After this past weekend at Daytona, it might be difficult to call David Gilliland a sleeper anymore. The word is now out for sure that the new sensation from Robert Yates Racing is out to make his mark as a breakthrough driver in the Nextel Cup Series in 2007.
The forgettable 2006 season for RYR already appears to be a thing of the past. The widespread changes at RYR already seem to be paying off, especially with Gilliland, who rode the momentum of strong practice showings by finishing second to Tony Stewart in Saturday night's Bud Shootout. In the event that created a real buzz about Denny Hamlin last season, Gilliland began to show that he can indeed build on his respectable showings from late in '06.
Gilliland certainly lacks experience, but he seems determined to make big things happen. Last year, he scored a surprising Busch Series win at Talladega at Kentucky in June, then he took the pole at Talladega in the Nextel Cup series in October. He finished in the Top 21 in three consecutive races before the season finale and qualified in the Top 10 in two of the final three Nextel Cup races.