Parents say fear of failure -- and danger -- all part of the deal
Gilliland’s Toledo (Ohio) Speedway win came just two days after his 15th birthday, and his dad, Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland, was there to watch. It was the younger Gilliland’s ARCA debut.
The teen predominantly races Late Models in the Southeast. He hopes to achieve the type of stock-car racing success his father has enjoyed and his grandfather, 1997 NASCAR Winston West Series champion Butch Gilliland, experienced.
Gilliland picked up his first career Late Model win at Southern National Motorsports Park in North Carolina in March. While that win got him some attention, his ARCA triumph driving for Venturini Motorsports really boosted his profile and his confidence.
“It was crazy,” Gilliland said. “It probably opened a bunch of peoples’ eyes. It was an off weekend for my dad (who drives for Front Row Motorsports), so a lot of people were watching it. It added something big to my résumé to help me stand out.”
David Gilliland, 39, said his son has always wanted to race.
Editor’s Note: Andy Marquis, 27, is a motorsports writer from St. Charles, Md. He began covering auto racing in 2008 while attending the College of Southern Maryland. He is managing editor of RACE22.com, focusing on short-track racing.
By Andy Marquis
“Racing was definitely in his blood,” said the elder Gilliland. “When he said he wanted to race, he was young. I was excited because I race, and it’s something we could do together. As much as I’ve enjoyed the success he’s had, I enjoy the time we get to spend together and things I’ve been able to teach him and watch him learn.”
Gilliland has been racing since he was 5. He says there can’t be any fear when he’s behind the wheel.
“You know, when you get inside a car, there’s always that risk, but you know your safety stuff is the best it can be,” said the quick-rising prospect.
Gilliland hopes to make another ARCA start and maybe even race in the NASCAR K&N Series this year.
His parents know there are inherent risks but are totally behind him.
“I feel really good about the safety of our sport,” David Gilliland said. “Anything can happen, and we feel like we do the best we know how on the safety side. (Still), you’re worried about that. ... He can possibly get hurt or struggle.”
Added Gilliland’s mom, Michelle: “I know this sounds funny coming from a mom, but it’s never been about the fear factor or danger of it. I think I didn’t want him to do it because it’s expensive and it’s time consuming and it’s a tough sport.”