Todd Gilliland

Photo: Sherry Pollex

NASCAR Drivers to support ‘Drive for Teal & Gold’ campaign

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The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation’s second annual “Drive for Teal & Gold” campaign to raise awareness of and funds for ovarian cancer (teal ribbon) and childhood cancers (gold ribbon) will begin this weekend at Darlington Raceway.

Truex’s girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, is an ovarian cancer survivor.

Throughout September, the national awareness month for both diseases, 27 drivers in Cup, Xfinity and the Camping World Truck Series will sport teal and gold steering wheels customized by Max Papis Innovations. Ryan Newman will take part by using customized driving gloves. At the end of September, drivers will autograph their customized items for an online auction by the NASCAR Foundation to benefit the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation.

Truex and Pollex created the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation in 2007 to advocate for children and teens affected by cancer. Pollex was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer in 2014. The Foundation’s mission was rebranded in 2015 to support both childhood and ovarian cancers. In 2016, Pollex launched SherryStrong.org as a health and wellness resource for women fighting any form of cancer. In July 2017, Pollex underwent successful surgery for a recurrence.

Christopher Bell leads opening Truck practice at Gateway

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Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in the opening practice session Saturday at Gateway Motorsports Park with a lap of 136.030 mph.

He was followed by Noah Gragson (135.915 mph), Chase Briscoe (135.747), Todd Gilliland (135.595) and Justin Haley (135.294).

Toyota took three of the top four spots with Bell, Gragson and Gilliland.

The series has another practice today before qualifying and racing later this evening.

 

Todd Gilliland lands six-race sponsorship with Pedigree in Truck Series

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Todd Gilliland‘s Camping World Truck Series debut and five more races this year will be sponsored by Pedigree.

The son of former NASCAR Cup driver David Gilliland, the 17-year-old Gilliland will make his Truck debut on June 2 at Dover International Speedway in the No. 46 Toyota owned by Kyle Busch Motorsports.

The 2016 K&N Pro Series West champion will also drive the No. 46 at Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 28.)

Pedigree will also sponsor Gilliland in four races in the No. 51 Toyota. After Dover, Gilliland will race at Gateway Motorsports Park (June 17),  Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Sept. 3), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sept. 23) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 10).

“I’m proud to have a sponsor as well-known as Pedigree join us at Kyle Busch Motorsports this season,” Gilliland said in a press release. “There’s a family connection with Pedigree, as they were the sponsor on my Dad’s car in 2006. It’s a great feeling to know that they have confidence in me and this race team. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get behind the wheel, earn solid finishes and hopefully get Pedigree to Victory Lane this season.”

Through five races in the K&N West season this year, Gilliland has won every pole and won four races. He has 11 wins in 20 starts dating back to 2015.

Kyle Busch Motorsports also announced the addition of two Truck races to Busch’s schedule. He will drive the No. 46 at Kentucky Speedway (July 6) and Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug.16). He will be sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital.

 

NASCAR Next Class for 2017-18 chosen

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Nine drivers have been selected to the 2017-18 NASCAR Next Class.

The latest class includes three series champions and the 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-America Series Rookie of the Year.

Alumni of the program, which is in its seventh year, include Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez.

The selection process includes input from industry executives, NASCAR Cup Drivers Council and media members. Drivers must be between the ages of 15-25 and show potential on and off the track to reach the Cup Series.

Of the nine selected, Harrison Burton, Ty Majeski and Todd Gilliland were also members of the 2016-17 class.

The 2017-18 class includes:

Harrison Burton (Photo: Jared Tilton/Getty)

Harrison Burton – In his second year competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the 16-year-old from Huntersville, North Carolina, has earned wins at Bristol Motor Speedway and Virginia’s South Boston Speedway. The son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver and current NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton also took home the pole award at Bristol for the second consecutive year.

Hailie Deegan – The 15-year-old Temecula, California, native has made a name for herself in the Lucas Oil Off Road Series. Last year the daughter of FMX legend Brian Deegan became the first female to reach the podium in the series’ history, was the 2016 Modified Kart champion in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and was named the Lucas Oil Off Road Driver of the Year.

Todd Gilliland – The son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver David Gilliland has made quite a name for himself in the sport’s history books. The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, has 12 wins in 30 K&N Pro Series starts and became the youngest champion in NASCAR national or touring series history last year when he took home the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.

