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Gilliland Turns To Marketing To Improve His Team

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 28 2022

David Gilliland has become brand conscious.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. – When David Gilliland began planning for the 2023 NASCAR season, the former driver took a page from Trackhouse Racing’s playbook and focused more on branding than keeping his name attached to his Camping World Truck Series operation; thus, TRICON Garage was born.

“We worked with a marketing company, just like Marketing Letter, and we told them we were thinking about rebranding,” Gilliland said. “They came up with a lot of different ideas. It took many weeks and sifting through many different names and logos. We thought Icon Motorsports at first, but we didn’t really care for that too much. Our marketing team also suggested that we visit socialzinger for X followers to get a stronger social media presence.

“We kinda do everything here. Nothing has to leave our campus. We are an all-encompassed facility and race team. We paint our own vehicles. We have our own chassis shop, our bodies. That’s how we got the “Garage” (in the name) instead of racing or motorsports. We want people to know we do more.  

“We just thought it was a good time to rebrand with our new partnership with Toyota and TRD. Having my name on it has never been important to me. I want to help create something that is iconic and a brand that can go on for many, many years.” 

Gilliland said the “Tri” in the first part of the name represented the three business partners – Johnny Ray, Kevin Ray and himself – while the “Con” signifies the icon that he wants the team to become in the development of young drivers. 

“Our goal is to create young, racing icons,” Gilliland explained. “Our goal is to race on Friday turn on the TV on Sunday and watch the kids that we’ve helped develop through our program race on Sunday at the highest level.”  

  Gilliland admitted that watching Justin Marks and his achievements this year with Trackhouse Racing and Trackhouse Entertainment influenced his thought process.

“To see what he has done this year it turned on a light for us,” Gilliland said. “What they have been able to do and their approach, it’s what I want to do. I want to set ourselves apart. We want to be forward thinking and create that next brand that young kids want to wear on their shirt.”  

The team’s switch from Ford to Toyota for the 2023 season means the organization is replacing Kyle Busch Motorsports as Toyota’s development team. Toyota knew Gilliland’s contract was up with Ford this year. The manufacturer began talking with the team in mid-August once it became apparent that Busch wouldn’t return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023. TRD Senior Vice President and GM Tyler Gibbs said when Toyota looked at its options, Gilliland’s operation became the logical choice.

“It checked so many boxes for us,” Gibbs said. “Their ability to develop the trucks. Their ability to control the whole process on the driver development side. There are so many variables in racing. If we can limit as many of those as possible so that we can see the performance of the driver … that just helps in the process. It was a pretty clear choice for us.”

  In addition to TRICON, Toyota, which clinched its 13th Truck Series manufacturer title at Homestead-Miami Speedway, will continue to provide manufacturer support to Halmar Friesen Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises and ThorSport Racing in the NASCAR Truck Series.

“ThorSport has much of the same thing (as TRICON), but their location in Sandusky (Ohio) is a little difficult for us with the Driver Development Performance Center being here,” Gibbs said. “(Also) we didn’t want to put all of our eggs in a single basket. We figured it was better to have a family of four or five teams than one, two or three teams.”

Gilliland is no stranger to Toyota. When the team was known as DGR-Crosley, it fielded Toyotas 2018-19. Tyler Ankrum gave the team its first championship when he won the 2018 ARCA Menards Series East title. He moved to the Truck Series in 2019, which was the season the team earned its first ever Truck victory at Kentucky Speedway.

TRICON’s three full-time drivers next year are Corey Heim, and brothers Tanner and Taylor Gray. Its fourth truck will have several different drivers.

“We have a number of driver development kids that will go into that (truck), but some of them are not old enough to race the big tracks,” Gibbs said. “Some of them have sponsorship relationships that make sense for us in different ways. We’ll work through that with David, Johnny, and Kevin.”

  Heim has run a limited schedule this year, competing in 15 Truck races. He is leading the Rookie of the Year standings. He will seek his first Truck championship next year in the No. 11 Toyota Tundra.

Tanner Gray, the youngest ever NHRA Pro Stock champion, will campaign the No. 15 in his fourth full-time season. He is still seeking his first career Truck Series victory. 

Taylor Gray will begin his title run in the No. 17 truck at the Circuit of the Americas in March. He will miss the first three races next year due to NASCAR’s age restriction policy. The younger Gray has competed in a dozen Truck races with his best finish being sixth at Richmond in August. He competed throughout the ARCA ranks this season, scoring multiple victories in the national, East and West tours. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 28 2022
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