Bakersfield, Calif. — It wasn’t easy, but Thursday was Todd Gilliland’s day at Kern County Raceway Park.
After winning the only practice of the day at the California track, the 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, piloted his No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota to his eighth career 21 Means 21 Pole Award in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. He then backed it all up with the victory in the NAPA Auto Parts 150.
The win, his eighth in the series, keeps his chances alive to compete for a $10,000 prize in the NAPA 500 Challenge. He must finish in the top three in the next two races at California’s Irwindale Event Center to win the bonus money.
Going into overtime after multiple late-race cautions, the 156-lapper came down to Billy McAnally Racing teammates Gilliland and Derek Kraus. Though 15-year-old Kraus made some gutsy moves to get his No. 19 Carlyle Tools Toyota alongside Gilliland in the closing stages, the Stratford, Wisconsin, driver came up short, finishing second in only his second K&N Pro Series West start.
Kraus was not the only one to contend with Gilliland, however, as Michael Self was the top driver for the first half of the race in his No. 9 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Springs/Lucas Oil Ford. Leading 84 laps, the early pace soon atrophied for the 26-year-old from Park City, Utah, as he lost the lead to Gilliland on Lap 95 and fell outside the top three. Shortly after, the six-time K&N Pro Series West race winner battled with Chris Eggleston and Will Rodgers to come home in sixth.
The night went much worse for a few other series talents, as Brandon Schilling brought out two cautions throughout the night after losing his No. 30 Family Air/Tucson Speedway Ford in Turn 2. Julia Landauer, who qualified seventh, ran as high as second in her No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Springs/Lucas Oil Ford. The run came to an end on Lap 97 when she crashed with Matt Levin, later ending her night in the12th spot.
Rounding out the top-five behind Rodgers and Eggleston was 10-time series race winner, David Mayhew. He was followed by Nicole Behar, who rallied from the rear of the field after an unapproved adjustment, in seventh with Blaine Perkins, Kody Vanderwal and Todd Souza completing the top-10.
The NAPA 150 from Kern County Raceway Park will air on NBCSN Tuesday, March 28 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will be back in action Saturday at Irwindale for the NAPA Twin 100s.
-NASCAR Home Tracks Press Release
-Photo Credit: Sal Sigala, Jr.