There’s no question David Gilliland is the persistent type.Even when faced with adversity and negativity, Gilliland is the type that sucks up the bad and keeps looking for the good, even if it’s all but unattainable.
There’s no question David Gilliland is the persistent type.Even when faced with adversity and negativity, Gilliland is the type that sucks up the bad and keeps looking for the good, even if it’s all but unattainable.If he was in the Army and his drill sergeant slapped him upside his head, Gilliland would probably reply, “Thank you, sir, may I have another one?”You can’t help but admire a person like that. He may be fighting long odds, hard times and face life with few people who believe in him, but he still manages to keep moving forward.The 2008 Sprint Cup season has been a perfect example of that. Team owner Robert Yates sold his entire operation to his son, Doug, during the off-season.Then, Gilliland and teammate Travis Kvapil became victims of the economy, as neither of the cars they drive for Doug Yates Racing have full season-long sponsorships. They’ve competed race to race with little continuity from one week to another sponsorship-wise, and have even had to race with cars devoid of any corporate backing, period.The two drivers and Doug Yates have had virtually every kind of bad curve ball thrown at them, yet they keep bouncing back.That’s why it’s a pleasure, after writing about all the bad things that have happened to him this year, to tout some good: that Gilliland pulled off a career-best second-place finish this past Sunday at Sonoma, moved up to 21st in the Cup standings and could wind up being the biggest and most inspiring Cinderella story of ’08.“That’s why we go to the race track each week,” Gilliland said after Sunday’s race. “We’re working hard at it. It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. It’s a challenge each and every week, but definitely. I feel like we’ve definitely made an improvement.”There’s no question about that. In his last 15 starts (not including the season opener at Daytona), the driver of the No. 38 Yates Racing Ford has racked up one top-five (Sunday’s performance), one other top-10 and a surprisingly strong seven other top-15 or top-20 outings.That’s a pretty darned good track record for a team that has minimal sponsorship, limited testing time and far from state-of-the-art equipment.If there’s ever been a team that has gotten the most out of what it has, it’s Yates Racing. And Gilliland and Kvapil, ranked 18th, have been nothing short of miracle workers to attain the finishes they have with so many obstacles in their way.“We’ve had a little bit of bad luck, but, definitely, I feel like our performance has improved 90 percent from what it was last year – our cars are much better,” Gilliland said firmly. “You talk to people and they say, ‘You’re just learning experience,’ but you really learn (a lot) driving a car that really shouldn’t be on the race track.“So, we’re having to re-learn a lot of things this year, and running up in the front with Jeff Gordon, and you’ve got to earn that respect and that goes a long ways. It’s just a steady process that we’re chipping away at.”And that steady process includes holding his own when Gordon is breathing down his neck or thinking he had a chance at catching and possibly overtaking eventual race winner Kyle Busch for the victory.“Obviously, I wanted to catch Kyle,” Gilliland said. “And with Jeff behind me, that’s an uncomfortable feeling, I can tell you that. But I remembered something my dad said, to race the race track and not worry so much about your opponents, and that’s what I did.“It was a great day for us. I’m really proud of Yates Racing. As a whole, where we were last year, just in these 16 races or how far we are now, it’s 180 degrees of where it was, and I think it still has the potential to get even better. So, I’m real proud of that and real proud of being a part of that.”Jerry Bonkowski is National NASCAR Columnist for Yahoo! Sports (Yahoo.com) and a featured contributor to Gatehouse News Service. He can be reached at NASCARColumnist@Yahoo.com.