DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – No one, much less 16-year-old Todd Gilliland, could have imagined what 2016 had in store for him.
The native of California who now resides in Sherrills Ford, N.C., put together an incredible season driving the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing that included seven victories in NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition, six of which came in the West division, and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.
“It was very incredible to have that kind of success,” Gilliland said. “We set our expectations to maybe win one or two races out West. To win six was really crazy and we definitely never thought we’d be in contention to win the championship or to even win it. It was definitely better than anything we expected.”
Gilliland started the season off with a bang, winning his first three races combined between the East and West divisions at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway and California’s Irwindale Speedway and Kern County Raceway Park. Those three victories along with his first West division victory at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 12, 2015 came in his first four career K&N Pro Series starts, matching a record set by legendary racer Dan Gurney.
“It definitely gave me confidence, going to the race track and winning my first four races,” Gilliland said. “It gave me more confidence when we were going to the race track that we could go out there and compete for wins every weekend.”
As it turned out, that was just the start of Gilliland’s record breaking year.
Gilliland after winning at Irwindale and Kern County, Gilliland took firm control of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship until the sixth race of the season at California’s Sonoma Raceway on June 25. He got caught up in a crash that day and finished a season worst 24th, which dropped him behind Ryan Partridge in the championship standings.
Not to be deterred, Gilliland and Bill McAnally Racing quickly bounced back. Gilliland and company rattled off three consecutive victories at Idaho’s Stateline Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Evergreen Speedway in Washington to reclaim the championship lead.