As a third-generation driver, Todd Gilliland has an appreciation for the history of NASCAR.
Gilliland, who drives the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry for Bill McAnally Racing, will be competing at a track with a rich heritage when the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East rolls into South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway on Saturday.
The track held its first NASCAR race more than 60 years ago and was a traditional stop for NASCAR’s premier series from 1955 to 1971. The history of the speedway is evident all around the track, with the names of past track champions painted on the concrete walls that surround the paved oval.
“It’s really cool to see all the names on the wall, with the year that they won the championship,” said Gilliland, who won a late model race at the half-mile track. “It’s cool to see the names that won championships in the era when my grandpa was racing.”
In the past 10 years, meanwhile, it’s been the emerging stars of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East who have taken center stage at Greenville Pickens Speedway. Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., Corey LaJoie, and William Byron are among the talented young drivers to win in series competition there.
Gilliland – a native of California who lives in Sherrills Ford, North Carolina – aims to follow in their footsteps with success in his first K&N East race at the speedway.
Greenville Pickens recently repaved a portion of the track surface, from the center of the corner to half of the exit and Gilliland says he is anxious to test it out.
“It’s going to be a new twist to the race track,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to tackling that new surface.”
Gilliland, a 16-year-old who is a member of the NASCAR Next program that spotlights NASCAR’s rising stars, finished ninth in the series season opener at New Smyrna Speedway in February, after battling back from flat tire while leading.
In the meantime, as the K&N West kicked off its season last month with four races in eight days, Gilliland had a dominant week – with three wins and a second-place finish.
This is Gilliland’s first full season of competition in the K&N East. In 2016, he made just five starts in the series – while racing the full schedule in the K&N West, where he had a sensational season and won the championship as a rookie. He is tackling the full schedules in the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this year.
Saturday’s 150-lap race, which is slated to be televised on NBCSN on April 15 at 9 p.m. ET, is the second event on a 14-race series schedule. It marks the 17th visit by the series to the track, dating back to 2006.