The following is the second (and final) part of my interview with David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 DISH Network Ford this weekend at Watkins Glen.
I think you’ll find that what he has to say is truly refreshing. Here is someone who is determined to see his dreams realized and is all about doing the work necessary to make that happen. And frankly I can’t think of a better reason to sponsor the guy.
Oh and as you read this you should know that I am very aware of the fact that I used the word “feel” waaay too much.
Me: How do you feel about Yates Racing as a whole, as an organization? Do you feel like you guys are definitely moving in the right direction in that the base is becoming more and more solid to become a Championship organization?
Gilliland: Yeah, I think it takes time. Time is what is going to help us the most. I’m very proud of Yates Racing and where we’re at at this time, but ya know we’re not where we want to be ultimately and within time I think we will. I think we’ve got great people in place. I think Travis [Kvapil] and I work well together as teammates. Our cars are getting better and faster, and as Travis and I go to racetracks for a second time in the COT cars we’re able to express more of what we need. I think that’s the biggest thing. I think we’ve got the right people in place, I think it’s just a time issue right now.
Me: So speaking of your teammate Travis [Kvapil], what is your relationship like with him and how much time do you spend together in terms of talking about your cars and the racetracks that are coming up?
Gilliland: A lot. I mean, I talk to him more than I have any teammate that I’ve ever had. We’re good friends. We like a lot of the same things in our race cars to make them go fast and I think that’s a key, key element in having a good solid team. I think us working together has enabled us both to run better this year. And hopefully we can get some primary sponsors nailed down so we can continue working together in the future.
Me: This is your second full year in the Cup series what does it feel like to have fans? They already have a name for themselves: “Gilly’s Gang.” What does that feel like?
Gilliland: It’s awesome, it’s really cool. Sometimes you go and you’ll have a bad day and you come home and read the message board or read letters and stuff that your fans send you. It keeps you upbeat and makes you realize how lucky — sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re very lucky and fortunate to be able to do what we do. The competitive side of us takes over often, coming in second at Infineon, it was good but we didn’t win, ya know? But to have the fans that we have and the support from them, it definitely keeps us going for sure because there are days when you get down and our fans always help us bounce back.
Me: Speaking of your message boards, do you go on them quite often?
Gilliland: Yea I do, I go on them very often. I post every once in a while, but definitely go on and read it. Just try and keep up with what’s going on with our fans for sure. I mean, I go on there at least two, three times a week.
Me: Do you ever go online just to read what other people are saying about you, like other writers or message boards or anything like that?
Gilliland: No, not really. If there’s articles that are written about me sometimes I can look and see, but mainly if there’s something real bad my PR person won’t let me know about it. But really haven’t had too much negative stuff. We’ve just been trying to keep our nose clean and build respect with other drivers and just keep progressing in the series.
Me: From my point of view it feels like the media hasn’t paid you enough attention, I mean you and Travis have been running really well this whole year and yet it still feels like they’re slow to talk about you guys. How does that feel? And do you kind of like being the guy that people aren’t necessarily looking at every week? How do you feel about that?
Gilliland: Yeah, I think Yates Racing deserves a lot of credit. Like I said, I think from where we were at in December, moving shops, getting a bunch of new employees, a new crew chief, building new race cars and everything, where we’re at and with as competitive as the series is I think Yates Racing deserves a lot of credit. People realize it, people do see it and I think like you said they’re kind of slow to give us too much credit. But ya know, hopefully, like I told Travis we get out and win some races or finish in the top-5 and they can’t help but shoot a little love our way. Sonoma was awesome and hopefully we can have more runs like that in the near future.
Me: What have you learned about yourself since coming into the Cup series? What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Gilliland: The biggest thing that I’ve kind of done and learned is that it takes a lot of self-discipline. I go to the gym every week, every day when I’m home. It’s a full-time job, 24 hours a day to do what we do. It’s not a deal where you just go to the racetrack on Thursday and do your deal and come home Sunday and have a vacation for three days. It’s a 24 hour a day deal. You’ve got to be very, very committed.
Me: So what was it like after finishing second at Infineon — which was awesome by the way, I was there and I was so excited for you — what was it like to have Jeff Gordon say that he was impressed by you, that he liked you? What did that feel like for you?
Gilliland: Yea, it’s awesome. Jeff Gordon is someone who I definitely looked up to throughout my racing career and have him go out and say what he said that feels good. Tony Stewart said the same thing after the race and that’s good. Those guys don’t give you anything, you have to earn it and I feel like we’ve done a good job of earning their respect along the way.
Me: And also Kyle Busch said that he ran some races for your family back in the day and that you two are friends. Tell me a little bit about that and do you think the reception he gets from the fans is, uhm, what’s the word, is, does he get a bad rap? Is he just misunderstood like he says he is?
Gilliland: Yeah, I think so. I get along well with Kyle. He ran a couple of races for my team that I ran on the West Coast. I got a car ready for him to drive a couple times. He actually helped me get my first truck ride with Billy Ballew Motorsports at Vegas. He was a big part of putting that deal together and helping me do that. We get along well. I think he’s a great race car driver and I think he’s aggressive and I think you need to be to win races at this level. I think the fans are going to love some people and they’re going to hate some people but overall he’s a good guy.
Me: I interviewed your wife Michelle earlier this year and she was so awesome. She said that she was the one who went up to you to introduce herself when you two met for the first time. What do you remember from that meeting and how much does she mean to your racing and your career?
Gilliland: A lot, definitely. I’m a shy, kind of stand-offish kind of guy and she’s definitely the opposite, she’s outgoing and it’s why we get along so well. She came up, sat down next to me and started talking to me. I think that was 13 years ago and I’m glad she did. She’s been a great part of my racing, always very supportive of me. Being married to a racer might look glamorous from the outside, or exciting or whatever, but there’s so much time that goes into doing what we do that she makes a lot of sacrifices, her and my family, for me to do what I love and do my job. So it’s not easy by no means and I just have to give her a lot of credit.
Me: What would you want people to know about you as a race car driver and what’s your philosophy on racing? What kind of race car driver are you?
Gilliland: The biggest thing to me is that I’m here because of very, very hard work and just a never give up attitude and dedication to doing what I love and what I want to do. I feel like that’s why I’m here. Nobody was here with millions of dollars buying me a ride at any time or at any point in my career. I think it’s important for people to know that things like that can still happen with hard work. And that’s the message I like to try to get across to people is just to relay that message that if you work hard enough at something and are dedicated to it enough that anything is possible and anything can happen. I think that’s probably the biggest thing.