John Bohenkamp, NASCARHomeTracks.com
July 29, 2017 - 1:07am
NEWTON, Iowa — Todd Gilliland only had one true challenge. And even that went away quickly.
The 17 year-old from Sherrills Ford, N.C., had a dominant run in Friday’s Casey’s General Stores 150 presented by Vatterott College at Iowa Speedway, leading all but the first two laps of the 150-lap race.
It was his second consecutive win in the event, an annual combination race with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West. The NASCAR Next driver has seven wins between the two series this season.
The victory allowed Gilliland to pad his K&N Pro Series West lead while closing the gap on Harrison Burton in the East.
“This was a big win for us,” Gilliland said.
Gilliland, driving the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, was fast all day — he had the best lap in the first practice session, and was second-fastest in the second run.
Gilliland, though, started fourth after qualifying, but took the lead from pole-sitter and Bill McAnally Racing teammate Derek Kraus on the third lap and never lost it other than a brief moment to Ben Kennedy late in the race.
Kennedy, 25, from Daytona Beach, Fla., provided the biggest threat, actually getting around Gilliland with 34 laps left, but Gilliland was able to get the lead back before the start-finish line.
Gilliland then survived two caution flags, pulling away on the final restart.
“Those late-race restarts are always nerve-wracking,” Gilliland said.
Kennedy had mechanical issues after a red flag was thrown with 10 laps left to set the lineup during the final caution field. He couldn’t get the car refired, and once he got going was moved to the end of the lead-lap cars for not maintaining pace.
Chase Purdy, who started 11th, roared to a second-place finish. Chris Eggleston, who started on the outside of the front row, finished third.
“He was obviously the class of the field,” said Eggleston of Gilliland, his teammate at Bill McAnally Racing.
“Everybody was chasing him,” Purdy said.
It was the fourth consecutive win at Iowa Speedway for Bill McAnally Racing.
Burton finished fourth, while Chase Cabre was fifth. Michael Self finished sixth. Kennedy was seventh. Will Rodgers, Ronnie Bassett and Jesse Little rounded out the top 10.
Kraus faded after the early start and finished 11th.
With his win, Gilliland now holds an 18 point lead over Eggleston in the K&N Pro Series West standings and trails Burton by only six points in the K&N Pro Series East.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will compete next weekend in the Finger Lakes Wine Country 100 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, while the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West returns to action in the NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Evergreen Speedway at Monroe, Washington, Saturday, Aug. 12.
The Casey's General Store 150 presented by Vatterott College will air on NBCSN on Thursday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. ET.