Driver David Gilliland returned to the site of his nationally-recognized June 18 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" NASCAR Busch Series victory today when he tested the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Ford at Kentucky Speedway.

The 30-year-old, who won the 1997 NASCAR Winston West Championship serving as a crew chief for his father's No. 38 Ford, said he is close to having the chance to try to duplicate that success in the NEXTEL Cup version of the car if he signs a full-time deal to fill the seat rumored to have been recently vacated by veteran Elliott Sadler.

"We're getting closer. I believe I'm going to finish off the year in the car and I'm real excited," Gilliland said. "It's just a great opportunity. After we won the Busch race here, it opened up a ton of doors. (Owners) Robert and Doug (Yates) have been great and everyone at M&M's is willing to give me an opportunity. Hopefully, we can take full advantage. It definitely happened faster than a lot of people thought it would. We worked hard to get here and feel I deserve to be here."

Gilliland put the No. 38 through its paces under the watchful eye of new, yet familiar, veteran Crew Chief Todd Parrott. He formerly served as crew chief for the No. 88 Robert Yates Racing car and returned to the team this week following a 22-race stint with Petty Enterprises and the No. 43 car of Bobby Labonte.

"Today has been awesome," Gilliland said. "Todd is a winner and has a lot of experience in the NEXTEL Cup Series. That's what we're going to need. We want to do everything we can to cut our learning curve and get to the front as soon as possible."

The former NASCAR Featherlite, Winston West and AutoZone Elite division competitor said the car made a good first impression during morning runs.

"So far, so good. The test has gone great," Gilliland said. "We haven't changed too much. I'm just getting used to the car and everything else. It's not much different from a Busch car, I'm surprised. The team put together a great car. It's just a pleasure to drive."

Not only did he feel comfortable in his car, the father of two said he felt comfortable with his potential new team as well.

"I see this being my home. With Doug and Robert, it's a family-owned company and that's what really drew me to the Yates bunch. M&M's is a family-owned company and I'm a family guy," Gilliland said. "Everyone I've ever raced for has been a family team. There were no big sponsors, everyone just gave it 150 percent."

Gilliland started 31st and finished 32nd in his lone NEXTEL Cup Series start of the season at Infineon Raceway and owns a 22.5 average finish through eight NASCAR Busch Series starts this season.

Bill Davis Racing driver Bill Lester, Haas wheelman Jeff Green and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., pilot Martin Truex, Jr., also turned laps at the speedway today. The Haas team tested a "car of tomorrow" in addition to its primary No. 66.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~