TRG Motorsports deserves kudos for getting #71 into top 35
But owner Kevin Buckler can breathe a little easier heading into qualifying day at Martinsville, as the team somehow has locked in at 35th in owner points despite making only four races.
Red Bull Racing’s Scott Speed, Earnhardt Ganassi’s Aric Almirola and Yates Racing’s Paul “I brought a sponsor with me” Menard all are employed by bigger organizations than TRG, yet will have to qualify on speed at Martinsville, where five cars will miss the race.
It’s pretty impressive, and I’m very surprised by the solid performance of David Gilliland. Perhaps losing his ride with Yates lit a fire under Gilliland, who has exceeded the expectations of this tiny team by getting them into the top 35. His four runs include 14th-place and 24th-place finishes, numbers that are pretty impressive for a new team like TRG this early in the season.
While they’re in the race at Martinsville for sure, the team still isn’t quite out of the woods. If they have a repeat of the terrible performance at Bristol, TRG will find themselves on the outside of the top 35 when they get to Texas. When you’re on the borderline like this team, there’s no time to celebrate this small milestone because the focus must remain on moving up in the points and getting into a safer position.
With short track action known for its bumping and banging, Gilliland recognizes that he’ll have to be careful.
“A lot of things can happen that are out of your control. You still have to be there at the end,” he said.
Buckler said this past weekend that the team is “doggedly searching for” sponsorship, which is still needed at some point if the team is going to run the whole season. But I believe that at least some smaller sponsors will be drawn to a feel-good story like the TRG team, especially if Gilliland can rack up some solid finishes in the next few weeks.
Many people do not realize that TRG knows about winning, having taken a win in the Truck series last year with driver Donny Lia. Also, Buckler has a sports car racing team that has won at the 24 hours of Daytona, plus Le Mans.
While I recognize that a team like TRG isn’t on par with the big boys in Cup, if the team can stay in the top 35 all season and have quality runs on a regular basis, then Buckler, Gilliland and the entire team (all dozen or so of them) will be the happiest guys in the garage.
Considering how things started in 2009 at Daytona for this team, so far it hasn’t turned out too bad.