By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
A wild finish to Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Circuit of the Americas saw Todd Gilliland earn a top-10 finish.
In three overtime attempts the Front Row Motorsports driver bounced up and down the running order. Gilliland’s No. 38 Ruedebusch Ford Mustang was collected in the Turn 1 incident on the first attempt at overtime. However, the Sherrills Ford, N.C. native avoided any major damage.
On the final attempt at overtime, Gilliland muscled his way into the top-10. He narrowly avoided Christopher Bell as the Toyota Racing driver spun in the ‘esses.’ Another spin by Justin Haley was also easily avoided. As the dust settled on the final lap, Gilliland found himself 10th. The Ford Performance driver held off a charge from Corey LaJoie to score a top-10 run.
“The restarts were really good for us, even in the very beginning of the race,” Gilliland explained. “We were able to fire off and gain a lot of spots right off the bat. After that, we had fallen off a little worse than everyone else, but our fire-off speed was probably top-five to [top] 10 every time.
“It was really nice to have some speed there, and to be really aggressive on the restarts. Most of them worked out really well. I got spun once, but we were able to rebound up to 10th or so. That’s good – 15th and 10th the last two races. That’s something to build on.”
Speed on restarts was key for Gilliland. The 22-year-old qualified 36th. He was also collected in the lap one incident that ended the race for Ty Dillon and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Like the late-race incident, Gilliland emerged relatively unscathed.
The spin, combined with a lengthy caution that ended the first Stage and a caution-free second Stage kept Gilliland out of the top-10. Though he didn’t earn any Stage points, the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix was the first race in NASCAR’s National Touring Series that Gilliland competed in that did not have pre-planned cautions for Stage breaks.
Gilliland’s 10th-place finish marked his third career top-10 finish. It was his first top-10 since the Talladega Superspeedway playoff race last year. The 10th-place follows a top-15 run at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The top-10 run moved Gilliland up from 24th to 25th in the points standings. He is 44-points behind the playoff cutline and 116 behind leader Ross Chastain.
Next for Gilliland is the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. In two starts his best finish at ‘The Action Track’ is 25th in last year’s running of the Spring race.
The Toyota Owners 400 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 2, on Fox Sports 1. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.