Todd Gilliland, 17, wins second consecutive NASCAR K&N West title
Todd Gilliland is just 17 years old but he’s already a two-time NASCAR champion.
Gilliland, the son of NASCAR veteran David Gilliland, finished second in Saturday’s West Coast Hall of Fame 150 at Kern County (Calif.) Raceway Park and clinched his second consecutive K&N Pro Series West championship.
Gilliland’s Bill McAnally Racing teammate, Derek Kraus, won the race, his first in the series. The championship is the third consecutive for BMR and record eighth overall.
In 14 West races this season, Gilliland finished with six wins, 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. He has not finished worse than second in his last four races.
“It was a great year,” said Gilliland. “We finished in the top 10 in all but one race, and in that one we had a flat tire. This BMR team is what makes this go. I can’t thank them enough for the fast NAPA Toyotas they gave me all season.
“Young kids like me, we just want to race as much as we can. Being able to come out here to the West Coast is very special for me, with all our family out here. I’m not sure what next year’s going to hold, but these championships definitely help.”
Gilliland is the first driver to win back-to-back championships in the series since 2005. Mike Duncan won two straight titles in 2004 and 2005. Prior to that, BMR driver Brendan Gaughan had consecutive championships in 2000 and 2001.
Gilliland set fast time in qualifying on Saturday to win his seventh pole of the season and 13th of his career. After leading the first two laps, he appeared content to settle back and let someone else set the pace.
Kraus led a couple laps early and then charged out front for good on Lap 106, with Gilliland shadowing him all the way to the checkered flag.
“My car and Derek’s car were really evenly matched,” Gilliland said. “At the end, we pulled away from everyone a lot. That was really cool. That’s the way to end up the season. We wanted the win, but a championship run was what we were here to do.”
Gilliland, a member of the NASCAR Next class, also finished runner-up in the K&N Pro Series East standings this season. NASCAR Next is an industry-wide initiative designed to showcase rising young stars in racing.
With Gilliland’s title, Toyota drivers captured both K&N series championships this season. Harrison Burton, the son of NASCAR veteran and current NBC Sports TV analyst Jeff Burton, claimed the K&N East title in September.
“We’re very proud of Todd’s championship run this year – his second-straight title run – and we’re glad he’s driving a Toyota,” said Keith Dahl, motorsports general manager for Toyota Motor North America.
“Toyota has had some incredible young talents work their way through the NASCAR K&N Pro Series ranks, and Todd Gilliland is as impressive as any. For Toyota, it’s important for us to help give young drivers the opportunity to advance their careers, and we’re honored to be associated with up-and-coming champions like Todd and East champion Harrison Burton.”
Todd Gilliland looking to repeat as K&N Pro Series West champion
NASCAR names 2018 Drive for Diversity participants