WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 4, 2017) – Todd Gilliland narrowed the gap in the chase for the championship in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East on Friday by charging to a second-place finish in the Finger Lakes Wine Country 100 at Watkins Glen International.
The 17-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina has been able to close a 28-point deficit to just four points by virtue of his three wins and two runner-up finishes in five races in the Bill McAnally Racing No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry.
Gilliland and his BMR team worked throughout the day on Friday to improve their lap times around the 2.45-mile road course. He was ninth in practice and then qualified fifth in time trials.
He steadily gained spots in the race, moving to fourth on Lap 3 and second on Lap 24. He took over the top spot three circuits later as the leader slowed with a flat tire and tangled with the wall. Although Gilliland relinquished a couple of positions in the second half of the race, he was able to gain one back on the final lap in what was an overtime finish – due to a late caution.
“It was a solid day for the NAPA Toyota team; that’s for sure,” said Gilliland, a member of the NASCAR Next program that spotlights NASCAR’s rising stars. “Being ninth in practice was not where we wanted to be, but we were able to get better.”
He also utilized a strategy in the race to take advantage of problems by other drivers.
“We knew we weren’t quite fast enough to do it on our own,” he said. “We were able to capitalize on their mistakes.”
In the two-lap dash to the finish in overtime, meanwhile, Gilliland knew it was critical to steer clear of potential trouble.
“An overtime finish can be crazy, no matter what track you’re at,” he said. “We were glad to be able to keep it up front and not tear up anything.”
Gilliland – who has three wins, eight top-five, and 11 top-10 finishes in 11 starts this season – looks to keep the momentum rolling, with three events remaining on the 14-race series schedule.
“We’ve been finishing strong. That’s what we want to do for the rest of the year,” he said.
The third-generation driver is running the full schedules in the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this season, in an attempt to become the first driver to win both championships in the same year. In addition to being second in the K&N East standings, he leads the points in the K&N West.
Special NAPA guests at Friday’s Watkins Glen event got the VIP treatment, with a tour and behind-the-scenes view of the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage – courtesy of BMR. Team owner Bill McAnally led the visit, in which guests were also greeted by Gilliland.
The Finger Lakes Wine Country 100, which was won by Will Rodgers, marked the 18th series visit to Watkins Glen. It’s scheduled to be televised on NBCSN on Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. ET.
The next event on the K&N Pro Series East schedule will be at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Sept. 2.
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Kevin W. Green
Bill McAnally Racing