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90-year-old Hershel McGriff to compete in K&N Pro Series West race in Tucson

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Hershel McGriff has won 37 times in the K&N Pro Series West, and he’s getting a shot at one more win at the age of 90.

McGriff will drive for Bill McAnally Racing in the May 5 race at Tucson Speedway.

His first start in the series came in 1954 when he was 26. That year he also won his only four Cup races in 87 career starts.

McGriff will drive the No. 04 South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota Camry.

“Who would turn down a free ride in a K&N car built by Bill McAnally Racing?” McGriff said in a press release.

“Bill said to pick out a track anywhere on the West Coast that has a K&N race and that’s where we’ll race. Tucson’s my home. So, we decided on Tucson, although I haven’t run here that much. It’s going to be fun. I hope I do well, for his sake. I think I can.”

McGriff, born in 1927 when Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States, was chosen as one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998. He holds the mark as the oldest winner in the K&N West series. His last victory came in 1989 at 61.

A NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee, McGriff’s first NASCAR start came in the first Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in 1950. He drove his car cross-country from his home in Portland, Oregon, finished ninth, and drove back to Portland.

McGriff last competed full-time in the K&N West series in 2001 when he drove for McAnally.

“I was extremely privileged to be associated with one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR when Hershel drove for us in 2001,” McAnally said in a press release. “It’s great to have him back, as he returns to the series for this event.

May 5 will be a busy night at the track for the McGriff family. His granddaughter, Mariah McGriff, will compete in a Super Late Model division race and Hershel McGriff Jr. will compete in an Outlaw Late Model race.

NASCAR Next’s Hailie Deegan to race in K&N West for Bill McAnally Racing

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Hailie Deegan, the only female member of the current NASCAR Next class and daughter of X-Games athlete Brian Deegan, will compete in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West this season for Bill McAnally Racing, the team announced Wednesday.

Deegan, 16, earned the ride after taking part in a series of test sessions with the team and Toyota late in 2017.

Deegan will drive the No. 19 Mobil 1 / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota and joins teammates Cole Rouse and the returning Derek Kraus.

Todd Gilliland, who won the last two K&N West titles for the team, will compete in the Camping World Truck Series.

Deegan is the only announced female driver for the series this year after two, Julia Landauer and Nicole Behar, competed in it last year. They finished the season seventh and eighth.

The native of Temecula, California, also will race in select K&N East events.

“I’m really excited,” Deegan said in a press release. “This is the best team and equipment in the series. BMR has been great to work with. I look forward to racing at a high level on the East and West Coasts with the top team. We are ready to put in the work to continue being a serious competitor.

“It will be exciting to be part of the K&N Series. It’s been a great building ground for a lot of successful NASCAR drivers. It’s a big step.”

On her Twitter profile, Deegan declares, “I want to follow in the footsteps of my Dad.”

Brian Deegan has won the most Freestyle Motocross medals in X Games history with 10. He has multiple championships in the Lucas Oil Pro 2 and Lucas Oil Pro Lite series.

Hailie Deegan began off-road racing when she was 8 and became the first female to win a race and a championship in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series.

In 2015, she was the Modified Kart Regional Champion and the next year was the Modified Kart National Champion as well as the Driver of the Year. In 2017, she was the first female in the Pro Lite division of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series to have multiple podiums in her rookie year.

Deegan took part in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity combine in 2016 and won the 2017 NASCAR Diversity Young Racer award.

She will seek to become the first woman to win a K&N title and a major NASCAR championship. If she does, it would give Bill McAnally Racing its fourth consecutive K&N West title and ninth overall.

“She’s a very talented driver, who brings with her a lot of energy and excitement,” McAnally said in a press release. “We look forward to being a big part of Hailie’s development as she takes this next step in her racing career. We anticipate great things ahead for everybody, including our partners and fans.”

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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.

 

NASCAR Next: TED Talks, Barbie Dolls and Jaws: Q&A with Julia Landauer

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Julia Landauer first experienced the thrill of racing in a go-kart at the age of 10 on a “very cold November day” at Oakland Valley Race Park, a track in Cuddebackville, New York, about two hours north of her home in Manhattan.

The trek from the concrete jungle to an asphalt road course was the result of her father and mother, an anesthesiologist and a lawyer, wanting their children to have an activity to share with each other.

“They also really wanted something that girls could do against boys,” Landauer told NBC Sports. “I grew up watching Formula One and sports car racing.”

Landauer, now 25,  “loved it right away.”

“My parents liked that it meant from an early age … their young kids were given the responsibility of interacting with adults and articulating feedback and needed to deal with victories and losses,” says Landauer. “So really good life skills that everyone needs was a huge motivator for getting us into go-karts. I’m not sure they totally expected me to want to continue.”

