Shoestring Budget Series: David Gilliland, Upstart TRG Continue To Defy The Odds

Joe M.Correspondent IIMarch 22, 2009

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 03: David Gilliland, driver of the #38 Ford Drive One Ford, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 3, 2008 in Talladega, AL.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

David Gilliland, driver of the  No. 71 Capital Window Chevy, for the single car operation TRG, (The Racer's Group) was on NASCAR Now this morning, talking about his team's chances today at Bristol Motor Speedway and his chances for getting into the top 35 at this all impotant five race juncture in the schedule.

If you liked my articles on fellow upstart teams, which the economy and its impact on NASCAR is creating, specifically Tommy Baldwin Racing with Scott Riggs, Jeremy Mayfield, owner of Mayfield Motorsports and my piece on Joe Nemechek owner of NEMCO, you'll probably enjoy this latest piece in the season-long series. In addition, early indications are, Gilliland appears to have the highest ceiling of all of them. (Look for a piece on Marcos Ambrose/JTG Daugherty Racing soon)

In both cases, Gilliland fares very well. Not only did he qualify 14th for today's race, but he has somehow managed to qualify to qualify for four out of five races this year. This is impressive in its self, but even more so if you consider he actually missed out on the biggest race of all, Daytona, and its guaranteed $250,000 earnings just for finishing last, which really could have helped this upstart team.

While Gilliland typically qualifies in the early 30's position, today's 14th place start could be seen as an outlier or a sign of things to come as its far and away his best time beating his previous season best of a 30th place start prior to Las Vegas.

His three finishes so far include 33rd at California, where he didn't even finish the race, 14th at Las Vegas, and 24th two weeks ago in Atlanta. While these finishes may seem a bit random, the 14th place finish at Vegas is important for two reasons.

First, he was able to accomplish this thanks to his season best 30th in qualifying, which says something about his track position if he's able to get it.

Secondly, Las Vegas is a cookie cutter track and with many more of these 1.5 mile races coming up throughout the season at Kansas, Texas, Atlanta, and the other SMI tracks, we should expect to see Gilliland, not only qualify for the race based on time, but also to have a good running. It would not surprise me to see him finish in the top 15 again, barring any unforeseen pit stall lapses, or a Vickers/Earnhardt Daytona-like crash based on mis communication.

The x-factor here with any driver, but especially for the Riverside, CA native who lacks experience that others do, is the short track element. That could be his downfall.

Based on the current owners points standings, Gilliland sits 36th, but only one point out of 35th and not having to qualify for next week at Martinsville. Further, he's within a realistic shot (66 points) of fellow single car operator Robby Gordon and his coveted 29th position in the standings. All this should be helped by Gilliland's aforementioned great qualifying position.

Not too bad for a driver that was unceremoniously catapulted from Yates Racing and their unrealistic, unreliable equipment following last season? Or is it? His former team mate Travis Kvapil, was similarly given the ax today when he too, was unable to secure the all important sponsorship for his ride.

Hmmmm. Yates, maybe David wasn't part of the problem? Maybe you ought to look at your whole organization, one that includes Paul Menard playing with Daddy's money, in the form of self-silver spoon sponsor Menards that bears his family's name?

The Racers Group, that owns the car that Gilliland operates is no stranger to NASCAR or racing in general. What's not to like? If the name doesn't give it away, its a throwback group comprised of those that are truly passionate about racing and whom will do anything necessary to be around the sport they've invested so much time in and care so much about.

This is a far cry from the empty corporate suits that get block tickets for races in which they never attend, simply because their company sponsors the car driven by what's-his-name.

TRG has come a long way since its 1994 inception, where co-owner, California-based Kevin Buckler, raced Porshe's, entered the 1995 ISMA California Grand Prix doing road racing, or helped with F1, and other small time circuits. Since its 2007 announcement during one such race at Iowa Speedway that it was getting into NASCAR, the team that literally rose from the ground up, now finds itself on the national stage, owning and trying to make their latest endeavor work.

The partnership the Petaluma, CA group formed with Gilliland seems to be working. Funny thing is they didn't even have to leave their state, rather just down the coast in order to find their driver, who now drives for the home team.

Sounds like a perfect match to me.