NASCAR K&N Pro Victory At Kern Would Match Gurney's 50-Year-Old Mark
Todd Gilliland heads to Bakersfield, California, on the hottest winning streak in 50 years.
Even if he doesn't equal the all-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series mark for consecutive victories to start in the series, the 15-year-old from Sherrill's Ford, North Carolina, is in pretty exclusive company.
It's a club that includes two drivers in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the 2015 Daytona 500 winner and Gilliland. That's it. In the 62-year history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series – dating back to the West Series' beginnings as the Pacific Coast Late Model Series – just four drivers in both the East and West have won the first two series races to start their career.
Dan Gurney. Tim Flock. Joey Logano. And the most recent addition: A third-generation driver with California roots and a North Carolina upbringing; who was 5 when the still youthful Logano made his mark.
The weight of the names are not lost on Gilliland. The teenager is well aware of his racing history, especially in the West, where his father David and grandfather Butch each won races.
"I would say my overall success has come from preparation: from my family and I, and working from where we started to be ready for an opportunity like this," said Gilliland. "It would be such an honor to tie a record with such a motorsports legend as Dan Gurney."
Gurney, whose résumé includes wins in NASCAR's Grand National (now Sprint Cup) Series as well as the 24 Hours of LeMans and Formula One, holds the all-time record with four straight victories between 1963-66.
Flock, who would capture two NASCAR Grand National Series championships, won his first two West starts in 1955. And Logano, who graduated from 2007 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title contender, won the first two K&N Pro starts of his career.
Gilliland surpassed Flock and Logano with his win at California's Irwindale Speedway on March 19, and can match Gurney's streak with a win at Kern County Raceway Park Saturday night.
Gilliland initially made headlines when he became the youngest winner in series history with a victory in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut last fall at Phoenix International Raceway. He followed up by winning the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East opener in February at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway. That victory made him just the 11th driver to win in both the East and West. Running for the K&N Pro Series West championship for Sacramento-based Bill McAnally Racing, Gilliland opened the current West season by taking the checkered flag at Irwindale.
Now the attention shifts to Kern, a high-speed half-mile on the outskirts of Bakersfield. While he's tested at the three-year-old oval, it's another in a list of tracks that Gilliland will be competing at for the first time. He remains undaunted.
"I’m looking forward to the challenge of going to all these new tracks and learning as quickly as I can," he said. "I'm hoping we can keep up this success and go after a championship this year."
- 32 times in the history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series a driver has won their first K&N Pro Series start.
- Four times (Tim Flock, Dan Gurney, Joey Logano and Todd Gilliland) the driver has won their second start.
- Gurney won his first four starts, Gilliland has three straight, while Flock and Logano won their first two.
- For 16 of the first race/first win drivers, it was their only career series race