MARTINSVILLE, Va. – After three years of waiting, close calls and excruciating heartbreaks, Todd Gilliland finally christened himself as a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series winner on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.
Gilliland, who started 11th and wasn’t a factor for much of the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200, found himself in position on a restart with 10 laps to go and wasted no time in taking advantage of the shot.
Restarting third behind leader Ross Chastain, Gilliland forced his way up the inside in turn three on lap 191, powering past the Truck Series playoff contender and never looking back en route to victory.
Despite a subsequent caution with five laps left and an overtime restart which pushed the race one lap beyond its scheduled distance, Gilliland held off Chastain’s best efforts and pulled away on the final circuit to finally reach victory lane in his 46th series start.
“What a race,” Gilliland said. “I’d say we just didn’t have the speed overall at the start of the race; we were just really tight. We made our truck a ton better throughout the race, though, despite being involved in a wreck there part of the way through.
“Man, this has been a long time coming. Most short tracks, on a late restart, third is where you want to be, and I knew … I knew when we restarted up there with 10 to go that we had to take our shot at it. To end up here is an amazing feeling,” he added. “Hopefully this will help us build some momentum for the final couple of races and open up some doors for next year.”
Though he had a little help from teammate Harrison Burton to escape from Chastain during the overtime restart, Gilliland didn’t feel that it was specifically he and Burton teaming up to win the race.
“It was both of us trying to win on our own. My spotter was telling me to let him do the work, but I wanted to do the work and win for myself,” Gilliland noted. “Harrison isn’t the guy you want to move, because he’s my teammate and my friend, but I’m just proud to be able to get through there at the end and win one for this team after they’ve worked so hard for me all year long.”
Chastain attempted to get back to Gilliland’s bumper through turns one and two on the final lap, but ended up nearly being spun by Burton and had to fight just to hang on to second in the end.
“I’m living my dream right now. To go head to head against (Kyle Busch Motorsports) and hold my own is great, but I just wish I could have fought them one at a time,” Chastain noted. “I couldn’t take two of them though. They took turns beating my back bumper off.
“I wish I could have gone blow for blow with them. They just had the numbers there at the end.”
Johnny Sauter crossed the line third, followed by Grant Enfinger and Timmy Hill, who secured his first top-five finish driving for his self-owned Truck Series operation.
Stewart Friesen, John Hunter Nemechek, Danny Bohn, Jeb Burton and Codie Rohrbaugh completed the top 10.
Three of the six playoff contenders – Tyler Ankrum, Austin Hill and Brett Moffitt – all failed to finish as a result of various crashes during the 201-lap slugfest on Saturday afternoon.
As a result, Moffitt heads into ISM Raceway in two weeks’ time with a 45-point margin over the elimination cut line, with Friesen 35 points clear, Chastain 20 markers up and Hill five points to the good.
Matt Crafton and Tyler Ankrum go into the final race of the semifinal round at risk of elimination.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.