GILLILAND ENDS UP THE BIG WINNER AT IRWINDALE By Mike Twist
No Victory Lane for Graduating West Coast Ace, But That's Okay
Most of the time when a driver wins a race, especially the most prestigious one so far in their career, they have memories of victory lane, smoky burnouts and celebratory laps.  That wasn’t the case for David Gilliland when he won the Grand National division portion of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway (CA).

Gilliland crossed the finish line second, but was awarded the victory after apparent winner Mike Olsen was penalized for parts did not meet NASCAR rules [click here for more on Olsen’s penalty].  When Gilliland found out about his victory, he was somewhere far from victory lane.
“I was in bed,” said Gilliland.  “It was Tuesday morning when Mike Verlatti [NASCAR’s West Series Director] called and said that we were named the official winners of the Toyota All-Star Showdown.  It was great news and a great way to wake up.”

The victory might have come in the tech line instead of as the result of a side-by-side battle, but Gilliland doesn’t think that his team backed into it either.  He was out front for a total of 42 green flag laps – nearly one-third of the feature event.
“We led a bunch and we were right there,” said Gilliland.  “It’s not like we were gifted anything in my opinion.  I’m real proud of the team and real proud of all my guys.  It’s a good way to end the season.”

Just surviving this year’s race was almost a victory it itself.  The race was plagued by caution periods and many contenders did not make it to the finish.

“There were a lot of cars that did not finish the race and it’s a tough race.  Everyone is coming out and the race pays a lot of money.  It’s serious.  First and foremost, you have to be around at the end to capitalize on anybody else’s mistake and to have a shot at winning.  Our first goal was just to be there at the end.
Gilliland's #88 car.  (51 Photos)
Gilliland knows a thing or two about running well, but not finishing, at the Showdown.  In 2004, he was a contender for the victory before his race soured.

“Last year, I think that we had them covered and were involved in an accident after they did the invert,” said Gilliland.  “We basically led the first 100 laps.  We led the most laps, but we weren’t there when it counted.  This year, we went into the race with a different mindset and were there when we needed to be.”

Next season, it’s unlikely that Gilliland will be back to defend his title. 
“This was my last time driving the #88 for MRG Motorsports and it’s a good way to end the year.” 

The 29-year-old driver is making an upward move in motorsports for 2006.

“As of right now, we’re looking at doing 16-20 Busch Series races,” said Gilliland.  “I’ll be driving for Clay Andrews Racing.  I feel really good about that.  It’s definitely a move in the right direction.  I think that Clay and all of the guys there will give us what we need to win and build a team the right way.  I’m really excited.  There are a lot of deals out there where you can just drive a car, but it’s not the right deal.  This deal here I think will be good and we’ll see where we end up.”

Gilliland and his #88 team prepare for the event.