Busch commented on the performance of Gilliland and his teammate, Harrison Burton Saturday afternoon (June 1) at Pocono Raceway. Both drivers have yet to win in NASCAR’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series, and Busch has clearly noticed.
I asked Kyle about the Truck program, he says he would grade it a “2” out of 10. Says the two drivers “ain’t doing shit”
— Dustin Albino (el-bee-no) (@DustinAlbino) June 1, 2019
Gilliland has struggled during his first full-time season in a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck. On one hand, he’s finished inside the top 10 in half of his starts and earned one top-five result. But driving for one of the best to ever do it in some of the best equipment in the NGOTS garage comes with higher standards. He and Burton sit eighth and ninth in the series standings, fighting for the final playoff spot as part of a KBM team used to competing for series championships.
Gilliland was at Memphis International Raceway, competing for Bill McAnally Racing in the K&N Pro Series East event, when Busch spoke out. It’s the first time the two-time K&N Pro Series West champion has raced in the series this season.
But his mind was certainly on his full-time job.
“We aren’t doing anything,” he told Frontstretch. “We’re running bad and that’s obviously not what you’re expected to do and not what I expect to do in Kyle Busch Motorsports stuff […] Kyle is one of the best of all-time. When he tells the team to do something, they listen. Chemistry is everything. People believe in him, and I need people to believe in me like they do with him.”
Gilliland finished eighth in the 14-car field for the Memphis 150, uncharacteristic of him in a series in which he’s graced victory lane almost 20 times and won two championships. It’s a weekend that, on paper, should have helped him confidence-wise.
Instead? It wound up being just all right.
“Today didn’t help, obviously, not running (well),” he said. “It’s all part of it. Before, I feel like I would’ve wrecked this thing if I was that loose. Just drove over the limit. Half of it is being smart, half of it is pushing it to the extreme and knowing where to do that.”
Although Gilliland and the No. 19 team tweaked on the car all day, they were behind the eight ball from the start.
“We just kind of struggled all weekend,” he said. “From our first lap on the racetrack, I was wrecking loose on entry and we just never got it close. I was worried about finishing last. Racing with those guys, restarts are important. It’s hard to pass when it gets going the exact same speed after 20 laps. It seemed like everyone was really free and everybody couldn’t drive their cars to the limit or over it, made for kind of single-file racing.
“Still fun to come back with Bill McAnally Racing, different team […] hopefully we gained something that they can take in the future. Lot of stuff to work on.”
This isn’t the first time the Cup veteran has been publicly critical of his drivers. Last February, Busch threw some warning signs out there for Gilliland to pick up his pace or find work elsewhere.
The teenager has learned to take that criticism on the chin and work to improve upon it. He knows that at the end of the day, Busch simply wants the best for him and the team.
“There’s nothing you can do,” he said. “We aren’t running like we ought to, and we know that. We’re just going to go work harder every week. Sometime we’re going to make a change. We’ll see what we need to do, but the biggest thing is just staying consistent, bringing the same Todd to the racetrack every weekend, letting them work on the truck and not putting myself in bad positions.”
Gilliland will look to earn his first career NGOTS victory this Friday, June 7, at Texas Motor Speedway for the SpeedyCash.com 400-kilometer event.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.