HAMPTON, VA – Two of NASCAR racing’s hottest prospects are locked in a tight championship battle in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in what could be a preview of future title fights in NASCAR’s upper echelons.
After picking up a win at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Monday, 16-year-old Todd Gilliland took over the K&N East points lead. Gilliland has a six marker advantage over his main championship rival, 15-year-old Harrison Burton, and both drivers have been relatively evenly matched.
On Monday, Gilliland, the son of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitor David Gilliland, made a late race pass on Dillon Bassett and pulled away from the Chase Purdy in the final laps to score his fourth K&N East victory of the year – tying Burton in number of wins in the eastern tour.
“This is a crucial part of the season overall,” Gilliland said afterward. “With there only being 14 races, all of them are very important. This one is huge for us, taking the lead. We had some bad luck to start the year off but, man, we’ve come on strong in these summer months. We’ve just got two more races to go get it.”
While Gilliland lavished in victory lane, Burton languished.
Burton, son of NBC Sports broadcaster and former MENCS racer Jeff Burton, struggled throughout much of the day. During the race, Burton fought valiantly, but was only able to come away with a seventh place finish and, as a result, watched his four point lead become a six point deficit.
“It was a tough race for us,” Burton remarked. “We didn’t have the handle on the car all week. We’ve got to win the next two, that’s what we have to do. It’s something we’re really capable of. We’ve got to go to the road course and win and I know I’m capable of it. I believe in my team, and we’re going to have a great car. Then we’ve got to go to Dover and take care of business there.”
With two races remaining, the K&N Series standouts will now turn their attention to the 2.25-mile road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 16th, and both drivers are confident entering the event.
Todd Gilliland has fared well at the road courses so far in 2017. In the most recent road course race at Watkins Glen International, Gilliland finished second to Will Rodgers. Heading to New Jersey, Gilliland is already looking to gain an advantage.
“We’re driving all night after this race to go test at New Jersey,” Gilliland said. “We’re going to try to give ourselves the best chance we’ve got. That’s all we can do.”
Harrison Burton, who finished third at Watkins Glen, is equally optimistic about the New Jersey race.
“That’s my best road course I run at,” Burton remarked. “Really excited to get going to New Jersey. It’s a great racetrack, a lot of fun. We get tires at the halfway break, so that plays into my favor. I’ve never been too good at saving tires. I like going 100 percent, but, we’ve got to go and do what we’ve got to do.”
Both drivers come from NASCAR pedigree and have had plenty of success in short track racing – Burton in Super Late Models and Gilliland in Late Model Stock Cars.
Burton recently won the New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt championship as well as the Speedfest 200 Super Late Model race in Georgia. Gilliland, who won last year’s K&N West championship and is poised to defend that title, won the inaugural race for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour in North Carolina back in 2015 before moving up the ladder and into the K&N Series. Both drivers have also made starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and are members of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class.
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