Hometown: Sherrills Ford, NC
Current Level: NASCAR K&N Pro Series
Last Year’s Pick: 2nd
Each year, NFL Draft experts take their best shot at predicting the order in which names will be called onto the stage in Philadelphia. On some occasions, there is a consensus number-one pick. On other occasions, you might as well just draw straws out of a hat. The same can be said for the Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com.
For most experts, the 2017 Short Track Draft came down to three or four drivers who they thought would be the number-one selection. In all, 14 different drivers received first-place votes from our panel of 65 industry insiders, but when all the votes were tallied one driver stood tall as the number-one pick.
The driver is the second in his family to be selected in the Short Track Draft. His father, David, was selected as the 12th pick in 2005 before beginning a career in the top levels of NASCAR.
Now, it’s his son’s time to shine.
After tallying the votes, 16-year-old Todd Gilliland of Sherrills Ford, North Carolina has been selected as the number-one pick in the 2017 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes.
“It means the world,” Gilliland said upon hearing the news on Thursday. “There are so many great race car drivers on the list and many have raced for years and years. To be recognized as the top short track racer at my age is huge to me. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in.”
The third-generation driver first appeared in the Short Track Draft in 2014 when he was selected as the 33rd overall pick. Gilliland improved to 14th the following year before jumping all the way up to second last year. He finished second to Wisconsin driver Ty Majeski in the closest tally in the history of the Short Track Draft.
“That one killed me inside,” Gilliland said. “Seeing Ty Majeski, I knew all the success he had was amazing and I knew we were going to have a really good year. I was really pleased with our 2016 season and I’m happy it all paid off for this.”
Gilliland scored seven victories during the 2016 season including six NASCAR K&N Pro Series West wins and one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory. He also claimed the 2016 K&N West championship during his rookie season.
Many of our experts complimented Gilliland’s early success in the heavier stock cars as the reason for being their number-one selection.
“I think it all starts from preparation, that’s kind of why we took the step to go Late Model Stock racing when I was 13 years old and not go the Super Late Model way like most young kids do,” Gilliland explained. “We just really felt like the cars were a lot more similar to a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car, a truck, anything moving up. I think that’s something really good that my dad thought about starting out and I feel like it’s really helped me mold to these cars and take to them a lot faster.”
In addition to his success on the track, Gilliland has also taken advantage of the resources available to him to become better away from the race track. He’s improved his public speaking skills and become better prepared for everything that comes with an opportunity to compete in the higher levels of NASCAR.
“I think being in NASCAR Next in 2016 helped a lot with all of the resources they gave us to look ahead and be prepared for all of those challenges that are going to come to us,” he said. “They surrounded us with media training and everything like that to give me the confidence to go into these series prepared and not overwhelmed by everything.”
Like any racer, there are a lot of people behind the scenes that help Gilliland get to victory lane and achieve a high level of success. One person in particular, who gave Gilliland an opportunity at the start of the 2016 season, has been instrumental in his success.
“Bill McAnally and NAPA Auto Parts reached out to us and gave us the opportunity of a lifetime to step into that 16 car and really make a name for myself in the K&N series. I definitely couldn’t do it without them. I couldn’t do it without their sponsorship and Bill’s great cars. Also, my crew chief, Chris Lawson; he works days and nights out here to bring fast cars to the race track.”
Since the 2009 Short Track Draft, every number-one selection has gone on to make at least one start in one of NASCAR’s top three national touring series. Gilliland will continue that trend by making four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2017.
Although he has his eyes set on the next level, Gilliland is being patient with the process.
“Hopefully, if the starts this year go well, we can expand my schedule even more in 2018,” Gilliland said about his plans moving forward. “Everything we’re doing right now is just trying to get more experience to where I can move up, but the good thing about being 16 years old is that you don’t really have to rush it. We’re going to take our time and move up when I’m ready, but I feel like we have some good opportunities on the horizon.”
Gilliland joins a list of 14 drivers who have can call themselves number-one picks in the Short Track Draft. He joins a list of names including NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver Chase Elliott, NASCAR XFINITY Series rookie Daniel Hemric, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell and short track ace Bubba Pollard, among others.
Want to find out who Gilliland beat out to become the overall pick in this year’s draft? The #2 pick will be announced Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET.
Picks 3-10 will be announced beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday with one pick being announced each hour until the 10th pick is announced at 5 p.m. Selections 11-25 will be announced at 6 p.m.
On Monday at 5 p.m., the final selections making up the top 51 picks in the 2017 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brake will be revealed.
-Text by Speed51.com Staff