Last season’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series champions are set to kick-off their 2018 campaigns in the Camping World Truck Series this weekend.
Because neither Todd Gilliland (last season’s West champion) nor Harrison Burton (last season’s East champion) have yet turned 18, Saturday’s Truck race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway is the first in which they are eligible to compete.
Both drivers will be competing for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Gilliland in the No. 4 Toyota and Burton in the No. 51.
Gilliland, 17, will be doing most of the rest of the season once he turns 18 in May. Burton, 17, doesn’t turn 18 until October and will be doing a more limited schedule.
Both have experience at Martinsville. Burton has made three starts at the track with a best finish of fourth (last fall). Gilliland has made one start and finished fifth (also last fall).
Gilliland said it’s been difficult watching others fill in his No. 4 truck while he awaits his 18th birthday.
“I'm a racer and all I want to do is race,” he said. “Seeing other people jump in the truck you are going to be in the rest of the year is really tough, but you have to take every opportunity you have to learn and catch up to the guys who already have three more races worth of experience than I do.”
Gilliland believes Saturday’s race will be a tough one, as Martinsville races typically can produce some wild results.
“The race is all about restarts and track position, so having a fast truck and being able to qualify up front and hopefully controlling the race (are keys),” he said.
“Last year in the fall, we were kind of just in the middle of the pack and were able to capitalize and make our Tundra a lot better to keep track position. I’d like to be able to control the race a little bit better this time.”
Burton has already been busy this season. He ran the K&N East race at New Smyrna (Fla.) and several Late Models races, including a victory last weekend in the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway.
“I'm super excited to get back in the truck this weekend. I've had a lot of fun racing in Super Late Models and K&N cars, but I'm ready to get back in the truck series for Kyle Busch Motorsports,” Burton said.
“It's a lot of fun anytime you can get in one of the top-three series in NASCAR, so I'm excited to take advantage of it.”
Burton rolls into Martinsville with high expectations, as he does each time he races.
“My expectations are to go there and win. That is the goal every time I get into a race car or truck, to go out there and win,” he said. “I feel like I've had good runs there in the past, but haven't had quite the results to show for it.
“We ended the season there with a fourth-place finish last year, so I'm excited to go see what I can do.”