Todd Gilliland

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Todd Gilliland paces final Truck practice at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Arizona – Todd Gilliland led the way in the final Camping World Truck Series practice Friday with a lap of 135.461 mph

Gilliland, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, was followed by playoff contender Christopher Bell (135.034 mph), playoff contender Matt Crafton (134.489), Noah Gragson (134.399) and playoff contender John Hunter Nemechek (134.138).

Among the other playoff contenders: Austin Cindric was sixth at 133.824 mph, Johnny Sauter was seventh at 133.328 mph and Ben Rhodes was ninth at 132.920 mph.

Gilliland also posted the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 132.630 mph.

Qualifying is at 5:30 p.m. ET and the race at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Click here for full practice report

 

Todd Gilliland wins second straight K&N Pro Series West title

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Saturday night saw Todd Gilliland win his second straight K&N Pro Series West title in a big night for Bill McAnally Racing.

The 17-year-old driver clinched the title by finishing second in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame 150 at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California.

Gilliland placed second to teammate Derek Kraus, who won his first K&N West race after leading 48 of the race’s 150 laps. Riley Herbst completed a sweep of the top three for Bill McAnally Racing.

The son of former Cup Series driver David Gilliland, Todd Gilliland capped off his championship run with his 11th top five in 14 races. He won six races for the second year in a row. Four of his wins this year came in the first five races of the season.

The driver of the No. 16 Toyota needed to finish seventh or better to clinch. His main rival for the title, teammate Chris Eggleston, suffered a flat tire on Lap 65. After undergoing repairs, Eggleston finished 20th, three laps down.

Eggleston finished 28 points back from Gilliland.

“It feels great,” Gilliland said after the race. “All this hard work and dedication these guys put in, and it all comes down to this. To be able to get it done is very special.”

Gilliland’s title comes a month after he lost out on the K&N East title to Harrison Burton by eight points. He’s won 17 K&N races the last two seasons.

Bill McAnally Racing has now won three K&N West titles in a row for the second time. It first accomplished the feat from 1999-2001, when Sean Woodside and Brendan Gaughan (twice) claimed titles.

Kraus, 16, led the final 45 laps and clinched the Rookie of the Year award with his win. He finished the season with nine top fives, including three runner-up finishes.

The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Championship 150 will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN.

 

Matt Crafton leads first Truck Series practice at Martinsville

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Matt Crafton was fastest in the first practice session for the Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway.

The  No. 88 Chevrolet posted the top speed of 94.073 mph around the half-mile track.

Crafton was followed by Christopher Bell (93.775), Todd Gilliland (93.752), Johnny Sauter (93.687) and Ben Rhodes (93.576).

Jeffrey Abbey, who was 24th fastest, recorded the most laps with 52.

Chase Briscoe had the best 10-lap average at 92.770 mph. Harrison Burton had the second-best average at 91.880 mph.

The final Truck Series practice is set to run from 3-3:55 p.m. ET this afternoon on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the practice report.

Long: NASCAR’s young stars provide lessons for many at Dover

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DOVER, Delaware — As NASCAR transitions to a younger generation of drivers, they will have their chance to influence the sport as Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and others have.

This past weekend’s racing at Dover International Speedway gave the sport’s new kids a chance to show how to do things and possibly influence younger competitors elsewhere.

Ryan Blaney set the tone after winning Saturday’s Xfinty race. He celebrated at the start/finish line by giving the checkered flag to a youngster — one wearing a Kyle Larson hat.

Blaney’s action is far from the first kind act bestowed upon a child in the sport, but it provides a reminder of what’s important for NASCAR moving forward.

“He seemed really pumped up to be at the race,’’ Blaney said of the child he handed the checkered flag to through the fence. “There were a lot of kids here today, which was really cool.

“I kind of saw a little bit of myself. I was a little kid coming here and watching races. Anything we can do to try to keep them coming back and show them a pretty great experience, hopefully he enjoyed that experience and the race.

“He was pretty happy when he got (the flag). Whatever we can do to make their day, I feel like, is part of our job, to be honest with you.’’

Blaney’s comment is a sign of how NASCAR’s elders have passed their wisdom to the next generation.

With Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards no longer racing, Earnhardt out after this season and Matt Kenseth’s future in doubt, the sport is moving beyond some of its most popular drivers who helped mold NASCAR. It also likely won’t be too long before Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, among others, retire.  

While Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano should be in the sport for at least another decade, it is the drivers behind them that will help lead the sport further. That’s Blaney, Elliott and Larson, along with Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Austin and Ty Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., Christopher Bell and William Byron

Maybe Blaney’s checkered flag giveaway becomes as much a tradition as when Edwards gave his trophy to a child after a win. No doubt others do the same thing at local tracks, but what if more people did it or something similar? A driver giving away a checkered flag or trophy in NASCAR’s premier series could show competitors at various levels that while winning is special, sharing it with a child is more meaningful.

