Gilliland to drive in Yates car

Friday, August 18th 2006, 4:15 pm
By: News On 6

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) _ David Gilliland, capitalizing on his big upset in a NASCAR Busch Series race, replaced Nextel Cup veteran Elliott Sadler in the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing Ford and will drive Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

The first test for Gilliland will be the GFS Marketplace 400.

``It's just an honor to be associated with a championship, winning, quality team,'' Gilliland said Friday.

His team, however, has struggled this season. Dale Jarrett, who gave the team a Cup title in 1999, plans to leave at the end of the season and Sadler already is gone. Meanwhile, crew chiefs are coming and going.

The 30-year-old Gilliland, who started in racing as crew chief for his father, Butch, on the west coast, will work with veteran crew chief Todd Parrott. Parrott, who guided Jarrett to the Cup championship, recently returned to the team after a stint with Petty Enterprises.

``Having Todd Parrott as my crew chief, I'm hoping it will cut down my learning curve a little bit and get us to where we need to be,'' Gilliland said. ``I'm just very excited about the opportunity.''

``I appreciate the opportunity to work with David,'' Parrott said. ``He's been a crew chief, so he understands what it's like being in this position and he's a great race driver. He showed a lot of ability.

``I've won 30-something races here at Robert Yates Racing, a championship, and it feels like I'm coming home.''

Doug Yates, Robert's son and the team's chief engine builder, welcomed Gilliland,

``I've got some friends in the business that have been around for a long time,'' Yates said. ``Earlier in the season, they said, `You've got to watch this guy.' They said, `This is next Dale Earnhardt.'

``I started watching him and every practice session he'd be at the top of the sheet and every race he'd be competitive with really just hand-built equipment because he doesn't have a big organization behind him. Really, the true test of a driver is when he can get into average equipment and make it look better than average.''

In June, Gilliland won the Busch race at Kentucky Speedway, driving for Clay Andrews Racing, a part-time team. The victory has been called one of the biggest upsets in Busch history and it spurred interest in the driver from numerous top-level organizations, including Yates.

When Sadler left the Yates team this week to replace fired Jeremy Mayfield in the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports entry, that opened the door for Gilliland, who will skip a shot at Rookie of the Year in 2007 to drive the last 14 races this season. Drivers are allowed to race in up to seven events per year without losing their rookie status.

``We feel like it's more important to run the races and get the experience on some of these tracks that I haven't been to,'' Gilliland said.

Gilliland started 31st and finished 32nd in his only previous Cup start on the road course at Infineon Raceway in June and owns a 22.5 average finish through eight NASCAR Busch Series starts this season.