Cayden Lapcevich

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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 HerbstThe 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 LapcevichOnly 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 SmithSmith, 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. 

Oh, Canada: NASCAR reveals 2017 Pinty’s Series schedule

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NASCAR’s Home Tracks division has announced the schedule for the 2017 NASCAR Pinty’s Series in Canada.

It will be the second season with Pinty’s as entitlement sponsor for the series.

The 13-race series will be contested over a four-month period, starting with the season-opening race on May 21 at Canada’s Victoria Day weekend on the road course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont.

The suburban Toronto track will also host the series on Sept. 3 as part of a weekend that features a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race there.

The Pinty’s Series will also serve as an undercard for the Toronto Honda Indy Exhibition Place street course race along Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront on July 15.

“From Cayden Lapcevich’s (the former youngest champion in NASCAR history at 16 years old) memorable championship campaign, to the thrilling battles between Quebec’s favorites Andrew Ranger, Alex Tagliani, Kevin Lacroix and Alex Labbe, the 2016 NASCAR Pinty’s Series was one for the record books,” George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president of weekly & touring series, said in a media release. “With the newly released schedule, the 2017 season is shaping to take that excitement to the next level. The mix of world-class road courses and challenging ovals will provide a great test for drivers and teams, and excite fans across Canada.”

The series’ annual West Coast swing will have a new look, visiting Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a pair of races on July 25, which will mark the halfway part of the season, followed by a race July 29 at Edmonton International Raceway in Alberta.

In another unique twist, the seventh annual visit to the Circuit ICAR roadcourse on Montreal’s Mirabel International Airport will be contested under the lights on July 8.

The series also returns to Delaware Speedway in Ontario.

The season ends Sept. 16 at Kawartha Speedway in Fraserville, Ontario, which will mark the 11th consecutive year the track has hosted the season finale.

2017 NASCAR PINTY’S SERIES SCHEDULE

Date Track Location
21-May Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Bowmanville, Ont.
3-Jun Delaware Speedway Delaware, Ont.
17-Jun Autodrome Chaudiere Chaudiere, Que.
8-Jul Circuit ICAR Mirabel, Que.
15-Jul Exhibition Place Toronto, Ont.
25-Jul Wyant Group Raceway* Saskatoon, Sask.
25-Jul Wyant Group Raceway* Saskatoon, Sask.
29-Jul Edmonton International Raceway Wetaskiwin, Alb.
13-Aug Circuit Trois-Rivières Trois-Rivières, Que.
19-Aug Riverside International Speedway Antigonish, N.S.
3-Sep Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Bowmanville, Ont.
9-Sep Autodrome St-Eustache St. Eustache, Que.
16-Sep Kawartha Speedway Fraserville, Ont.

*100-lap twin features

SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE

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Sweet 16: Todd Gilliland’s path to historic NASCAR championship

Photo by Blaine Ohigashi/Getty Images
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Do you remember what you were doing at 16?

Bill McAnally was “fighting to get $2 to put gas” in his pickup in Ukiah, California, where he hauled bales of hay.

David Gilliland helped his dad, Butch Gilliland, field his entry in his first full-time season in NASCAR’s Winton West Series, which became the K&N Pro Series West circuit.

Chris Lawson, the son of parents who work in the insurance industry, chipped away at his own racing dreams in Dayton, Ohio.

In the last 15 years, McAnally won five of his record seven K&N West titles as a team owner. David Gilliland competed in 398 races in NASCAR’s three national series, including 332 in Sprint Cup. Lawson embraced the life of a crew chief.

All three men would help Todd Gilliland become NASCAR’s youngest champion.

THE NEW KID

McAnally only made 56 starts as a driver in what used to be the Winston West Series.

One race weekend, at All-American Speedway in Roseville, California, stands out to the owner of Bill McAnally Racing thanks to the helping hand of Butch Gilliland.

Gilliland flew from Anaheim to help McAnally with his car after he ran behind him in a previous race and saw how bad it handled as he ran behind it.

After they were done, Gilliland refused to let McAnally pay for his plane ticket.

“’I’m just glad you’ll be in a better car so I’m not in harm’s way,” Gilliland said.

Two decades later, at the same .333-mile track in Northern California, McAnally doused Butch Gilliland’s grandson, Todd, in a Gatorade bath, yelling “Congratulations, Champ!”

Todd Gilliland finished eighth last month in the Toyota / NAPA Auto Parts 150 to clinch the K&N Pro Series West title.

At 16 years and 5 months, the Riverside, California, native became the youngest NASCAR champion in history, topping the mark set a month earlier by Cayden Lapcevich (16 years, 10 months, 16 days) in NASCAR’s Pinty’s Series. Before that, Joey Logano held the distinction after winning the 2007 K&N Pro Series East title at 17 years, 3 months, 28 days.

