Gilliland hits jackpot

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2006

David Gilliland is in an enviable position right now. Gilliland has run exactly nine races in the top three series, Nextel Cup, Busch, and the Craftsman Truck series. However, that one magical night in Kentucky a couple of weeks ago is going to change Gilliland’s life in the most extreme way.

Gilliland won that race in an un-sponsored car. In a year where cup drivers have dominated the Busch series, Gilliland came out of nowhere and won the race. Some media types are calling it the biggest upset in Busch history.

Now, off the strength of that one win, Gilliland is in a position to earn a considerable pay increase in a full-time ride in the cup series. Richard Childress has already expressed interest in the California native and he is not the only car owner burning up Gilliland’s telephone. You can bet that Gilliland will drive a full schedule next year, if not cup, then on the Busch series.

What does Gilliland’s rise say about the availability of quality drivers? Does one win in Kentucky equate to a multi-year contract with an elite team? Evidently, it does.

Even though he will be considered a rookie, Gilliland has been around. He has competed extensively in the West and Southwest NASCAR touring series. He has won many races in those series and in various late model series around California. His father, Butch, competed on a limited basis back in 1990s, so David has been around racing for much of his 30 years.

I hope Gilliland lands a great deal and makes the most of his window of opportunity. Hit while the iron is hot, and I don’t know if Gilliland will ever be as hot as he is now.

Speaking of available drivers, it is looking like we will see Ward Burton back on the track next season, if not sooner. Word is that Burton will be Dale Jarrett’s replacement at Robert Yates Racing. Ward is a proven winner and is supposedly coming to his new team with a sponsor in his back pocket. Given that scenario, it looks like UPS has definitely decided to take the brown to another team next season.

Where UPS goes is the big question. It looks like I jumped the gun last week on the UPS to Roush and Greg Biffle deal. Roush and Yates work very closely with each other and sponsor stealing has a tendency to ruffle feathers, so now it appears that UPS will not land with Roush. UPS was eyeing Kasey Kahne and the no. 9 team, but Dodge was reluctant to let go of the hottest young driver on the series.

UPS could follow Jarrett to Michael Waltrip racing, stay with Yates, or land with a team that no one is talking about…Richard Childress Racing.

Only ten races remain before the field for the chase is set and we will start to see some teams panic. Those guys sitting in 11th-14th in the points will start to get desperate and the races go on. Should be fun.

The traditional July 4th race at Daytona is Saturday night. This is a great viewers’ race and will be entertaining. It is also Fox’s last race of the season. NBC/TNT takes over the coverage next week in Chicago. Benny Parsons just isn’t the same as DW, but remember, this is NBC’s swan song. ABC/ESPN will take over next season.

The usual restrictor-plate suspects will be strong at Daytona. All of the Hendrick cars will make some noise, as will Dale Earnhardt, Jr and the Yates teams. This is a very critical stretch for Jeff Gordon. He will not miss the chase two seasons running and with his win last week at Sonoma, he is my pick to win this race and solidify his place in the top-ten.

Tune in Saturday night at 7:30, enjoy the race and check out all the special paint schemes that many teams will break out for this race under the lights.