David Gilliland

Chicagoland, Kentucky not on 2021 Cup schedule

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Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway will not be on the 2021 Cup schedule, both tracks announced Tuesday.

Chicagoland Speedway posted a statement on its website Tuesday announcing it will not host any NASCAR races next year.

“The move away from NASCAR racing at Chicagoland Speedway is one of many changes reflected in the 2021 schedule, and by no means a reflection of the support our fans have demonstrated,” stated a note from Scott Paddock, track president, on the speedway’s website. “Rather, it is a desire and an important step for the industry to incorporate new markets and new courses into the schedule, and expand the variety of competition.  … As far as NASCAR racing at the Chicagoland Speedway, it’s difficult at this time to speculate on what 2022 might bring. We will continue to work with NASCAR on potential future opportunities beyond 2021 and will keep you updated. “

MORE: Recalling 19 seasons of NASCAR at Chicagoland Speedway 

Chicagoland Speedway hosted Cup races from 2001-19. It was on this year’s schedule but its date was moved because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alex Bowman won the 2019 race for his first career Cup victory. Tony Stewart was the track’s all-time winner in Cup with three victories.

Mark Simendinger, general manager of Kentucky Speedway, stated “Of course, we’re disappointed the Bluegrass State is not on NASCAR’s schedule for 2021, as the past two decades have been filled with memorable moments that will last a lifetime. “This has been a tough year for so many, but there are still wild adventures ahead.

“We will evolve into a multi-use rental complex and also seek additional entrepreneurial prospects. Kentucky Speedway is open for business, and we have the potential to host special events, commercial television production, music festivals, other racing series and stand-alone RV rallies and camping events. Change is sometimes hard, but I’m looking forward to the many opportunities that lie ahead for our facility.”

Kentucky Speedway hosted Cup races from 2011-20. Rookie Cole Custer won the July race, going from sixth to first on the final restart. Brad Keselowski was the track’s all-time winner in Cup with three victories.

Kentucky is where Joey Logano won his first NASCAR national series race. It came in his third Xfinity Series start on June 14, 2008. Logano was 18. The track also was the site of one of the bigger upsets in recent NASCAR history. David Gilliland won a 2006 Xfinity race there with a part-time team. That victory helped Gilliland land a Cup ride with Yates Racing.

The 2021 Cup schedule is set to be announced Wednesday afternoon.

 

Todd Gilliland appreciates first Truck Series playoff appearance

Todd Gilliland
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Two years ago, Todd Gilliland entered the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series season – his second racing with Kyle Busch Motorsports – facing high exceptions.

Son of former Cup driver David Gilliland, the then 17-year-old had two ARCA Menards Series West titles along with 20 wins across the main ARCA series and the East and West Series.

“I really think that when I came to the Truck Series I was just ready to win,” Gilliland said. “I thought that it was going to be kind of easy.”

By the end of 2019 Truck Series season, Gilliland had failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons and had just one win.

Gilliland said the experience “beat me down.” Now 20, Gilliland is in better spirits as one of 10 drivers who will compete for the Truck Series title starting Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

He’ll do so in the No. 38 Ford, which is fielded through a partnership between David Gilliland’s DGR-Crosley and Front Row Motorsports.

Todd Gilliland
Todd Gilliland at Darlington Raceway earlier this month. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“It’s made me appreciate it a lot more,” Gilliland said Monday about making the playoffs after his KBM struggles. “The last two years, I personally expected to make the playoffs and I was expected to make the playoffs and finally being able to do it and seeing the excitement of my team … we’re a part of something that only 10 drivers are this year and it just makes me appreciate a lot more.”

Gilliland doesn’t yet have a win in 2020. Through 16 races he has four top fives and nine top 10s. He enters Bristol ninth on the reseeded playoff standings with 2,003 points.

“Obviously, personally as a team, we wish we would have won more races from here, but we still have a chance and that’s the ultimate goal, which is very important to us,” Gilliland said.

If Gilliland does get that chance, the guy who won the last Truck Series title, Matt Crafton, thinks he’s an underdog to look out for at the season finale.

“Kid’s got a lot of talent and he just needs, honestly, to get his head right,” Crafton said. “He’s got to get the confidence rolling. He was really, really fast at St. Louis (Gateway) and St. Louis reminds me a lot of Phoenix. If Todd can make it to Phoenix, he can definitely be one of the ones to race for a championship.”

