Even after the points were tallied and the battle was over, the postseason festivities were full of celebrations that Ankrum had never pictured being able to take part in.
“I never thought (the year) was really going to be much, at least at the beginning of the season,” admitted Ankrum. “That first race at New Smyrna … even though we didn’t get the results we were hoping for, it showed us that we had speed and could at least take life by the horns, but it always takes luck and the right pieces to fall into place and we weren’t sure that we would get that at first.
“Once we got rolling, though … man, was this a special run with a special group of people,” he smiled. “I think the fact that we weren’t planning on this being a reality makes it even cooler that it actually happened.”
Considering that team owner David Gilliland was the one who suggested that Ankrum move into late models when he first moved to the East Coast from California, the final result this season was one that brought both driver and owner full circle in their tenure together.
“I can pretty much thank David (Gilliland) for my entire racing career,” Ankrum said. “He helped me get started in late models and he’s helped me keep progressing through every step after that. He’s been a great mentor and he has so much knowledge that I’ve been able to take in as we’ve gone along.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anyone else and I’m so grateful to have been able to share this championship run with him and be able to deliver this title for him and everyone at DGR-Crosley.”
After securing the K&N East crown, Ankrum graduated to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with DGR-Crosley and made starts at both Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Arizona’s ISM Raceway during the final month of the season, quickly impressing by grabbing a sixth-place finish in just his second start.
He’ll move on to race full time with DGR-Crosley in the Truck Series next season, contending for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors once he turns 18 in March. However, the first piece of Ankrum’s NASCAR legacy is already in place, with his name forever etched in the Whelen Hall of Champions.
That doesn’t mean that Ankrum knows how he wants to be remembered years down the road, however.
“It’s a tough question to answer, thinking about what kind of legacy I want to leave, because I’ve really only been here for a year,” admitted Ankrum. “I think at this point, the legacy I want is similar to what everyone wants … I want to be remembered as a respectful driver. I don’t want to be known as someone who didn’t care about anyone or anything like that.
“I really care about my guys and what they do, and I hope people see that years down the road.”
For now, Ankrum is simply focused on enjoying the moment and preparing for the future, while still enjoying every aspect of the sport he loves.
“I want to remember this year for what it was, an amazing run that we dreamed about and found a way to achieve,” he said. “We’ll never forget this and it’s going to be special to look back on as the years go by.
“That being said, I’m excited to take the next step onto the national stage and I can’t wait to get started in February.”