By Louis Brewster, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
There are plenty of young drivers from California on the NASCAR horizons these days, perhaps more so than any other era.
Kyle Larson, the Nationwide Series winner earlier this year at Auto Club Speedway, certainly tops the list with Cole Custer of Ladera Ranch, who raced quarter-midgets at Orange Show Speedway, also gaining attention.
There’s another Southern California racer, one born in Fontana, we should also keep an eye on. But it might be a while before third-generation driver Todd Gilliland breaks through, since he’s just 13 years old and an eighth-grade student. However, he certainly has the genes.
His father, and co-crew chief, David is a current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, racing for Front Row Motorsports. His 2006 Busch Series win at Kentucky for an underfunded team is among the greatest upsets ever in the sport.
Todd’s grandfather is Butch Gilliland, who won the 1997 Winston West championship with his son David serving as his crew chief. In 2012, the elder Gilliland was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
“The most special aspect of West Coast racing was the intimacy of it,” Gilliland said at the time of his induction. “Rather than the distanced, corporate-focused business-side of the national series, the West Coast racing was always local, family-based teams working their hardest to make an impact on the sport that they loved.
“As such, it provided opportunities for families to grow with the sport, as evidenced by my son David becoming a successful Sprint Cup Series driver to this day.”
Now it’s Todd’s turn. Last Saturday night at Ace Speedway, a 4/10-mile track in Altamahaw, N.C., Todd won his first late model race, moving up from third after being inverted for the 40-lap main. Gilliland had served notice on the field by not only winning his first pole in seven starts, but posting the top speeds in practice sessions.
Showing an aggressive style similar to his dad and grandfather, Todd moved to second within the first two laps and took the lead for good on lap 16.
“I just had to be smart and patient the whole race,” said the young Gilliland. “I needed to stay calm and take my time, because I knew if I wrecked, I was done. I just wish my dad had been there, but he was at Talladega.
“I couldn’t wait to talk to him after. I want to be just like him when I grow up.”
The Mill Creek Middle School student leads the points in both Limited Late Models and Late Model Stock Cars. He has finished in the top three in his last five starts.
Among his sponsors is Norfleet Developments, his grandfather’s business based in Nampa. Idaho.