Another key aspect of the weekend, though, was more subtle.

As Kyle Busch reeled in leader Chase Elliott in the final laps Sunday, there was a moment when there could have been chaos. Instead, there was a clean pass.

Elliott could have blocked or could have forced Busch into the wall when Busch tried to pass on the outside as they ran to the white flag. Busch noted Elliott’s actions after winning.

“Coming off of (Turn) 2 there, he could have pulled up and checked my momentum, and I did kind of check up because I wasn’t quite sure, but then he gave me enough room,’’ Busch said in victory lane.

Just like that, Elliott’s bid for his first career Cup win went away again, leaving him heartbroken.

NASCAR is a contact sport and there will be such battles for wins for races to come — maybe in the upcoming second round in the Cup playoffs — but there’s also something to be said for fair racing.

Admittedly, there will be those who will recall it was Elliott who bumped Ty Dillon out of the lead to win a Truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2013. Two of the four races there since have ended with the second-place truck making contact with the leader to get by to win. It has seemingly become OK to do so at that track.

One action doesn’t make a driver a saint or a devil, it’s what they do over a period of time. The more others see how the sport’s young drivers react in pressure situations, the more it could influence drivers as they come up through the NASCAR ranks.

An episode few saw this past weekend with a young driver came from Todd Gilliland. The 17-year-old son of former Cup driver David Gilliland, entered the K&N Pro Series East season finale eight points ahead of Harrison Burton for the championship. Gilliland’s title hopes ended when a right front tire blew and he crashed before midway in the race. Burton won the championship. Despite the devastation, Gilliland answered media questions in a mature fashion.

THREE AND OUT

The winners of three of the biggest races of the season all failed to advance to the next round of the Cup playoffs.

Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500, Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 and Kasey Kahne won the Brickyard 400. None was closer than four points from the final transfer spot.

This marks the second time in the four years of the elimination-style playoff format that there wasn’t a winner of any of those three races in the championship race.

The only driver to have won any of those races and make it to the championship race is Kyle Busch. He won the 2015 Brickyard 400 and went on to win the championship. He won the 2016 Brickyard 400 and finished third in the points.

DROUGHT CONTINUES

With Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman eliminated from title contention, it means that Richard Childress Racing will go a 23rd consecutive season since its last Cup championship, which came in 1994 with Dale Earnhardt Sr.

The organization started the season with the goal of winning races and did that with Newman winning at Phoenix and Dillon the Coca-Cola 600. But the organization had a lack of speed at various tracks, showing that more work needs to be done for it to return to being a title contender. Still, some goals were accomplished this season.

Questions remain about next season. Newman and Dillon are back, but Paul Menard will leave at the end of the year to join the Wood Brothers. That leaves RCR with an opening in a car that has a charter.

Among the options for Richard Childress Racing is to run the car or lease the charter to another team for a year, giving the organization more time to find sponsorship and return to a three-car lineup in 2019. Certainly, if sponsorship can be found for next season, the team will run it. 

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Harrison Burton claims K&N Pro Series East championship with Dover win

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DOVER, Delaware — Harrison Burton pulled away from Riley Herbst on an overtime restart to win Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race and the series championship. 

Burton led the final 17 laps at Dover, taking the lead from Ruben Garcia Jr. in a spirited side-by-side duel that went more than two laps. Burton then held the field off in overtime, which extended the race three laps to 128 laps.

The victory marked Burton’s fifth of the season. Eddie MacDonald finished second. Tyler Dippel was third.

Burton, the 16-year-old son of NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, is the youngest champion in series history. Joey Logano had been the youngest series champion at 17 when he won the 2007 title.

In victory lane, Burton embraced his mother, Kim, lifting her off the ground, and then hugged his father.

“We’re a racing family,” Harrison Burton said. “To share a championship with the people that love you the most is pretty cool.”

Burton entered the season finale eight points behind Todd Gilliland but Gilliland’s title hopes went away when he blew a right front tire and hit the wall on Lap 56 of the 128-lap race. He finished 13th in the 15-car field.

“It was kind of tight, but I just went in there and the right front just blew,” Gilliland said. “It just popped. I could hear it. It’s basically been our season story. Been running up front and had tires go down. It took us out of the first half of the season. In the last seven races, we finished first or second in all of them and really got us back in this thing. For it to end like this is heartbreaking. We’ll have to move on and I learned a lot this year.”

The 17-year-old son of former Cup driver David Gilliland sought the K&N Pro Series East title after winning the K&N Pro Series West championship last year. Todd Gilliland finishes the season with four wins.

Todd Gilliland’s focus turns to the Camping World Truck Series. He’s run four races this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports, finishing a season-best third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Former K&N Pro Series East champions include William Byron (2015), Kyle Larson (2012) and Logano.

Now add Harrison Burton.

“It’s a good list to be on,” he said. “To be a champion is huge for me.”

This race will air on NBCSN at 10:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 6.

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