The past three seasons have been quite the ride for third-generation driver Todd Gilliland. From earning his first ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR Stock Car wins in 2015 to winning two straight championships on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2016 and 2017, Gilliland has enjoyed one heck of a ride so far during his young career.
2017 also came with great recognition from those in the short track industry for the now 17-year-old Gilliland, when last spring he was voted number one in the Speed51.com Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes.
One year later, with the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on the horizon, the number one spot still means the world to Gilliland even amidst a sea of change as he works his way into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“It's gone by really fast, but it's been a lot of fun even though it's flown by,” Gilliland told Speed51.com. “Being the number one pick meant a lot. Before that, I think the first year I was like 33rd but I kept moving up every year. It was really special to be number one, just by all the people that vote on it. You always look up to Speed51, they are the guys that cover all the short track racing, and just to be a part of that was huge.”
“I think if anything it just gave me more confidence last year going forward,” he said. “We had a good year before that, but if anything you can always gain a bit more confidence when you believe that you're one of the best. I think it helped there, and it also gave me more media attention which always helps.”
That confidence was there as Gilliland completed a season that included the K&N West championship plus nine wins between the K&N West and K&N East. That success extended into 2018 where Gilliland won a thriller during the K&N East opener against Harrison Burton at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) in February.
“I was very proud. I was thinking about how it was a huge accomplishment and there was a lot of fun. I didn't want to stop there and now I want to keep going every season now and just keep trying to go from one season to the next.”
Gilliland hopes to carry that on into the rest with 2018 as he embarks on his rookie campaign in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starting this weekend at another famous short track, Martinsville Speedway. In fact, when Speed51.com spoke to Gilliland for this story Wednesday, he was in the shop at Kyle Busch Motorsports putting time in the simulator and helping the team with pre-race preparations.
“I'm actually at KBM right now getting everything all fixed up for my first race of the season at Martinsville this weekend,” he stated. “I'm working with a new team. We've got Marcus Richmond as our crew chief, and I think it's going to be a great year.”
While Gilliland’s goals are clear going forward, he still plans to be on the short track scene as much as possible. If not driving, he’ll most likely be helping a fellow driver, a practice we have already seen from Gilliland with teammates.
“It's something that if I'm not racing a race I always want to be at one watching or working,” he said. “I'm going to try to get to as many as I can, hopefully I can start racing more. I've only run one race so far this year. I know it's going to start picking up with trucks, but hopefully we can pick it up.”
Another great opportunity that Gilliland will have coming up as the previous year’s number one Short Track Draft pick is that he will be a voter for the 2018 Draft. He intends to look over the list from top to bottom, but already has certain drivers in mind, particularly the ones he has raced toe to toe with.
“I'll have to see who's on the ballot, but I think there's a lot of great people out there. It's cool because I've actually raced a lot of them on there. We'll see who's on there.”
The full list of short track racing prospects eligible for this year’s draft will be released Thursday on Speed51.com. Be sure to follow the hashtag #51Draft to stay up to date with the latest information surrounding the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com