Todd Gilliland keeping 2020 options open and 'talked things out' with Kyle Busch

Todd Gilliland keeping 2020 options open and 'talked things out' with Kyle Busch

11/08/2019

Todd Gilliland ultimately admits he should not have criticized Kyle Busch after winning the Truck Series race at Martinsville.

Todd Gilliland is ready for things to return to normal for the final two weeks of the Gander Outdoors NASCAR Truck Series season—at least what he hopes becomes a new normal as the division’s newest first-time winner.

The 19-year-old finally broke through at Martinsville for his first victory in two years at Kyle Busch Motorsports—and lost himself in the excitement by telling super-critical team owner Kyle Busch to stay in his motor home rather than congratulate the team.

Busch has been critical, both behind closed doors and to the media, about Gilliland’s performance to date, and the third-generation driver was unable to hold that jab back as he crossed the finish line at the famed Virginia half-mile.

Busch, who did appear to congratulate Gilliland in victory lane, spoke to his young driver over the phone later that week but told media that while he has said a lot of controversial things over team communications in the past, he has “never attacked the boss.”

Before going winless in almost two years in the Truck Series, Gilliland was one of the prized prospects in Toyota’s development pipeline. He won the inaugural CARS Tour race at Southern National Motorsports Park in North Carolina in 2015. He won in his ARCA, K&N West and K&N East debuts over the next two seasons.

Gilliland has received a lot of grief over the past two years for things not quite working out. Was there any value in Gilliland standing up for himself in that moment he crossed the finish line?

“I think it would have been better to just block everything out and not say anything at all, but then people would have questioned my passion for it if I didn’t,” Gilliland said during a media center scrum on Friday at Phoenix. “I just keep getting beat down and the results on paper don’t get any better and that gives people ammo to say I wasn’t trying and didn’t really care.

“That’s never been the case … From a wider perspective, maybe this shows more fire, but I know on the inside that I have all the fire I need, so I shouldn’t have said anything at all.”

Gilliland is not expected to return to KBM next season, although neither side has publicly confirmed it.

“I feel like obviously he wasn’t happy,” Gilliland said of his follow-up conversation with Busch. “I wouldn’t be either, but at the same time, a part of him understood just the frustration, and I’m sure he didn’t want me to be back here. But luckily we talked things out and I’m happy to still be in this No. 4 JBL Toyota Tundra.”

But he likely won’t be next season, with Gilliland looking at options in both the Trucks and Xfinity divisions.

With his father, Cup Series veteran David owning a multi-truck team in the Truck Series, there is conviction that Gilliland has a fall-back option in DGR-Crosley Racing.

“I wouldn’t even really call it falling back — I think it’s always a good option,” Gilliland said. “He’s always been there for me, and at this point, they’ve built a really good race team. That’s always something to look at, but there’s a bunch of other really great race teams out there. Just always have to keep your options open. Just try to get the best results possible.”

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