The final laps of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 were literally killing me. I haven’t been that engaged in a race in quite some time. The fact that David Gilliland was running up front, realistically in contention for the win was seriously blowing my mind. In the end though he didn’t come up with the win but I feel like 2nd place is just as good.
I Tivo’d the race while I was at the track and I just watched it today. David’s smile in his post race interview was priceless. He was so happy and rightly so. He proved that he could contend with the likes of Jeff Gordon and come out on top.
On Sunday during the post-race press conference with the media his happiness still shone through, albeit subdued. I’m not one for chopping up quotes so here are some of my favorite parts from the Q&A with the media.
David on what he thought when he saw Jeff behind him in his rearview mirror:
GILLILAND: It’s not a comfortable feeling, I’ll tell you that. I grew up coming here, and so I wasn’t really surprised about having him back there for sure.
GORDON: You didn’t have anything to worry about, trust me.
GILLILAND: Our car was pretty good. On the restart before the last one, I got away from Jeff a little bit going up the hill, and so that made me a little more comfortable on the second one. But it was super slick the last lap as far as challenging for the lead. It was everything I could do just to stay on the racetrack. It was wild back there. It was incredible.
GORDON: You were up there.
GILLILAND: Yeah, up there; back there. (Laughter).
David responds to a reporter asking him if he feels his team is making progress towards becoming really competitive at the “bread and butter tracks:”
GILLILAND: Absolutely. That’s why we go to the racetrack each week. We’re working hard at it. It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. It’s a challenge each and every week, but definitely, I mean, you know, I feel like we definitely made an improvement on the mile and a half stuff. Our short track stuff has been much better than it was last year. Richmond we had the best car we had and were in the Top 10 and got involved in an accident.
Had a bit of bad luck, but definitely I feel like our performance has improved 90 percent from what it was last year. Our cars are much better and you talk to people and they say, you know, you’re just learning, experience, but you don’t really learn anything driving a car that shouldn’t even be on the racetrack.
So I’m having to relearn a lot of things this year and running up in the front with guys like Jeff Gordon, you know, you’ve got to earn that respect and that goes a long ways.
It’s just a steady process that we are chipping away at.
Jeff Gordon speaks with the press after the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway
David Gilliland speaks with the press after the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway
Crew chief Chad Knaus walks the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet through inspection at Infineon Raceway
Clint Bowyer sits on pit road before the start of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway
Boris Said takes a call at Infineon Raceway before the start of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway
Rear Tire Carrier and Car Chief Ron Malec steers the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet through inspection