Gilliland talks New Smyrna win, Kyle Busch Motorsports deal for 2018
By James Jackson
February 14, 2018
Two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Todd Gilliland started his 2018 K&N Pro Series East season with a win at New Smyrna Speedway Sunday night.
Fans were treated to a very good race for the lead all night between Gilliland and Harrison Burton. With about 15 laps remaining, Gilliland made contact with Matt Levin and spun him around while leading.
“I think I was just trying to go as fast as I could through all the lap traffic with Harrison behind me” Gilliland said to The Racing Experts about the contact. “I got to him and I tried to turn under him. I don’t know if he got pointed into the wall or something he didn’t expect. I had to jump out of the gas on exit and get on the breaks.
“The closing rate was a little bit bigger than I expected on exit and just got into him a little bit and turned him around.”
Gilliland mentioned if the damage had any affect on the car in the final laps.
“I definitely don’t think any contact ever helps with the race car but I didn’t feel anything that really hurt it,” he said.
In the final laps, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland raced each other hard, constantly trading the lead back and forth. Gilliland managed to hold off Harrison Burton and Cole Rouse for the win.
“It was a ton of fun.” Gilliland said “I think we always lay it all on the line to get the win and that’s what we were doing. It was back and forth both ways.
“One restart he’d get the jump, another restart I’d get the jump. Just trying to stay calm and keep our cars from hitting the wall off each other. Luckily we just put it in Victory Lane.”
Gilliland and Burton are no stranger to one another. Both drivers battled each other for the K&N Pro Series East Championship last season at Dover International Speedway. Gilliland ultimately lost that championship battle but says he learned a lot from that loss.
“A lot of people pay attention to how you lose,” He said. “So that’s a good thing, I think as a team we handled it well. I felt like we had some unfinished business this year. So we went out to New Smyrna and showed them what we had.”
Truck Series Contract with Kyle Busch Motorsports
Gilliland made his Camping World Truck Series debut last season at Dover International Speedway and has a total of six races under his belt in the CWTS. In those six races, Gilliland scored two top-five finishes and three top-10 finishes. Kyle Busch Motorsports gave Gilliland a contract to drive 19 CWTS races in 2018.
“I’m very lucky to have Toyota TRD behind me along with other great sponsors,” he said. “They have a really good relationship with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“They got the relationship started and after we had some fairly good luck this year I think it impressed everyone over there enough to be able to take me on again this year.”
Gilliland knows he still has a lot to learn going into the CWTS this season.
“I think pit stops are going to be huge for me,” he said. “That’s just something that’s new to me. Stopping on the marks, getting everything as quick as possible. Restarts are always huge too. It’s kind of hard to pass on these mile-and-a-halfs and you just have to get every spot you can.”
When asked about what he needs to learn the most, Gilliland was very appreciative of his opportunity to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“That’s another good thing about driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports is having Kyle to talk to on the radio and basically throughout the entire week,” he said. “He can help you with any questions you have. I think aero is going to be big, taking air off someone’s right side or off their nose. Stuff like that that I haven’t really dealt with too much.”
Gilliland also shared how hands on Kyle Busch is as an owner.
“He helps us a ton,” Gilliland said. “He’s out there on the radio for all of my races and and just having that experience is huge. He helps us and in a lot of ways he even helps the crew chiefs during practice.”
Kyle Busch gave Gilliland some feedback following his races.
“Just don’t drive over your head. Just be smooth and take what the car will give you.”
Gilliland’s first race of the season in the NCWTS will be at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday March 24th for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250.
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