at least know you have a car in the hauler.  So, I think it’s definitely in the back of your mind, but once you get to the race I’d say you race as hard as you can and really once you wreck, you’re still trying to salvage everything you can.  It’s still a long season and you’ve got to get as many points and the best finish possible every week.”


WHICH ROAD COURSE SUITS YOUR STYLE THE MOST AND WHICH SUITS YOUR STYLE THE LEAST?  “That’s a tough question.  I think one that I’ve struggled with in the past is Sonoma, but I haven’t run there since the K&N West days in 2017, I think.  I would like to think I’ve gotten a little bit better since then and hopefully I’ll not struggle as bad there, but I think I would just have to say COTA is probably my best one.  I’ve ran one at Watkins Glen before in the trucks also, so I’m really looking forward to those two and Sonoma, I think I have a lot to learn and we’ll go to a couple new ones, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.  Hopefully, we can just get a good finish here and build some confidence going into those next ones.”


HOW DO YOU THINK THE TRACK HAS CHANGED BECAUSE OF THE PARTIAL REPAVE?  HOW WILL YOU ADAPT TO THAT?  “I hope the repave will help with a lot more grip.  I think we’re going back with a little bit softer tire or even maybe the same as last year and last year we wore out tires like crazy fast in practice when it was in the dry, so hopefully that’s not as bad as the tire wear last year and hopefully it has a little bit more grip and maybe a little bit faster lap time, but I think it’s gonna be a good thing.”


TEMPERATURES WILL BE IN THE MID-EIGHTIES THIS WEEKEND.  WHAT IS THAT GOING TO BE LIKE FOR YOU GUYS IN THE CAR?  “I feel like the first one, no matter how much you prepare or not, will always be pretty warm and catch you off guard a little bit.  I’m just really looking forward to it.  It’s still a relatively short race.  This might be a good way to ease into it.  I think it’s only like 215-ish miles, 212 miles, so, like I said, a short race and we’re definitely working a lot more than normal, I would say.  It’s gonna be tough.  It’s gonna be the first one of the year and you just have to get through it.  I think for some guys it might be tough and just in general the Next Gen car is hotter.  We’ve heard that all throughout the off-season and everything.  I’m lucky I got into it after they made all the changes, so I haven’t been too bad, but I’m sure this weekend it’s gonna be really hot in there.  And then the obvious stuff like cool box and cool suit, you’ve got to make sure all that stuff is working right this weekend.”


BOOT BARN IS A NEW SPONSOR.  CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT RELATIONSHIP?  “It is really cool and it was kind of funny, me and Zane (Smith) went to the Boot Barn here in Concord yesterday and picked out a whole outfit.  We actually have a photo shoot today at the shop, but I got some boots.  I got a Texas-sized belt buckle that has a longhorn on it, so I’m fully kitted out to go to Texas this weekend.  It’s really cool to have a national brand like Boot Barn on board, just really to represent hard-working people.  It’s really cool.”


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