Todd Gilliland has his sights set on the third race of the year in the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) as well as a debut in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
Gilliland won the inaugural race for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour back on March 28th when the series raced at Southern National Motorsports Park (North Carolina). That victory, his first career victory in a Late Model Stock Car, made headlines in all of motorsports media and boosted the 14-year-old driver’s profile and his confidence.
“It was really cool winning the inaugural race,” Gilliland said. “It definitely boosted my confidence and let me know we could do it. We finished second so many times, it got frustrating finishing second. You always want that first win and it always seems to be the hardest to get the first win and the other ones come easier after that.”
That win had come after several second place finishes in the fall and winter months to close out the 2014 season – most notably, a runner-up finish in the Autumn Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park last November.
Despite his confidence, Gilliland has run into some hard luck in the CARS Tour. At Orange County, he was involved in an early accident and was forced to retire from the race.
“It was really disappointing because we came into that race with big expectations,” Gilliland stated. “Can’t help it, just a racing deal. We’ll move on and get them at Hickory.”
Gilliland has solid expectations looking ahead to Hickory Motor Speedway, a track he has raced at before. Gilliland feels he has a legitimate shot to win the race if he stays out of trouble.
“We’re looking for a good solid finish,” Gilliland remarked. “That’s all you want to do most of the time and if you survive to the end, you have a chance to win. We tested Hickory on Tuesday and we got the car really good and I think we have a legitimate shot at the win.”
After Hickory, Gilliland will celebrate his 15th birthday (on May 15th) by travelling west to Toledo Speedway (Ohio) where he will make his debut in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards on May 17th driving for Billy Venturini and Venturini Motorsports. In doing so, Gilliland will become the youngest driver in series history to start a race.
“It’s super exciting getting an opportunity to run an ARCA race in really good stuff,” Gilliland said. “Hopefully we’ll make the most of it. We got really comfortable in the car on Wednesday and I think if we get the car a little bit better, we can do really good and get a solid finish.”
Gilliland has already got seat time with Venturini Motorsports. He tested at Motor Mile Speedway (Virginia) on Wednesday. If things go well at Toledo and more sponsorship comes through, Gilliland could run more races in the ARCA Racing Series. He also plans to continue running in the CARS Tour – but, when he goes to the race, he expects to be at 100 percent and expects to contend for wins.
“We aren’t going to just rush to one race because we aren’t running for points. If we can’t have the car the best of our ability for a race, we won’t race if we can’t be 100% ready or it.”
RACE22.com will have live “Up to the Minute” updates of Saturday night’s CARS Tour race at Hickory Motor Speedway, dubbed the Catawba Valley 250, on Twitter (@RACE22). In addition to RACE22.com’s coverage, RACEFEEDX.com will have live video coverage of the race. The ARCA Racing Series’ Menards 200 at Toledo Speedway can be seen live on CBS Sports Network on May 17th.