Todd Gilliland was asked in victory lane if getting his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win was as sweet as he expected it to be.
"It's better," Gilliland said emphatically.
After started the day 11th, and failing to get into top 10 at the end of both Stage 1 and 2, Gilliland worked his way to the front and led the 11 laps that truly mattered Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, coming away with the win in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 and taking home the coveted grandfather clock trophy.
Gilliland's Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Harrison Burton looked like the KBM driver with the best chance to win Saturday, running in the top 5 as the laps dwindled down. A caution set up a green flag run with 10 laps to go, and Gilliland outpaced Truck Series playoff driver Ross Chastain for the lead. He jumped in front again on the final restart with two laps to go.
Gilliland said the last 40 laps was just about "picking people off kind of methodically."
"Under those cautions I kept getting nervous," Gilliland said after the race. "I was like, 'Man, this is not good.' ... The motor was like 280 degree for like the last half of the race. It was pushing water like every five laps. I definitely thought I was just going to get to get the lead and blow up. But everything worked out."
Burton was caught up in an incident on the final lap, and finished the day 18th. Gilliland said the two teammates tried to work together a bit at the end to outpace Chastain, but ultimately he wanted to get the win himself.
"It was both of us trying to win on our own," Gilliland said. "After the restart I got down in third, he got down in second, and he was beating the bumper off the 45 and then I tried to move him and we both kind of got away from the 45, and luckily there was another caution and we got caught back up. My spotter was telling me to let him (Burton) do the work but I wanted to do the work. I wanted to get the lead myself.
"It was nice having Harrison up there but at the same time... that's not a guy I want to move. He's my friend and we're pretty much going for the same thing."
The season hasn't been the one either Gilliland or Burton were hoping for, with neither driver getting a win until Saturday. KBM owner, NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, has aired his frustration with his Truck drivers this season, and Gilliland was heard on the radio following the race telling Busch to "stay in his... motor home."
While Gilliland said he understood the frustration from Busch this season, he was happy to prove his owner wrong in Saturday.
"Everyone has heard what he's said and obviously it's true," Gilliland said of Busch. "I wanted to win for the last year and a half as well. I'm doing all I can and the guys at the shop are doing all they can."
"KBM has worked really, really hard, they just haven't got to victory lane" said Gilliland's crew chief Wes Ward. "Todd and Harrison has been under a lot of scrutiny for that but he prevailed today. What a race."
Gilliland said following the race he doesn't know where he stands for 2020. Right now, he's glad to get out of a slump and try to build momentum for the final two races of the season.
Being just 19 years old, he knows a win can go a long way for his self-confidence.
"Being younger, I think I can do it at a high level," Gilliland said. "But week after week it gets more of a daunting task every time. I think even just for the drivers I'm racing with, everyone in the garage, I think this is a big weekend for us all and hopefully this can open some doors.
"Just to finally get a win, because going winless through two seasons would have really sucked. But just to be able to get this win and finally be able to hang a banner at KBM, that's something I've been wanting to do for two and a half years now."