But Landauer did continue, winning the Skip Barber Eastern Regional Series at the age of 14 and the Limited Sportsman track championship at Motor Mile Speedway in 2015. This year, after being selected to the current NASCAR Next class, she become the highest finishing female driver in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West history, placing fourth with Bill McAnally Racing.

In the middle of all that, she graduated from Stanford University, began a career in public speaking (including giving a TEDx Talk at Stanford in 2014) and got voted off the island in “Survivor: Caramoan.”

On Saturday, she won the Driver Achievement Award at NASCAR’s Night of Champions Touring Awards.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed:

NBC Sports: In your first days of college, when you’d have those cheesy ice-breaker games to introduce yourself in class, how would the students at Stanford react to you saying you were a race car driver?

Landauer: Most people found it really, really cool. It was very different from what a lot of people were used to. Lot of people didn’t know a whole lot about racing, but once you start explaining the physical driving part and how it is very athletic, and then you describe the business side and the sponsorship space and how you create a brand and build partners and everything, I think people have a really great understanding of how it is to start up — the way I approach racing is as a startup, which is obviously huge in the Bay Area. It was a different flavor. And because I was at Stanford, we’re taught to reach for the stars and do everything we can. So the fact I want to use my degree to go NASCAR racing wasn’t all that far-fetched in terms of a global dream.

NBC Sports: What is the hardest part about public speaking?

Landauer: It’s a different type of adrenaline, but it’s still adrenaline. It’s so satisfying when you make an audience laugh. I don’t think of myself as a funny person, I don’t crack jokes but when I can make them laugh with some combination of my stage presence and what I’m saying and how I say it, that’s really cool. I think the hardest thing for me is making sure I’m providing really good value to the client. You can be a speaker and kind of give your speech over and over again. For a number of groups it will work, the same talk for different groups. But if someone wants to bring me in and they have a more unique audience or different angle they’re going for, I want to give them what’s most valuable to them. That’s better for them, that’s better for me. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone as to what I’m speaking about is big and that can be hard, and I’m definitely a harsh critique of myself and I want to make sure I’m working as hard as I should be.

NBC Sports: How did you find out you were going to be a part of this year’s NASCAR Next class?

Landauer: Sometime before May I got a call from NASCAR and they said they were excited to tell me I was a part of NASCAR Next. And it was really cool because I started working with NASCAR and understanding that I am such a great brand and personality to have in racing, I’m so different and I do a lot of stuff off track to try to amplify that. So to know that NASCAR saw that as well and that now we’d be more actively working together to really maximize the potential of the Julia NASCAR situation was just really exciting.

NBC Sports: What’s it like for you being aware that you’re an important brand?

Landauer: It’s great. Knowing that the work that I’ve done, the preparation that my family and I have done for 14 years now has value and creates excitement for other people is just fuel to the fire for making it bigger and better. It’s positive reinforcement that some capacity of what I’m doing is right and I just keeping running with it.

NBC Sports: What happened to the Formula One dream?

Landauer: It was interesting because I started in road courses, won the Skip Barber championship, did Formula BMW. Then after that I had seen that one of my competitors in go-karts – we were both at a national Skip Barber race – we (had been) pretty equal in go-karts. Then the Skip Barber race was in the rain and he just smoked everybody and I was like ‘Why the hell did he smoke everybody? He didn’t get that much better since go-karting.’ Then I found out that he had done some oval racing and so originally I wanted to make my road course skills better by going out and doing oval racing for a little bit and getting that car control.

Then once I did that I kind of fell in love with oval racing. I think now it’s still the case in terms of technically driving a race track, I like road courses better, I think there’s a lot more to them in that sense. But when it comes to racing, head-to-head competition, it’s hard to beat oval racing and just being so close to all the cars all the time, there are only four corners so everything has to be perfect. Sometime it’s frustrating because I think the car needs to be that much more perfect in oval racing than road course racing. It was just a natural progression. But part of it also goes back to understanding as someone who is not a trust fund kid who is trying to build up a brand in racing, NASCAR is definitely a bigger market in the U.S.

NBC Sports: Who were your racing idols growing up?

Landauer: Michael Schumacher was definitely a racing idol. But then after I got more into NASCAR, Mark Martin was a hero. He followed me on Twitter and I was just like ‘Best day ever’ and I was totally fangirling. Then also Paul Newman, throwing it back. He as a person is a huge hero to me. Just how he lived his life. And Lyn St. James, she’s been a mentor of mine since I was 13. These past two years we’ve been talking a whole lot more. Every one one of those has something different to offer that I aspired to.

NBC Sports: What is it like to play as yourself in “NASCAR Heat Evolution”?

Landauer: I have to admit, I actually haven’t played it yet. I have never been a big video game person but I am going to be getting over to NASCAR sooner rather than later to be able to play it. It is super cool, but if I had grown up playing video games it may have had a different effect and I’d be a little bit more urgent to go play. For me what was really cool was seeing the screenshot that someone had taken and seeing my name was right next to Bobby Labonte. I was like “wooooah! We are making it.”

