By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
When the smoke faded Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Todd Gilliland emerged as the fourth-place finisher.
How did he get there? Don’t ask him.
“I didn’t know where I was at all,” Gilliland said. “And then it turned out I was in the grass! And I had three guys on my outside, I didn’t know that.”
Indeed, the final restart of the Verizon 200 saw enough spinning and passing to fulfill an entire race’s quota, let alone in two laps. Restarting eighth, Gilliland’s Front Row Motorsports Ford thread the middle into Turn 1. And after Ryan Blaney spun off the bumper of Daniel Suarez, it was Gilliland who came out in the top five.
“I’m pretty sure I drove straight through the middle into Turn 1,” he said. “I got wheel-to-wheel with guys. And then I drove in really hard. You lose perception of where you’re really at. I had guys facing me backwards and getting used up. I was lucky to survive them.”
Though it required luck to escape for a top five, it was a career-best weekend overall for Gilliland, who qualified ninth on Saturday before running top 10 in the closing laps. He also led his first laps in the Cup Series on Sunday.
“We were really lucky to survive those restarts. But at the same time, I was really happy with the speed of our car,” he said. “Starting ninth, finishing fourth. That’s a solid weekend.”
Father David watched on as his son avoided the chaos and scored the career-high result.
“I’m so glad I’m here,” the elder Gilliland said with a smile. “It’s incredible to see him progress, make this step and to finish top five in a Cup race. He ran really well, he qualified well, practiced well. Just a good solid weekend.
“This sport is tough and it’s humbling. It’ll test you physically and mentally. Races like this always help and I’m really, really excited for him and proud of him and this team.”
David drove the very same car as his son Todd, piloting the No. 38 Front Row Ford from 2012-2015. And through the difficult 2022 rookie season, David is proud to see son Todd rise to the challenge.
“To see him come out here and perform on this stage and under this platform, it’s tough,” he said. “I did it for years. People think they know how tough it is watching it on TV and all that, but really this is extremely difficult.
“He’s a great road-course racer. But that’s what this sport will do to you — it’ll make you second-guess. It’ll push you to new levels. He has stepped up to the challenge, which I am really proud of.
“What he accomplished today is very special.
Following a run of races that saw one result higher than 24th since early June, Gilliland was thrilled to end the streak in fashion. For Front Row, it was the first time since 2013 they put multiple cars in the top 10 (teammates Michael McDowell scoring eighth).
“You build up to [this finish] to some degree, getting more experience. And when you have the car and the circumstances go right, you are ready to capitalize on this opportunity. I feel the fast car came out of nowhere. That’s a huge step in the right direction.”
Embracing father David after the checkered flag finished off the memorable weekend in Indianapolis.
“[My dad] just said he was really proud of me,” he said. “Indianapolis is an amazing place, it’s my first time here. This is a huge step. He knows how hard it is. He’s just really proud of me as we’re trying to figure out stuff for next year, I think this is going to be a huge help.”
How about the rooks??
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 31, 2022