NASCAR driver saved from losing full-time Cup ride

Todd Gilliland, Rick Ware Racing/Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Todd Gilliland, Rick Ware Racing/Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Front Row Motorsports made sure that Todd Gilliland didn’t lose his full-time ride after initially sidelining him for six NASCAR Cup Series races.

Before the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season began, Todd Gilliland was informed that he would not be back for a second full season behind the wheel of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, as the team’s Truck Series driver, Zane Smith, was set to replace him in six events.

The reigning Truck Series champion, for whom the team added a third entry in the Daytona 500, made his first start behind the wheel of the No. 38 Ford at Phoenix Raceway last month, and he is set to make his second start in the car this Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway.

Smith is also set to drive the No. 38 Ford at 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.

After learning the unfortunate news, Gilliland immediately pursued other opportunities, and he had quick success.

Rick Ware Racing signed Todd Gilliland to drive their No. 15 Ford in five of these six NASCAR Cup Series races.

The only race omitted from his schedule with the team was this coming Sunday afternoon’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, as Stewart-Haas Racing Xfinity Series driver Riley Herbst had already been signed by Rick Ware’s team for this event.

As things stood, Gilliland had a ride for just 35 of 36 races on the schedule, meaning he technically wasn’t a full-time driver — and therefore would not be playoff eligible, should he manage to qualify either on points or wins (or both, if there are more than 16 winners).

But Front Row Motorsports came through.

While Gilliland still will not be behind the wheel of the No. 38 Ford this Sunday, Bob Jenkins team did what they did for Smith in the Daytona 500 and added a third non-chartered entry so that Gilliland can still compete in this race — and thus maintain his status as a full-time driver.

Gilliland is set to drive the No. 36 Ford in this Sunday’s 188-lap GEICO 500 at the four-turn, 2.66-mile (4.281-kilometer) high-banked Lincoln, Alabama oval. Because the No. 36 Ford is not a chartered entry, it was not technically guaranteed a starting spot in this race at first, but the entry list features only 38 cars, and Cup Series races are capped at 40.

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Tune in to Fox at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 23 for the live broadcast of the GEICO 500 from Talladega Superspeedway. If you haven’t already done so, begin a free trial of FuboTV today!