Chase Cabre (Photo: Bob Leverone/Getty Images)

Chase Cabre – In his rookie season competing for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the 20-year-old Tampa, Florida, native captured his first two pole awards in the twin features at South Boston Speedway and also earned his best career finish (fourth) at the Virginia short track.

Riley Herbst – The 18-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada, driver is coming off a successful rookie season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. In 14 starts last year, he compiled seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.

Cayden Lapcevich – Only the third Canadian-born driver to be chosen for the program, the 17-year-old from Grimsby, Ontario, won three times in 2016 en route to becoming the youngest NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion, and briefly held the title as the youngest NASCAR champion before being dethroned by Gilliland. Lapcevich is the first driver in Pinty’s Series history to earn both the Josten Rookie of the Year honor and the series title in the same year. 

Ty Majeski – A Roush Fenway development driver and one of the country’s top Super Late Model drivers, the 22-year-old Seymour, Wisconsin native kicked off his 2016 winning the Super Late Model championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. He continued his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season with a third-place finish in the national standings on the strength of 14 wins and 21 top-fives in 26 starts. He will make his Xfinity Series debut June 24 at Iowa Speedway.

Chase Purdy (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty)

Chase Purdy – The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year made a splash last year when he took home both the rookie of the year and track championship at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway in NASCAR’s weekly series. The 17-year-old from Meridian, Mississippi, is chasing another rookie title this year, competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

Zane Smith – Smith, 17, from Huntington Beach, California, broke onto the national scene in 2015 when he won the Super Late Model championship at New Smyrna’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. He capped the season with a runner-up finish to Cup Series driver Chase Elliott in the Snowball Derby. 

Long: Amid anxiety over retiring NASCAR drivers, a new era emerges

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It’s easy to lament where NASCAR is headed with Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring from the Cup series after this season.

Fans have bid farewell to Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (well, he may return) since last year. Then came Tuesday’s news about Earnhardt.

And it won’t be long before seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and former champions Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick reach the end of their careers.

For long-time fans, this is crushing news. Drivers they have grown accustomed to seeing on TV nearly every weekend from late February to the middle of November are leaving. In comes a new crop of drivers that fans are not as comfortable with or knowledgable about.

Picking a new favorite driver isn’t made on a whim for many fans. If you’re going to pledge your loyalty, one has to be all in.

And that’s why this could be one of the greatest times in the sport for young drivers.

Now is your time Kyle Larson. Now is your time Chase Elliott. Now is your time Ryan Blaney.

Now it is time for all the young drivers to make their mark on the sport, reach out to the fan base and become the leaders who will guide NASCAR for the coming years.

From 2000-02, fans fretted about the transition NASCAR went through. That period brought Earnhardt, Johnson, Harvick, Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch into the series.

They combined to change the sport on the track — with how they raced — and off the track — with how they presented themselves.

Their roles increased as Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd and others retired. Many fans worried that the new drivers could never replace their favorites.

But it’s not about replacing. It’s about moving forward. Just as it is now.

No driver can replace Earnhardt. No one can or will be asked to shoulder so much of the sport as Earnhardt has throughout his career.

No driver can replace Gordon, who helped usher in the sport’s most popular era — not bad for a kid who was known to crash often his rookie year.

No driver can replace the cantankerous Stewart, who became a fan favorite for his gruff, tell-it-like-it-is manner and his fearlessness on the track.

That’s the thing. The young drivers just need to be themselves, not someone else.

They also must win. That will grow their fan base and give them a powerful voice for years to come.

They’re starting to gain power.

Consider the drivers age 26 and under. It includes Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Larson, Elliott and Blaney.

That doesn’t even include those in the Xfinity Series, which features William Byron, Ryan Reed, Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer, among others.

And in the Camping World Truck Series, there’s Christopher Bell, Todd Gilliland, John Hunter Nemechek, Harrison Burton and Kaz Grala.

No one could have anticipated that Johnson, who had one Xfinity win before moving to Cup, would go on to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most championships.

Somewhere in this group of young drivers there’s a multi-time champion. Maybe a couple of them. Maybe one who wins more than five championships.

Maybe one who changes the sport in ways one can’t even imagine.

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