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Todd Gilliland: Sunday's Atlanta race "a huge, missed opportunity"

Gilliland, driving Front Row Motorsports’ No. 38 Ford, ran well in last weekend’s season opening Daytona 500 – leading 16 laps – but was among the 23 cars collected in a late-race accident.

Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gilliland was an even more dominant force. He started fourth and led a career and race-high 58 of 260 laps until his involvement in another late-race incident led to another frustrating finish.

Statistically, the 23-year-old son of NASCAR Truck team owner and former driver David Gilliland is 31st in the series standings with no finish better than 26th.

The in-race performance, however, is another story entirely.

“My car was really fast. We’ve shown that the last couple of weeks. Just the progress from my team,” he said after Sunday’s race. “Right at this moment, it definitely feels like a huge, missed opportunity.

“I lost some track position (late in the race) and got caught in the middle and then just got behind that wreck, which ultimately bent a toe link. I feel like I made a lot of good moves, but obviously the one at the end where it all counts, I didn’t.

“I’ll put the emphasis on a really fast car and my team did an amazing job. I just wish I could have done a little bit better at the end.”

There were times during Sunday’s race when Gilliland was battling the likes of Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. for the lead and doing a solid job controlling the race when out front.

“In my heart, I definitely believe that I can do it with those guys week-in and week-out. Our car was really fast. I was making really aggressive moves, but really in control the whole time,” he said.

“That’s what it takes, is my confidence gets more and more, and hopefully those guys’ confidence around me gets better with every lap also.

“We’ve just got to keep doing that and hopefully the better runs will come more consistently, and I race up front with those guys more and more.”

Gilliland also had one of the better descriptions of Sunday’s wild race, which featured a track record 48 lead changes among 14 different drivers.

During one caution, Gilliland radioed his crew, “It’s like going to a haunted house. It’s fun but I’m scared for my life.”

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