Gilliland Hopes Next Gen is the Great Equalizer

The Gillilands skipped Xfinity to be on a level playing field with a new car.

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It’s the perfect time to have a yellow stripe in the NASCAR Cup Series when everyone else is a rookie too.

That was the genesis behind the decision for Todd Gilliland to leapfrog the Xfinity Series and go directly into the Cup Series in the very first year of the Next Gen platform with Front Row Motorsports. His father, Cup Series veteran David Gilliland and a partner at Front Row Motorsports, explored Xfinity Series opportunities but this just made way more sense.

If everyone is learning this radically different car in 2022 and is just as unfamiliar with how to make speed with it, why not put Todd in that same boat with everyone else? It could pay dividends immediately or down the road or once he is the most experienced with it.

"You see guys like Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, chase Elliot and Denny Hamlin at these tests struggling to figure out the car and now Todd's as close as he's ever going to be on an experience level with this car," David said. "It's definitely not going to be easy, but I think he's up to the challenge."

Todd experienced that the moment he pulled out for the Clash at the Coliseum last week.

"The Cup guys are so good and perfectly in tune with what these cars needed every week," Todd said. "I feel like even the most experienced guys are going to take at least a lap every week this year and just shake the car down to see what it feels like.

"If they were still racing the old car, they'd just go out there and set a fast lap. So, I do think this car lends itself to rookies a little better than last year."

Todd enters his rookie season with something to prove. His Truck Series tenure was a largely frustrating experience. It produced just two wins in 93 starts, one with Kyle Busch Motorsports and another with Front Row.

He looked like a promising prospect with pedigree in his ARCA and Late Model tenure, but the Truck Series platform seemingly didn’t match his skillset.

"I was kind of disappointed too that I never got to run the Xfinity car," Gilliland said. "They just look like fun with the low downforce and sliding around. You can run the top more.

"In a truck, you're just super locked down and you have so much downforce. It's wide open racing. So, I'm looking forward to running something that has some different characteristics. I have a lot of great people around me that believe in me, but I also know it's going to take some races to get used to, but hopefully these are something I can excel at."

His father said Todd’s car control is one of his best assets, and it was something he just couldn’t take advantage of a lot in the Truck Series.

"I'm proud of what Todd was able to do in the Truck Series," David said. "I've raced the trucks a little over the last couple of years and they're just so different from anything else you drive, and you do have to race them differently.

"But now he's in a car, and a playing field, that's the most level you could ever have, and everyone is definitely a rookie."

Todd admits it’s the kid in him, but he’s most excited about just racing 36 races at the highest level in 2022. It’s the dream of every little kid, and he saw his father accomplish that dream, and he gets to follow in those footsteps.

"It's just very fun for me to be at this level," Todd said. "It's a lot of responsibility and an opportunity but I just want to appreciate what this means -- that I'm going to do something I dreamed of from the moment I started running Late Models.

"Doing it this way means I will have room to grow, because I'm still young, become one of the top guys. I have a lot to learn but a lot of room to grow here."