David Gilliland, Driver, No. 38 Ford
Birth Date: April 1, 1976
Birthplace: Riverside, Calif.
Resides: Mooresville, N.C.
Children: Todd and Taylor
Growing up in a race shop as the son of a stock-car driver, David Gilliland was destined for a career in racing. He spent his early years working on cars in the California shop of his father, former NASCAR Winston West Series driver Butch Gilliland. Already an experienced mechanic by his high-school years, Gilliland was named crew chief of his father’s team at the young age of 19. When the team won the 1997 NASCAR Winston West Series Championship the following year, Gilliland added Champion Crew Chief of the Year to his already impressive young résumé.
After spending all that time under the hood, Gilliland soon got the itch to get behind the wheel. He began competing in 1998 on the dirt track of Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway and, in seven starts, the rookie stock car driver took the checkered flag twice. Once he got to experience driving a car into Victory Lane, there was no turning back. Gilliland drove a full schedule at Perris Auto Speedway the following year, winning 14 of 15 heat races and nine of the 15 main-event races in the stock car division.
In 2000, Gilliland added the title of team owner to his bio. He put together a late-model team and ran full-time at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, earning two wins. A year later, he joined the NASCAR Southwest Tour and continued his winning ways, claiming his first regional touring race victory in only his fourth start in the series. He continued to turn heads the following season, earning five wins and finishing in the top 10 of the Southwest Tour standings.
With his impressive abilities, Gilliland never stayed at the same level for very long. He was always looking ahead for the next challenge. In 2004, while continuing to run in the Southwest Series, he also tried his hand at the NASCAR Grand National West Series. It didn’t long for his talents to show through at that level. Before a hometown crowd at Mesa Marin Raceway, Gilliland drove to Victory Lane in only his second West Series start. He also captured Rookie of the Year honors with his one win, seven top-5s and nine top-10s. The following year, he won the West Series’ Toyota All-Star Showdown – his biggest victory to date. But that win was just a precursor to what would happen the following year.
After 10 years of showcasing his crew chief and driver skills on the West Coast, Gilliland now had his sights set on top-tier NASCAR racing. So, in 2006, he took his family and his dreams across the country to Charlotte, N.C. The risky move paid off, as he was soon hired to drive for Clay Andrews’ NASCAR Nationwide team. The car was unsponsored and underfunded, so the team only drove a partial schedule. But that didn’t stop Gilliland from making the biggest splash of the 2006 Nationwide season on June 17 at Kentucky Speedway. That night, the racing world stood up and took notice of the rookie Gilliland when he took the checkered flag and became the first non-Sprint Cup regular to win a Nationwide race that year.
Thrust into the racing limelight after just seven starts, Gilliland quickly got his chance to compete at the highest level, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The very week after the dramatic Kentucky win, owner Bryan Mullet put the red-hot rookie in a Cup ride at Infineon (Calif.) Raceway, where the team finished 32nd. Gilliland then landed a ride for the rest of the Sprint Cup season with Robert Yates Racing, where he drove the final 14 races in the No. 38 Ford with support from the Mars family. Just as he had at every other level of racing, he proved he belonged, capturing one pole and two top-15 finishes.
Gilliland returned to Yates for his first full-time season in 2007, and started off the year with a bang when he captured the pole for the Daytona 500. He went on to earn one top-five and two top-10 finishes for the year. He matched that record in his second full-time season for Yates in 2008 with another top-five and two top-10s.
The 2009 season brought a move to TRG Motorsports, a race team with a history of success on the sports car circuit but relatively new to the NASCAR garage. Gilliland made 25 starts for the young team, some of which were cut short by mechanical issues. During the final nine races of the season, Gilliland split time in TRG’s No. 71 Chevrolet with former Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte. When Gilliland wasn’t in the 71, he picked up rides with Robby Gordon Motorsports, Wood Brothers Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Phoenix Racing.
The accomplished driver was exactly what Front Row Motorsports needed in 2010. The team was young but quickly expanding, and owner Bob Jenkins pursued Gilliland to put him behind the wheel of the No. 38 Taco Bell Ford. Joining Front Row gave Gilliland some stability and also familiarity, reuniting him with Ford and former Yates teammate Travis Kvapil.
Despite the fact that the team was assembled just a few weeks before the season-opening Daytona 500, Gilliland and his crew regularly put a fast car on the track and produced strong results in their first year together. He earned three top-20 finishes and laid a good foundation with crew chief Peter Sospenzo for their return to the Taco Bell Fusion in 2011.
Kicking off his second season with Front Row, Gilliland started off the 2011 campaign with a stunning third-place finish at the Daytona 500 – a feat he said was just as big as his Kentucky Nationwide win. Gilliland and his team went on to capture a total of one top-five, two top-10, three top-15 and four top-20 finishes on the season, making his mark on superspeedways and road courses in particular. Gilliland’s following season with Front Row, this time teamed with veteran Sprint Cup crew chief Pat Tryson, was also marked by success at restrictor-plate and road-course races. The team notched two top-15 and five top-20 finishes in the 2012 campaign.
The 2013 season marked Gilliland’s fourth year with the growing Front Row. He returned to the No. 38 Ford, paired with Frank Kerr atop the pit box to build on his early successes with the team. He played a key role in Front Row Motorsports’ most celebrated day in team history on May 5, when he pushed teammate David Ragan to victory at Talladega Superspeedway for a 1-2 Front Row finish. It was the organization’s first NASCAR win, and the runner-up finish tied Gilliland’s career best result in the Cup series.