“We had a lot of family there, that’s where almost everyone is from.” Todd Gilliland said a week after winning the title. “They all came out to the track to support us. It’s super cool to be able to take a picture with everyone I’ve grown up around.”

The path to those championship portraits started at Roseville in August of last year. McAnally held a two-day driver expo at his team’s shop and All-American Speedway.

Todd Gilliland, who won his first ARCA Racing Series start in May, was among the drivers invited, including Brandon McReynolds and Chris Eggleston.

Also present: former NASCAR crew chief Larry McReynolds, multiple NASCAR officials and representatives from NAPA Auto Parts, Toyota and the WIX Corporation.

Waiting for the drivers at the track were six K&N cars prepared by McAnally’s team. On the first day, each driver made three, 15-lap runs. After tune-ups based on driver feedback, they made  mock qualifying runs.

It was before the initial practice session that McAnally had his first lengthy talk with Todd Gilliland. McAnally said he thought the young racer seemed “really nervous.”

“His driving showed it,” McAnally said. “He wasn’t consistent, he wasn’t smooth. David (Gilliland) was on the radio leaning on him. The coach we had with him was calming him down, and by the second session he had calmed down and he went out there and ran some smooth, consistent laps. By the next day, he was the fastest, smoothest driver out there by far.”

Todd Gilliland also was impressed.

“We saw the A+ operation he had going on there, the people he had in place,” the driver said of McAnally in May. “We just felt it was the best fit for us this year.”

McAnally and his sponsors agreed.

Gilliland ran the No. 54 Toyota for McAnally at Phoenix at the end of the year. In his first K&N West start, he led six laps and won.

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 21: David Gilliland, driver of the #35 Dockside Logistics Ford, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 21, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
David Gilliland (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

FATHER-SON TIME

While David Gilliland had a hand in building his son’s cars, he didn’t get to see much of Todd’s career.

That’s what happens when your Sprint Cup Series career takes priority for 10 years.

But David was there when his son did donuts in a quarter-midget in a dirt lot across the street from the family’s Riverside home. He also saw Todd’s first quarter-midget race on his son’s fifth birthday, his ARCA win and the 2015 Phoenix race.

Without a Sprint Cup ride for the first time since 2006, David Gilliland finally experienced a full season of his son’s career.

And he did do so in his least favorite racing role – as a spotter.

“’I just didn’t want to be part of a problem or making a mistake or something like that,” David Gilliland said. “It was something (Todd) really wanted me to do.”

Instead of having a driver coach, spotter and crew chief taking to his son, David Gilliland would be the coach and spotter.

“I think that’s something that’s helped me a lot this year to have him tell me when I’m doing something wrong or right,” Todd Gilliland said. “He kind of makes myself better throughout the entire race. He also knows a lot about those cars and different situations that he’s been in before.”

The other voice talking to Todd Gilliland was Lawson, the crew chief who has worked with the Gillilands since 2014.

With that arrangement, Todd Gilliland won his first four K&N starts, tying the 60-year-old record set by Dan Gurney. His eight wins in 2016 surpassed the mark set Joey Logano (2007) and Dylan Kwasniewski (2014).

Source: Bill McAnally
Source: Bill McAnally

FILLING UP THE BOARD

McAnally was concerned.

Todd Gilliland hit his first real bump by finishing ninth in his second K&N East start at Bristol in April.

“All of sudden we’re off on our setup,” McAnally says. “We missed it. We had a top-10 car. So he finishes the race. I’m shaking my head, ‘How’s he going to be getting out of the car?’ All he’s ever done is win in a K&N car and now he’s fighting to be in the top 10.”

When he arrived at the No. 16 car, McAnally found his driver sitting on its door in good spirits.

“Lead a lap, top-10 finish,” Todd Gilliland announced. “I get two more splats on the board!”

On the wall of McAnally’s shop is a 10-by-20-foot board labelled “2016 Team Checklist.”

The board has 11 items that can be checked off by McNally’s four drivers for any given race. They include finish race lead lap, top-three finish, win race, and at the bottom, win championship.

Todd Gilliland was the only teammate to put a “splat” in every box.

While Todd Gilliland enjoyed a rookie season no one else has, including being named to the NASCAR Next class, he’s enthusiastic about learning what he hasn’t from his owner, father and crew chief.

Lawson saw that enthusiasm during the K&N East race in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Todd Gilliland was in second on a restart with two laps to go. Corey LaJoie, a veteran of 37 K&N races, led.

