Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gilliland Clinches Sunoco Rookie Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Todd Gilliland proved he was the driver to beat this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, and he's already started collecting the trophies.

In addition to his series-high six wins, the 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, has already clinched the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award with a race remaining.

The Bill McAnally Racing driver becomes the 45th Sunoco Rookie of the Year winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and joins his father David Gilliland, who won the award in 2004, on the prestigious list of winners. With the finale at California’s All American Speedway quickly approaching, Gilliland will look to join Lance Hooper (1996) and Scott Lynch (2003) on the list of drivers to win both the championship and rookie honors in the same year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

“We didn’t have too high of expectations at the start of the year,” Gilliland said. “My team and I just wanted to win one to three races. To have the season I’ve had so far is mind-blowing and to have locked the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title up with one race left in the season is crazy.”

The 2016 season has seen 29 talented rookie drivers vying for top honors in the K&N Pro West, including Gilliland’s Bill McAnally Racing teammates Julia Landauer and Riley Herbst. Heading into the season finale at All American Speedway in Roseville, California, on Oct. 15, Gilliland leads Landauer 119-100, while Herbst is third with 95 points. The highest finishing rookie in a race receives 10 points, second receives nine, third gets eight and so on.

“There was a lot of great rookie talent in the series this year,” Gilliland said. “It was fun racing against such strong competitors this year, especially my BMR teammates.”

Gilliland carried over his momentum from winning his series debut at the 2015 finale at Arizona’s Phoenix International Raceway and then winning in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East opener in February at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway.

He won the first two West races of the year to equal Dan Gurney’s 50-year record as the only driver to win his first four K&N Pro starts.

The victories didn’t stop there, as the NASCAR Next driver has picked up six wins, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 13 starts.

While excited and honored to win the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year trophy, Gilliland still has a lot of work ahead.

“We still have one more race,” the current championship points leader said. “Winning this title gives me some more confidence headed into the finale. But we can still lose the championship, so I have to keep my head down and keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”

Gilliland will be formally recognized as the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards on Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.