With a runner-up finish in the JustDrive.com 125 at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Saturday, Todd Gilliland padded his lead in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship standings and extended his streak of first and second-place finishes.
The 17-year-old driver from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina gained two points over his closest challenger for the title, giving him an eight-point lead heading into the season finale in two weeks.
Gilliland has been on a hot streak in the Bill McAnally Racing No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry since the start of July, scoring four wins and three runner-up finishes in seven races.
After starting third on the 2.25-mile New Jersey road course on Saturday, he quickly moved to second and shadowed the leader for much of the first half of the race. He charged into the lead just past the midway point, but slipped back a spot eight laps later.
“I felt like our NAPA Toyota was just as fast as the winner, Will Rodgers; but he was really mistake free,” Gilliland said. “He did a great job. I definitely learned a lot when I was behind him. I think this will help me in the future.”
Gilliland talked about the challenge of trying to maintain the race lead.
“I knew it would be a challenge no matter what,” he said. “He ran a really good race. His car was hooked up, for sure. I was doing 110 percent out there in front of him. That’s when mistakes happen, but I knew that was the only way I was going to stay in front of him. It was really tough.”
Gilliland credited changes his BMR crew made to his Toyota at the midway break with being able to mount a challenge.
“We made some really good adjustments at halfway that helped us in the second half to contend for the win,” he said.
He expressed relief, meanwhile, about his team’s success in the past seven races and building momentum in the second half of the season.
“I feel like we’ve had fast enough cars to contend for the top two spots in almost every race this season,” he said. “It’s nice to finally get those finishes. Everyone on our BMR team has been working hard all year and now it’s paying off.”
His second-place finish on Saturday matched his runner-up finish last month at New York’s Watkins Glen International in the only other road course event on this year’s schedule.
Gilliland – a NASCAR Next driver – has four wins, 10 top-five, and 13 top-10 finishes in 13 K&N East starts this season. He is running the full schedules this year in the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and holds a five-point lead as the defending K&N West champion.
The JUSTDRIVE.com 125, the second series event at New Jersey Motorsports Park, is scheduled to be televised on NBCSN on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. ET.
The K&N Pro Series East will conclude its 2017 season at Delaware’s Dover International Speedway on Sept. 29.