“(LaJoie) just smoked us on the restart,” Lawson said. “He just wore us out bad, and right after the restart was over, literally going down the backstretch, Todd is about four car lengths back off of him and goes ‘Man, that is awesome. I need to learn how to do that.’

“To me that’s cool, not only that he realizes it, he understood what happened, he wants to step his game up to be that good. He wasn’t mad, saying we got beat. He said ‘man, I want to do that. I want to be able to do that.’”

He’ll get that chance next year, whether it’s in the K&N Series, ARCA or venturing into the Camping World Truck Series.

Before that, Todd Gilliland will celebrate his title Dec. 11 at the NASCAR Touring Night of Champions Awards.

Then he can start preparing for next season and giving people reasons to consider what they were doing at 17.

Cayden Lapcevich defied the odds to become NASCAR’s youngest champion

Matthew Murnaghan/NASCAR
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Remember the name Cayden Lapcevich.

It is the 16-year-old from Grimsby, Ontario, who is the youngest champion in NASCAR history. Lapcevich, at 16 years, 10 months, 16 days, was crowned the NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion last Sunday, breaking the record Joey Logano set in 2007 when he won the K&N East Series championship at 17 years, 3 months, 28 days.

“It’s pretty cool knowing that I was able to break a record that stood for a long time and it also being Joey Logano’s,” Lapcevich told NBC Sports. “He started in the same place I did, back in quarter midgets, so it gives me that hope that I’m headed in the right direction to make it to the Sprint Cup Series one day.”

INNISFIL, ON - JUNE 18: JUNE 18: Cayden Lapcevich, driver of the #76 Fastline Motorsports Dodge sits with his dad, Jeff Lapcevich, after qualifying on the pole at the NASCAR Pinty's Series Leland 300 Presented by Dickies at Sunset Speedway on June 18, 2016 in Innisfil, Canada. (Photo by Matthew Manor/NASCAR via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cayden Lapcevich; Jeff Lapcevich
Cayden Lapcevich (right) sits with his dad, Jeff Lapcevich, after qualifying on the pole at the NASCAR Pinty’s Series Leland 300 Presented by Dickies at Sunset Speedway on June 18, 2016 in Innisfil, Canada. (Photo by Matthew Manor/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Lapcevich, a third-generation driver, was passed the torch by his father. Jeff Lapcevich raced in the Pinty’s Series from 2007 until his retirement in 2015. There was never any question nor was it difficult, Jeff said, that Cayden was going to take over for him. He now serves as his son’s car owner and crew chief.

Cayden’s success, which includes the driver’s championship, owner’s championship, and Rookie of the Year honors, came despite long odds. Last fall, the family learned their sponsor of 25 years, Tim Horton’s, would not be returning. Their plans to run a full season suddenly became a week-by-week decision.

“That was a big shock to the heart,” Jeff Lapcevich told NBC Sports. “But my wife and I talked and said we would do what we could afford and at that point, we knew we could get to a couple of races. It was disheartening because we had a lot of faith in Cayden and knew that he could win races and be up front everywhere and be competitive. So I think it was emotionally hard on us because you want the best for your kids, especially when they want it so bad.”

Cayden said that even a couple of days before his first race his mother, Sherri, “was still questioning herself of whether we should go or not.”

Lapcevich ran so well that funding trickled in, leaving them to change decals on the car almost weekly. It was enough, however, to allow the No. 76 Fastline Motorsports Dodge to continue running. And Lapcevich knew he had to keep the car in one piece to help their efforts.

He took the points lead after a second-place finish in the season’s third race at Autodrome Chaudiere. But the team, consisting mostly of family and friends, still knew nothing was set in stone. Lapcevich’s first of three wins on the season came at Wyant Group Raceway, the seventh event of the year.

Over the course of the 12-race schedule, Lapcevich never finished worse than eighth.

“It was a funny season because we all went to the first bunch of races and we never imagined early in the spring that we were going to be able to do the Western swing,” Jeff Lapcevich said. “(Cayden) was still really in the thick of things heading to that swing, which we had no plans to do, we didn’t even have a truck. By the time we decided to go, which was literally about three days before we needed to be on the road, nobody on the team was able to make it.

“We went out there with only two of our regular guys, and we went to Edmonton and got some help from a local guy out there, and then we went to (Wyant Group Raceway) and recruited three more local racers to help us and actually got our first win there. So it was a big deal for us. Then we got back home and had the same group of guys, but we’re still a very small team.”

Lapcevich will celebrate with other touring and weekly champions at the annual awards ceremony in December. As for his plans for next season and beyond, Lapcevich has hopes of finding funding to race again in the Pinty’s Series or try his hand at K&N or Camping World Truck Series.

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