Not So Fast
Opinion by TRE Reporter Peter Carcia
Back in 2009, Front Row Motorsports began full time competition with John Andretti, a former driver for the famous 43 car. They finished mediocre in the field and maintained the top 35 owner points after getting the lock in preseason from the defunct 01 team for DEI.
In 2010, their numbers grew dramatically. From one full time and one part time entry, Front Row grew to three full time rides. New personell in the cars came as well, as Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland, two refugees of the recession, were able to get rides. Also joining them was Kevin Conway, a rookie with personal sponsorship and that year's laughing stock. Conway has his personal best at 15th during his 35 races in Cup competition that year, the Coke Zero 400 race with the crazy 20+ car wreck.
But Conway wasn't the only driver in Bob Jenkins's troop that was struggling last year. In fact, all three drivers barely found themselves on the lead lap, many times multiple laps down without any legitimate chance of making a statement. The same seemed to be expected this year, as the lack of sponsorship continued to plague the team. (Remember, Jenkins has stock in Taco Bell and Long John Silver's, so barely any sponsorship is getting recieved from the team)
But with a green white checkered finish in Daytona arriving, Rousch driver Carl Edwards in the wittiest way decided to pair up with David Gilliland to attempt to get the race win. Gilly could hardly say no considering Edwards had been fast all race. So when the white flag came out, a new pair formed in the picture. The familiar 99 Aflac black and green of Carl Edwards, and the white, purple, and pink of... wait, who the heck is David Gilliland??
Instead of Bayne / Labonte vs. Kurt Busch / Montoya, it became a six way battle for the win on the backstretch. The folks in the FOX booth were right, "Where did he come from?" Without any worry, David pushed Carl with blinding speed. They broke up the Montoya and Busch pair coming into turn 3, now it was time to catch up to Bayne and Labonte. The team was dead close coming out of the turn, but Trevor was able to hold off Edwards and company enough to win the 500. David Gilliland finished fifth, Front Row's first top five finish.
Now, after a 2-lap down finish of 22nd at Phoenix, Gilliland remains in Chase position, and there are many people considering if he can conpete for the crown. One restrictor plate race and already people are jumping to that conclusion? I don't think so. The Fords of Front Row Motorsports are still lacking that raw speed that is necessary to make even a chance at the Chase, enter their 22nd place finish two laps down. However, the season is still fresh, and it will take this race being the opening mile and a half race to really see if David Gilliland can take it to the limit.