Gilliland showed off what his team is capable of in the Aug. 30 race at Gateway. He led 75 laps and won the first two stages. But in the final stage contact with Sheldon Creed forced him into the wall and resulted in a 24th-place finish.

Gilliland’s aware “people have noticed the speed” he’s shown recently.

“Obviously, we still aren’t where we want to be week in and week out,” Gilliland. “We’ve kind of been hit and miss. There’s some weeks that you know, say Gateway, we were the dominant truck and it’s hard to be that dominant in one of these races nowadays. … We’ve had glimmers of that every once in a while, so we just need to do that more consistently and I think that’s in the details of the truck setup that the notes that we’re building and I feel like we’re getting better and better every week still.”

Compared to his experience with KBM last year, where he didn’t win until after the playoffs, Gilliland feels “in my heart” he’s been “more in contention” this season.

“Last year, we had some some weeks we’d be in contention,” Gilliland said. “I still showed up to the racetrack thinking we could win every Truck race (I) showed up to, but this year I just feel like our pit crew’s on it. Every time I come down pit road we’re gonna gain spots. I just really feel like we have all the pieces to be a championship contending team.”

While Gilliland enters the playoffs winless, he’s not alone. Four drivers, including former champion Brett Moffitt, have yet to visit victory lane.

Another one of them is Christian Eckes, who drives Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 Toyota.

After his own trying time at KBM, Gilliland was asked how much sympathy he has for the 19-year-old’s situation.

“Racing is hard,” Gilliland said. “I think when you walk in the doors at anywhere, you’re there for a reason. You have to believe that in your heart that you can do it and also, you have to kind of be the leader. And most of us being, you know, pretty young, not having much experience at these ranks, people don’t respect you right away and I think … there’s different ways to go about it.

“But you pretty much just have to be the leader right off the bat. I feel bad, but also it’s part of learning. I think every single person in NASCAR has gone through it, you know, where you grow up a lot and then I think you’re just ready and stuff clicks easier. So I think everyone will get there in their time.”

May 5 in NASCAR: Front Row Motorsports’ stunning Talladega win

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Over the course of his NASCAR Cup Series career, David Ragan proved to be one of the more consistent restrictor-plate racers, earning both of his Cup wins on superspeedways.

The last and most surprising of those occurred on May 5, 2013, at Talladega Superspeedway with Ragan competing for Front Row Motorsports, a team that hadn’t won a race since its founding 2005.

A rain delay caused the Aaron’s 499 to end near darkness as the race concluded with a green-white-checkered finish.

Ragan restarted five rows back on the outside as Matt Kenseth led the field.

When the field took the white flag, Carl Edwards led as Ragan raced around the fifth position. Right behind him was teammate David Gilliland.

Going down the backstretch, a shove from Gilliland helped Ragan split a gap between Kenseth on the outside and Jimmie Johnson on the inside as Edwards still led.

Kenseth was quickly moved aside as Ragan assumed his spot hugging Edwards’ rear bumper.

That lasted only a moment as Ragan darted to the inside with his momentum as they entered Turn 3. He nosed ahead of Edwards in the middle of the turn and had the lead as they entered the frontstretch.

As Ragan dodged-and-weaved his way through the tri-oval, Gilliland side-drafted Edwards. After Ragan took the checkered flag, Gilliland barely beat Edwards to the finish line, giving the aptly named Front Row Motorsports a 1-2 finish.

“I don’t know what to say, this is a true David vs Goliath moment here,” Ragan told Fox in Victory Lane. “They’re not all this easy, but man, this is special to get Front Row Motorsports their first win. Feels like I’ve never been here before.”

Also on this date:

1963: Jim Paschal led the final 69 laps to win a Grand National race at Tar Heel Speedway in Randleman, North Carolina. Paschal beat Joe Weatherly for the victory on the quarter-mile dirt track. It was the second of only three Grand National races the track hosted, all coming in the 1963-64 season.

1968: David Pearson led all but one lap to win a 300-lap event at Asheville-Weaverville (N.C.) Speedway. He beat Bobby Isaac by two laps for the victory on the half-mile paved track. It would only host three more Grand National races for a total of 34.

1974: David Pearson won his third and final race at Talladega Superspeedway, beating Benny Parsons by .17 seconds.

1985: Without the aid of a caution, Bill Elliott came from nearly two laps down to win at Talladega after a broken oil fitting sent him to pit road on Lap 48. Elliott passed Cale Yarborough with 20 laps to go and then beat Kyle Petty by 1.72 seconds. It was one of the three wins Elliott claimed in order to achieve the Winston Million that year.

