NASCAR: Late full-time driver addition for 2023?

Todd Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Todd Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Todd Gilliland, once a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver, lost his full-time ride for 2023. But he may be on track to run full-time after all.

With Cody Ware returning to Rick Ware Racing for a second full NASCAR Cup Series season behind the wheel of the No. 51 Ford, it appeared as though the full-time lineup would consist of 34 drivers throughout the 2023 campaign.

There were 32 full-time drivers last year, and two cars that had been shared by multiple drivers are now set to be driven by full-time drivers in 2023.

However, that number was reduced to 33 when it was announced that Todd Gilliland, who was believed to be set for his second full season behind the wheel of the No. 38 Ford for Front Row Motorsports, would be sharing his ride with Zane Smith, the reigning Truck Series champion who competes full-time for the Bob Jenkins-owned team in the Truck Series.

Todd Gilliland is still set to drive the car throughout the majority of the NASCAR Cup Series season, with Zane Smith having been confirmed for just six races.

Smith, who is attempting to qualify a third Front Row Motorsports entry for the Daytona 500 alongside Gilliland and Michael McDowell, is set to replace Gilliland for the first time at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 12.

He is also set to drive the No. 38 Ford at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 23; Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 28; Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 11; Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 24; and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Sunday, October 8.

But Gilliland could end up running full-time throughout the 2023 season after all, thus making him playoff eligible if he ends up finding victory lane or finishing high enough in the regular season point standings.

The 22-year-old Sherrills Ford, North Carolina native is now set to run a five-race schedule with Rick Ware Racing. He is set to drive the No. 15 Ford at Phoenix Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

He isn’t set to drive for the team at Talladega Superspeedway simply because of the fact that the team have already confirmed Riley Herbst as the driver of the No. 15 Ford for the superspeedway races on the 2023 schedule.

Aside from the No. 38 Ford and the No. 15 Ford, there is just one chartered entry which is shared by multiple drivers, and that is the No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet.

Could the team owned by B.J. McLeod and Matt Tifft, a former Front Row Motorsports driver himself, give Gilliland the opportunity to retain his status as a full-time driver? Could Gilliland end up piloting all three shared chartered entries at some point in 2023?

There are several teams that could field non-chartered entries for Gilliland in this race as well, and there is little reason not to consider it. Gilliland’s best career oval finish came at Talladega Superspeedway last October when he finished in seventh place.

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Considering the fact that this is the one race he needs to add to his schedule to make it a full-time schedule, it’s hard to envision him not competing.