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NASCAR Season Preview: David Gilliland

Photo credit: Jerry Edmundson (CC-BY-NC-ND)

#38 ModSpace Ford, Front Row Motorsports

Born: April 1, 1976

Home: Riverside, California

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Gilliland scored the best finish in Front Row Motorsports history by running third in the season-opening Daytona 500. He added a second top 10 run at Talladega in April and finished 30th in points in his first full schedule since 2008.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Nobody expected Gilliland to maintain second place in points beyond Daytona, and he didn’t. But saddled with a slow car, he frequently finished races at least one lap off the pace, and crashed out of four races in 2011. His 30th place points finish was worst of any driver to start all 36 races.

SEASON OUTLOOK: After serving as Front Row Motorsports’ lead driver in 2011, Gilliland will shift to a secondary role in 2012, as David Ragan joins the team in the #34 that Gilliland drove last season. This means that Gilliland will reassume the helm of the #38, a number that has followed him throughout his career; he broke into Sprint Cup driving that car for Robert Yates Racing, and his father, 1997 Winston West Series champion Butch Gilliland, had some of his best years in that series driving a #38 car.

Perhaps that bit of mojo will bring some good luck to the younger Gilliland, because he may need it. Front Row has been making marginal improvements every season since their inception, and certainly hopes to take another step up, but it may come at the expense of Gilliland. The team frequently shifts drivers around its secondary cars in order to try to put all of them in the race; add the adjustment to a new crew chief in Pat Tryson, and Gilliland may have trouble in 2012. His scrappiness usually ensures that he can score a couple of good finishes every year, but the threat of major inconsistency suggests that this may be a trying year.

– Chris Leone

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