April 17 in NASCAR: Johnson wins in four-wide finish at Talladega

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The early 2010s were a different time for NASCAR when it came to restrictor-plate tracks and it can be summed up in two words: Tandem racing.

For a brief time, the signature image of a huge pack of cars streaming around Daytona and Talladega was replaced by the visual of two-car pairings, usually teammates, frantically pushing each other for position.

The tandem era arguably peaked on April 17, 2011 at Talladega in a race that featured 88 lead changes.

With five laps to go in the Aaron’s 499, 10 groups of tandem partners jockeyed for the win, with Dave Blaney leading into Turn 1 via a push from Kurt Busch. Neither driver would finish in the top 15 after Busch nearly wrecked Blaney with four laps to go.

With three laps to go, the remaining pairings with a shot at the win were: Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle; Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick; Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann; Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin; Tony Stewart and David Gilliland; AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard.

With two laps to go, the parings of Edwards/Biffle and Bowyer/Harvick had a good advantage over the rest of the field. But by the time the field exited Turn 4, the Gordon/Martin duo had passed Bowyer/Harvick. They were the leaders as they took the white flag.

When the field reached Turn 3 for the final time, Johnson/Earnhardt had entered the fray. They were behind Bowyer/Harvick and Gordon/Martin as they entered the tri-oval. Edwards/Biffle trailed them.

Johnson/Earnhardt then dove to the lower lane in the tri-oval and started a three-wide drag race to the finish line that would become a four-wide finish at the last moment.

Johnson beat Bowyer by .002 seconds.

“I drove through (Turns) 3 and 4 and I’m like, ‘We’ll get another chance, I hope,'” Johnson told Fox. “They were worried about each other in the second and third lane and left that bottom open and we had some big (momentum) on our side and off we went.”

Also on this date:

1960: Joe Weatherly won his second race in two nights with a victory at Wilson (N.C) Speedway, a half-mile dirt track. But Weatherly wasn’t the first to cross the finish line. That was Emanuel Zervakis. NASCAR disqualified his win after they found his fuel tank was oversized, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.”

1965: Rookie Dick Hutcherson earned his first career win in a race at Greenville-Pickens (S.C) Speedway. He went on to win nine poles and nine races that season on his way to a runner-up finish in the points. He’d only compete in two more seasons, winning five times. He went on to crew chief for David Pearson during Pearson’s 1969 championship run.

1977: Cale Yarborough led 495 of 500 laps and won a Cup race at Bristol by seven laps over Dick Brooks.

1994: Terry Labonte led only the final 29 laps and beat Rusty Wallace and Ernie Irvan at North Wilkesboro for his first win as driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet.

2009: Greg Biffle led the final 106 laps and beat Jason Leffler at Phoenix Raceway for his 20th and final Xfinity Series win.

David Ragan to race a truck for first time since 2006

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Former NASCAR Cup driver David Ragan will come out of retirement to race in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Richmond Raceway on April 18.

The 34-year-old Ragan will drive the No. 17 Ford F-150 for DGR-Crosley, the team announced Wednesday. The truck will be sponsored by Select Blinds.

The race marks the first time Trucks have raced at the ¾-mile track since 2005. It also will be Ragan’s first time in a truck since 2006.

Even though he has stepped away from full-time racing, Ragan is still keeping busy, including moving into a development role with Ford Performance, where he assists teams with simulator work and is also part of the development team for the NextGen car that will debut in 2021.

“I’m really looking forward to racing one of DGR-Crosley’s F-150’s at Richmond,” Ragan said in a media release. “I’ve been friends with David (team co-owner David Gilliland) for a long time, and I see how much work he’s putting into this team and the success they’ve had early on.

“They have a shop full of great people and I’m glad that we could make all this happen.”

Ragan has over 30 combined Cup, Xfinity and Truck series starts at Richmond. Next month’s race will be his second start of the year, having finished fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500 driving for Rick Ware Racing.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve raced in the Truck Series, and I’m incredibly thankful to Select Blinds for supporting me and allowing me to do this,” Ragan said. “This is what I wanted to do when I decided to stop racing full-time at the end of last season; I want to race in different series, with different teams.

“Obviously, we want to be competitive, and I have no doubt that DGR-Crosley will bring me a great truck. Richmond has always been one of my favorite tracks that we race at; hopefully, we can get the folks from Select Blinds another good finish this year and put on a good show for the fans.”

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