BRISTOL, Tenn. — Story by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — Jonathan Moore/Getty Images photo —
Todd Gilliland could make a big mark in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series history books Saturday afternoon at Bristol.
The 15-year-old driver looks to become the first driver in series history to win every one of his first five K&N Pro Series starts. Gilliland won his K&N West Series debut last fall at Phoenix and the winning hasn’t stopped.
To add to the first win, the third-generation driver held off Spencer Davis in a thrilling photo-finish in the East opener at New Smyrna in February. In addition to select East Series races, Gilliland signed on with Bill McAnally racing for the full 2016 West slate and wasted no time by winning the first two races at Irwindale and Kern County to kick off the season.
“I think Kern was definitely one of the toughest ones out of them all,” Gilliland said. “We came to pit behind there on the last restart. We restarted third instead of we thought the lead or second, it’s just kind of put it more on me, just having to drive away from third which might not seem like a lot, but with 15 or 10 laps to go, it was very nerve-racking for sure.”
Gilliland made the race-winning pass on Ryan Patridge with nine laps to go to keep the streak alive. He has a tough task ahead of him, trying to tackle the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway to make it a five-bagger in the K&N Series. Historically, the Bristol race shows that experience shows on the Tennessee high banks and some drivers run a different concrete track in Dover to run something similar before turning laps here.
“To tie a 50-year record to catch a motorsports legend in Dan Gurney, it’s awesome,” Gilliland said. As much as I like being a part of it, we’re going to try our best to go out here and break it. I think we started with the same things in the first couple of races. We’ve got Chris Eggleston, our other teammate and defending champ in K&N West Series and Riley Herbst with so much NOS Energy Drink, it’s crazy. It’s pretty funny that I hang out with all my teammates and the different personalities and it’s crazy how all of us work together really well, but I think having Riley Herbst on the East Coast here with us for the races is a big help.”
BMR has two cars at Bristol this weekend, also Riley Herbst running the No. 19 NOS Energy Drink Toyota in Saturday’s race, but has to go through Gilliland first to knock his teammate off the top step. The stable also has defending West champ Chris Eggleston and rookie driver Juila Landauer as part of the full-time four car operation in the West Series.
Gilliland get fast cars week in-and-out and the same might be expected on the Bristol-high banks once the 15-year-old makes his first lap.
“That’s the scary part. I don’t really even know what to expect. It’s crazy, it’s hard to compare to anything else. I think we’ll just have to go out there for the practice sessions and just learn as quickly as I can to get the car as good as we want it, but it’s going to be difficult for sure and I hope I can tackle this new track, but it should be interesting.”
“It was definitely a lot easier to learn when the whole team gives you great cars right off the trailer and you can go out there the first laps and it’s not doing anything out of the ordinary and you can actually learn from the first run out. You don’t have to tighten the car quite as bad as some of the others. The biggest part really is being strong right off the trailer and just learning quickly as I can and my crew chief also learning as quickly as he can and giving feedback right away.”
Not sure what the post-race party might be like if Gilliland breaks Gurney’s 50-year-old, but his parents make sure school’s first.
“That’d be super cool, just having the record. I don’t know what the party would be, probably just going home and doing my homework on Sunday. That’s the plan right now anyway. I’m going to try for sure, but I don’t know. They always tell me school comes first.”
Gilliland rolls out for two K&N East practices and qualifying on Friday before Saturday’s fifth-annual PittLite 125.
To listen to the full interview with Gilliand on the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show, click the player below:
About the Writer
Kyle Magda is a Northeast Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and a co-host of both Motorsports Madness and the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show, airing at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and Thursday nights, respectively, on the Performance Motorsports Network. Magda broke into racing in mid-2001 as the sport’s tide was beginning to change towards the current modern-era formula, but still has an affinity for the history of NASCAR’s earlier days.
The 22-year-old is a graduate of Penn State University and can be found traveling to numerous tracks across the country, covering everything from NASCAR and the ARCA Racing Series to the UNOH All-Stars Circuit of Champions and the Super Cup Stock Car Series.
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