Todd Gilliland has unfinished business at Martinsville Speedway.
His entire family team believes they let one get away from them back in 2015, when as a rookie, Gilliland led 88 laps but failed to close out when then-teammate RD Smith III got into him on a late-race restart, sending him into the wall and ultimately to a 24th place finish.
The memory of that moment ruminated within the Gilliland clan, especially as they were unable to return over the ensuing two iterations of the race.
David Gilliland even said ‘We’re coming back for that Grandfather Clock’ when asked about it last summer.
Now they’re here.
Gilliland was a late addition to a five-car Nelson Motorsports team over the last two weeks, but will have one of the best-prepared Late Model Stocks in the field to use in his pursuit of redemption. Now a full-time Camping World Truck Series driver, Gilliland is actually teaming up with his NASCAR crew chief in the efforts of stacking the deck.
“Working with my crew chief Marcus Richmond kind of got the door open with Nelson Motorsports, and we’ve been talking about it all year, and it ended up coming together late,” Gilliland said. “This is a very special race, and you don’t get many opportunities to win a clock, but this year I think we got one.”
Even though his 2015 defeat left a bitter impression, he does believe it made him better as a result.
Gilliland won the debut CARS Tour Late Model Stock race that March and even won at Toledo Speedway in his debut ARCA Racing Series start. What happened at Martinsville that October was a humbling but necessary reminder that not everything would come easy.
“It was really good experience for me at my age then,” Gilliland said. “At that point, we were looking to move up into the K&N Series, so it was a huge confidence booster even though we didn’t win that race. Coming back here with the Late Models, I have a lot more confidence and a lot more experience than I did back then, so I don’t see why we can’t do the same thing.”
And since then, Gilliland has went on to win back-to-back K&N Pro Series West championships and had an outside shot at making the Truck Series Playoffs this summer despite missing four of the first 15 races due to an age restriction.
That’s another thing to remember — he’s just 18 and a veteran of the Martinsville Wars.
“We didn’t like the end of the race, but at that moment, it was one of the biggest stages I had ever been on, and I actually performed,” Gilliland said. “That day my restarts were horrible, so hopefully I’m a little bit better at that now, but there were so many positives we could have taken away from that. It’s racing, stuff happens and you can’t live in the past too long.”]
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is the most prestigious and richest-paying Late Model Stock Car race of the season. The main event is 200 laps, pays $25,000 to win and will air on FansChoice.TV on Saturday night.
Green flag is scheduled for 8 p.m.