Todd Gilliland drove the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry to a third-place finish in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East action at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina on Saturday night.
The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina came away with the podium finish following a hard-fought battle in his first time competing on the historic half-mile oval.
After initially slipping back a position from his seventh-place starting spot, Gilliland started working his way toward the lead. The Bill McAnally Racing driver was in the top five by Lap 33 and up to second just before the midway break of the race.
“Our NAPA Toyota was fastest in practice, so I knew we had a really good car,” Gilliland said. “Once the race started, we didn’t fire off how we wanted to – which made me a little bit nervous. We slid back to eighth, but then started picking up spots on each restart. We were able to finish out the first half in second.
“I feel like we made really good adjustments at the break, but the 40 car made some really good adjustments, also,” Gilliland said of race winner Kyle Benjamin and his team.
While he was pleased with the changes, Gilliland encountered brake issues during a long green-flag run in the second half of the race.
“Our brakes went away quite a bit toward the end of the race,” he said. “That made me struggle a little bit on the entry to the corners.”
Despite the trouble, he was able to battle back to come away third. With the finish, Gilliland moved up to third in the championship standings, 12 points out of first.
Gilliland is running the full schedules in the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this year after making five starts in the K&N East last year and racing the full schedule in the K&N West, where he won the championship as a rookie.
The Greenville-Pickens event is slated to be televised on NBCSN on April 15 at 9 p.m. ET. It was the second event on a 14-race schedule this year and marked the 17th visit by the series to the South Carolina track.
The next event on the K&N Pro Series East schedule will be the Zombie Auto 125 on the high-banked, half-mile of Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway on April 22.