Todd Gilliland and the sacrifices of a racing family

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It’s almost a cliché.

The rising stars of NASCAR – Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer – are young.

They’re old enough to vote and race at 180 mph for living, but can’t buy a beer.

Then there’s Todd Gilliland. At the age of 15, only one of those is an option.

The son of veteran NASCAR driver David Gilliland, Todd Gilliland is the newest kid on the block in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series circuit.

In the last year, he has won all three K&N Pro Series races he’s entered with Bill McAnally Racing and become the youngest winner in ARCA Racing history.

But last July, the need to drive on a speedway temporarily derailed his chances of driving around an actual block in his hometown of Mooresville, North Carolina.

“I didn’t get my permit on my birthday (on May 15),” Todd Gilliland told NBC Sports. “I was in driver’s ed … and then I was going to go run Iowa (Speedway) in an ARCA car. I had to quit. I had to miss the last day of driver’s ed. I had to retake driver’s ed.”

Making a sacrifice, big or small, is nothing new in the Gilliland family when it comes to pursuing racing dreams.

When Todd Gilliland’s sister Taylor was born 13 years ago, David Gilliland had enough time to welcome her into the world. Then he jumped into a waiting truck in the hospital parking lot that carried him to his next race.

Just a few short years into Todd Gilliland’s career, the racing had to stop. His father’s NASCAR dreams came to fruition, meaning the family would move from California to North Carolina.

“When we moved out to North Carolina from California we got really busy and took off for a little bit,” Todd Gilliland said.

A little bit was two years. Meanwhile, friends he had back in California continued to race

“I went out there sometimes and watched them do really good and stuff like that,” Todd Gilliland said. “But having to watch kills me. It still kills me when I have to go to the race track and not race. I think it gave me more passion, not that I didn’t have it before. I never want to be out of the race car ever again.”

The only thing that may keep him out of a car now is his mother, Michelle Gilliland, and her one mandate for her son’s career.

“My mom says I have to have As and Bs to race,” Todd Gilliland said.

A sophomore in high school, Todd Gilliland doesn’t have plans to attend college. He plans to take the same road that led his father to 10 seasons in the Sprint Cup Series, a Daytona 500 pole and one win in the Xfinity Series. That road also led his grandfather, Butch Gilliland, to winning the 1997 Winston West Series championship.

The road’s already leading to good career stops. Todd Gilliland is competing full-time in the K&N West series this year in addition to joining Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Super Late Model team.

Todd Gilliland’s pursuit of his dream will be fully shared with his dad, who is without a full-time ride in NASCAR for the first time since 2007.

“He’s always been super involved, but I think this is the most involved he’s been,” Todd Gilliland said. “Last year he put every minute of time he was home into my stuff, but that wasn’t even that much because he was gone so much. This year, he has the time and I’m going to be the main thing that he does. He’s been at the shop every day (crew chief) Chris (Lawson) has. The shop is out there in Sacramento, California, and we live in Mooresville, North Carolina. He’ll go out there for like a week at a time before every race and work hard and everything. He’s always out there.”

After a family vacation this week, Todd Gilliland will be on a plane out to Bakersfield, California, to compete in the K&N West race at Kern County Raceway Park. It will be the latest stop in young career that can find its roots at the North Carolina Quarter Midget Association track in Salisbury, North Carolina.

That’s the site of Todd Gilliland’s earliest memory of racing himself, in an event that still drives him years later.

“There was only four cars in my race, I was running third,” he remembers. “There was a caution with a couple of laps to go and the guy (behind me) beat me so I finished last in the race. Gosh, that race still gets me inside because that was the first race I even remember racing. I finished last.

“I think I’ve gotten better since then.”

Joe Gibbs Racing adds young racers to Xfinity program

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Connor Mosack, 23, and Joe Graf Jr., 24, each will drive select races in the No. 19 Xfinity Series car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Mosack, who has a 20-race Xfinity schedule with Sam Hunt Racing this year, will run three races for JGR: Chicago street course (July 1), Pocono (July 22) and Road America (July 29) while also competing in six ARCA Menards Series races for JGR, including Feb. 18 at Daytona.

Graf, who has a 28-race Xfinity schedule with RSS Racing this year, will run five races in the No. 19 Xfinity car for JGR: Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 25), Las Vegas (March 4), Richmond (April 1), New Hampshire (July 15) and Kansas (Sept. 9).

“I made my Xfinity Series debut with JGR last June at Portland and from the moment I made my first lap in their racecar, I realized why they’ve been so successful,” Mosack said in a statement. “Their equipment was second to none and the resources they had in terms of people and their knowledge was incredible.

“Jason Ratcliff was my crew chief at Portland and he’s got a ton of experience. I was able to learn from him before we even went to the track. Just in our time in the simulator, we made some great changes. So, to be back with him for three Xfinity races is going to be really valuable.

“And when it comes to JGR’s ARCA program, it’s the class of the field. After having to race against JGR cars, I’m really looking forward to racing with a JGR car. No matter what track they were on, they were always up front competing for wins. To have that chance in 2023 is pretty special, and I aim to make the most of it.”

Said Graf in a statement about his opportunity with JGR: “Running five races with JGR is a fantastic opportunity for myself and for my marketing partners. I think I can learn a lot from JGR and showcase my skills I’ve been growing in the series in the past three years. 2023 is shaping up to be a great year and I’m pumped to get started with the No. 19 group.”

Ryan Truex has previously been announced as the driver of the No. 19 Xfinity Series car in six races this season for JGR. The remaining drivers for the car will be announced at a later date.

Mosack didn’t start racing until he was 18 years old. He went on to win five Legends car championships before moving to Late Model stock cars in 2019. He graduated from High Point University in 2021 with a degree in business entrepreneurship. Mosack’s first Xfinity Series race with Sam Hunt Racing this season will be March 11 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

NASCAR weekend schedule for Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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NASCAR’s winter break ends this weekend as Cup Series drivers return to the track for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

The second Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum has been expanded to 27 (from 23) drivers for the 150-lap main event. Qualifying, heat races and two “last chance” races will set the field.

MORE: Drivers to watch in the Clash

Joey Logano won last year’s Clash, the perfect start to a season that ended with him holding the Cup championship trophy.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Cup)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 71.

Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 66.

Saturday, Feb. 4

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 2 – 11:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 8 p.m. — Cup Series practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8:35 – 9:30 p.m. — Cup Series qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Feb. 5

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. Monday — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 5 – 5:45 p.m. — Four Heat races (25 laps; Fox, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 6:10 – 6:35 p.m. — Two Last chance qualifying races (50 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8 p.m. — Feature race (150 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

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The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

MORE: Toyota looking to expand NASCAR presence

Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.