The cardinal rule of racing with a teammate is that you don’t put each other in a bad situation. Race as hard as possible to bring the trophy back to the shop, no matter whose name is on it, but make sure you don’t eliminate each other from contention.
On Saturday night at Douglas County Speedway (OR), that rule was broken.
Bill McAnally Racing teammates Todd Gilliland and Chris Eggleston raced one-two together for much of Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race, and for much of it they did so without incident. However, that changed on a restart with about 30 laps to go.
Gilliland restarted on the inside. Eggleston, the defending K&N West champ, was on the outside. They ran side-by-side for half a lap before Eggleston crossed under Gilliland and got to the bottom coming off of turn four.
When they came off turn two, the teammates touched. Eggleston said after they made contact that he was hit from behind by another driver and back into Gilliland, causing both drivers to spin out down the backstretch. Ryan Partridge went on to win the race, taking the trophy back to Bob Bruncati’s shop, not the McAnally shop.
The 16-year-old Gilliland and the 27-year-old Eggleston have talked multiple times since the incident, but in listening to both drivers speak, it doesn’t seem as though they’ve reached an agreement on what exactly took place.
“We talked a little bit after the race. I’m sure we’re going to talk a lot more in the future. Both of us have talked with team owner Bill McAnally. We both know it’s definitely something we need to talk through because we can’t let it happen again and we can’t let it hurt the rest of our season,” Gilliland said.
“In all honesty, the more and more I’ve thought about it, it’s pretty much exactly what I thought happened as soon as I got out of the race car on Saturday. It was hard racing more or less,” Eggleston told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’ve already talked to him and David (Gilliland, Todd’s father) both. Although they feel differently about it than I do, I guess we’ll see it when the replay airs, and I think they’ll see that Todd took away as much room from me as I may have taken from him. I feel we are equally responsible.”
Even though Eggleston is 11 years Gilliland’s senior, both drivers have said that they get along really well as teammates.
“I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with him not only at the race track and racing hard with him, but outside the race track as well,” said Eggleston. “He’s only 16 years old but he shows a lot of maturity and by dang he’s a really good race car driver. He’s going to go really far in this sport, there’s no doubt about it.”
“He’s really helped me at any track we’ve been to,” Gilliland said. “It’s great to have a teammate like that that has really helped me out and really knows how to drive really good. We’ve been really good before this. We’ve always raced each other really clean. Really hard but really clean up front. I feel like that’s always a good thing to have. Racing a teammate up front is supposed to be a good thing, but I guess this sort of thing just kind of happens when you’re part of a four-car team with really fast race cars up front every week.”
At this point, a few days removed from the incident, it appears that it’s just a matter of figuring out where to go from here. Will this incident linger over their heads, or will they put it behind them when they head to their next race at the Utah Motorsports Campus on September 10? That’s a question that only Gilliland and Eggleston can answer.
“Moving forward, Todd and I will both put this past us,” said Eggleston. “I don’t think there will be any grudges or any vendetta or anything like that. If Todd feels differently then that’s something that Todd and I will talk about. I don’t feel like a week from now it’s anything we’ll be talking about. I think we’ll be racing just as hard on the race track and be just as good of teammates and friends. I don’t foresee a future problem from that by any means.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Ray Hull photo