Released from his full-time ride at Front Row Motorsports during the off-season, Gilliland made a cameo appearance with the organization this week at Daytona International Speedway but was unable to earn a spot in the Daytona 500.
While the prospect of sitting on the sidelines for the foreseeable future would drive most competitors to distraction, Gilliland is good with it — at least for 2016.
That’s because David Gilliland, the driver, has taken a backseat to David Gilliland, the driver’s dad. His 15-year-old son, Todd, has embarked on a busy racing schedule in NASCAR’s lower levels, and David wants to be around as much as possible.
"I think I’m going to take the remainder of the year off as far as doing anything full time," Gilliland, a veteran of 330 starts in NASCAR’s premier series, told FOXSports.com in the Daytona garage. "I’ll maybe do some hit and miss races here and there with some teams — I would like to do that, for sure — but as far as a full-time deal, I really want to spend time with my son and help him continue to grow as he continues his journey in his racing career."
Todd Gilliland became the youngest winner in ARCA Series history last year by going to Victory Lane two days before his 15th birthday at Toledo Speedway in Ohio. The win came in the first of his two ARCA starts to date.
Gilliland also has a victory in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West — and he’s made just one start in each.
"He’s been able to accomplish some really good things, win some big races, and I’ve missed a lot of his stuff racing Cup the last couple years full time, so I want to be there for him," the elder Gilliland said. "And my daughter’s going to be 13 and shows horses competitively and everything, so I want to get to a couple of those events."
Todd Gilliland plans to run in the neighborhood of 35 races this year as he competes full time in the K&N West Series, part time in the K&N East Series and also makes a number of Super Late Model starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
So much for dad kicking back and taking some time off.
"My wife and I were talking this morning, and I believe I’ll probably be busier this year than I’ve ever been," Gilliland said. "I thought I traveled a lot doing the Cup deal, but with his racing, he and I both are flying straight out of Orlando Sunday night after Daytona after the 500 and we’re flying to California for a race he’s got there. And we’re flying back and then the next week flying back to California. The team he’s driving for is based out of California, so we’re going to be spending a lot of time back and forth. It’s going to be a busy year, but we’re going to try to make it worth it."
Just being there to support for his son — and daughter – is more important to Gilliland, 39, right now than looking for his next Cup ride.
"I’m very proud every time I watch him buckle in a race car, proud of what he’s been able to accomplish," he said. "To see your children go out and do what they love and be successful at it and accomplish their goals is very special, whether it’s racing or my daughter riding horses and getting champion for the weekend or weekend champion or whatever. There’s really no better feeling. So it’s just been really exciting to do that."
While Gilliland is open to both the possibility of a substitute driver role this year and returning to the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2017, he’s content just being dad.
"People say if you take some time off, who knows if that’s going to happen — and I’m obviously very aware of that — but we’ve seen it before," he said of returning to full-time competition. "People have gotten injured or for whatever reason have to miss a race. I’ll be there for something like that if something comes up, obviously this year. Next year if a full-time deal presents itself, we’d obviously be very interested in looking at that.
"But you never know what’s going to happen. No one can tell the future, and right now I just feel like in my heart this is where we need to be and what we need to do."