NASCAR's newest and youngest champions honored in Charlotte
More of NASCAR’s newest champions – including some of its youngest stars – were officially crowned Friday night at the NASCAR Home Tracks Awards.
During a banquet and the Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom, the champions of seven NASCAR series – K&N Pro Series East and West, Pinty’s, Peak Mexico, Whelen Modified, NASCAR Whelen Euro and Whelen All-American – officially received their titles and rings.
Among the group were three first-time champions – Harrison Burton (K&N Pro Series East), Alon Day (Whelen Euro) and Alex Labbe (Pinty’s). Burton, at 16, was also the youngest.
“This season has created so many memories that will stay with me my whole life,” said Burton, the son of NASCAR veteran and now NBC Sports TV analyst Jeff Burton. “So much has gone into winning this championship, and it’s awesome to just slow down and celebrate it with my team, friends and family.”
Day, a native of Israel, stood almost in disbelief after receiving his championship ring.
“Who would have thought an unknown driver from a small country in the Middle East would one day wind up being a NASCAR champion,” he said. “That achievement never would have been reached without the help of so many people.”
At age 24, Labbe said his dreams had already come true by winning a championship in NASCAR’s series in Canada.
“It means a lot – I’ve been working on it for a long, long time,” he said. “To finally get that championship, to get the trophy at the end of the year, it’s a dream. It’s something that I’m going to have with me all my life.”
Todd Gilliland, the 17-year-old son of NASCAR veteran David Gilliland, was honored for his second consecutive K&N Pro Series West championship. An amazing feat on its own, Gilliland also came within a whisker of winning the East title as well.
“Ever since I was little, all I wanted to do was drive a race car,” said Gilliland. “When I got that chance to do that for Bill McAnally Racing, I really wanted to win him a championship. And now I’m here giving my speech for my second year in a row.”
Also honored Friday night:
- Lee Pulliam, who won his fourth Whelen All-American Series national championship, one behind NASCAR Hall of Famer nominee Larry Phillips. Behind 14 victories at Myrtle Beach Speedway, Pulliam also won the track and South Carolina state titles. “You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it gets me every time,” he said.
- Doug Coby received the hardware for his fifth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship, and fourth consecutive. “I’d rather be the guy with the bull’s eye on his back than the one swinging at it,” said Coby, who earned top-five finishes in 10 of the season’s final 12 races to rally to win the championship.
- After NASCAR’s Mexico Series took a one-year hiatus, Abraham Calderón returned just as strong, winning his second series title. While he won his first title in 2014 without winning a race, Calderon finished 2017 with a series-high five victories, including four in a six-race summer stretch.
2018 schedule released for K&N Pro Series East
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