NBC Sports: What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten?

Landauer: It’s down to two things. Either the My Size Barbie I got when I was 4, that was pretty phenomenal. It was as tall as I was and you can dance with it. Either that or my junior year of college, my parents gifted me a Euro trip with my friends who were studying abroad. We went to Spain, Prague in the Czech Republic and Vienna. That would probably be better than the Barbie. When you’re 4 and you get a Barbie that’s bigger than you are, that’s pretty incredible, too.

NBC Sports: What’s the hardest you’ve ever laughed?

Landauer: I’ve definitely peed myself laughing before. It was probably Thanksgiving two years ago and just had some family friends who came over, my Godfather and his kid and stuff. I don’t know what it was, but the combination of the wine and whatever was being said, there was more than one of us that leaked a little bit and needed to run to the bathroom.

NBC Sports: If you could sit down with Danica Patrick and talk about one thing, what would it be?

Landauer: I would want to talk about the dynamic of a track. I’ve had my experiences of trying to get the respect of my team, my competitors. Just what’s that like? On the Cup level, I know what it’s like on the development series. She’s obviously a huge brand. So I’d like to know what the 360-degree view of life as a mega NASCAR star is like both on and off the track.

NBC Sports: If you were racing in the Cup Series night race at Bristol, what song would you choose to be introduced with? I’ll give you time to look.

Landauer: I have to go by my most played songs … No, those are not pump up songs at all … One second, I’m almost there … I don’t listen to music before I go racing. I don’t really listen to race music the entirety of the race weekend. That’s just such a great question … I’m a folksy kind of song listener. Like more alternative indie stuff.

NBC Sports: If it helps, the song I would probably choose is the Star Wars theme song.

Landauer: That’s great. This might be a cliché but I’m a big (fan) of the “Jaws” song. It’s just like ‘you’re about to die,’ that’s how I feel when I hear that. The creep on you (part of the song). It would be during the latter part of that song, with the instrumentation. But I’d want people to know they’re about to die … I’ve had the theme song on my iPod for a very long time. It starts off really quietly then it’s all fake big sharks and blood and everything.

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Ty Majeski

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Todd Gilliland

Todd Gilliland reflects on historic championship season

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Todd Gilliland captured the K&N Pro Series West championship in his first full season driving for Bill McAnally Racing, becoming NASCAR’s youngest champion in the process.

At 16 years, 5 months, Gilliland’s season wrapped up with six wins (as well as one win in the K&N East Series), six poles, 13 top-10 finishes, and led 564 laps.

Gilliland will officially be crowned Saturday night at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards. Before doing so, Gilliland spoke with NBC Sports Thursday at GoPro Motorplex during a champions outing.

NBC Sports: Let’s get business out of the way first, do you know what you’ll be doing in 2017?

Gilliland: Not really, we’re working on some stuff. But we’re working on running as many K&N races as we can.

NBC Sports: Dad (David Gilliland) was able to spend a lot of time with you this year, how has he helped your progression?

Gilliland: I feel like he’s definitely helped my progression. If the learning curve is supposed to take five races he made it take two. So I feel like just that and on the radio just different situations that I’ve never been in that he can really help out; different adjustments you can make inside the car.

NBC Sports: Coming into the year when you sat down and gave yourself realistic expectations what were they?

Gilliland: We wanted to win two K&N West races and one East race, and we won seven (races) this year (between the two series). It’s crazy, but everyone at Bill McAnally Racing definitely gave me the cars to do it every week.

NBC Sports: How did the checklist on the shop wall come about?

Gilliland: I’m not sure. We went over to the open house at Bill McAnally Racing, and Bill had it up on the wall, and I’d say that was one of my favorite things in the whole shop, just being able to go in there and check the boxes off every week and thinking about it at the racetrack, that just one more spot and we can check another box.

NBC Sports: So you were constantly aware of the list?

Gilliland: Very aware. Even at Bristol, it was our fourth race, and we’d won the first three and then all I wanted to do was finish top 10. I knew we did have a car to win, but to just finish top 10 so I could check another box. Definitely kept us all moving forward.

NBC Sports: What has been the coolest thing that has happened since winning the championship?

Gilliland: It’s been a whirlwind. I feel like the coolest part was (Wednesday) night at the Whelen Hall of Champions when I got to take the paper off my name and my name was just a couple above my grandpa’s, one row over. It’s cool that we’re both champions on the West.”

NBC Sports: Some of your peers are nervous about the banquet, are you looking forward to it?

Gilliland: I’m looking forward to the whole night. We actually came last year just to check it out, I didn’t run any K&N races but … I am very nervous about the speech. But we’ll get it done and be fine I guess. It’s already written, and I’ve read through it a couple times, and luckily we have a couple of rehearsal nights.