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NASCAR West Series Opener at Irwindale - Rookie Todd Gilliland Wins 3 in a Row

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Rookie Todd Gilliland celebrates his win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Series opener in Irwindale

Rookie Todd Gilliland celebrates his win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Series opener in Irwindale

The 15-year-old from North Carolina won the K&N Pro Series West season opener at Irwindale Speedway in California on March 19. He is 3-for-3 in K&N Pro Series races, winning his first three races on the NASCAR circuit.

He had to work hard and exercise some patience for his latest win in the Toyota/ NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Irwindale. He started on the pole, but lost his lead on lap 4. He worked his way back to the front on lap 123 and won by two seconds over Ryan Partridge.

“Sometimes it was hard looking out front and watching them race two and three wide,” Gilliland said. “You always want to be out there with them and going for the lead. We knew coming into this race we couldn’t lead the whole entire race. We were going to save our stuff a little bit and maybe fall back if we needed to. Our strategy worked this time.”

Rookie Todd Gilliland wins third K&N Pro Series race in a row and Starts the 2016 season with a big win

Rookie Todd Gilliland wins third K&N Pro Series race in a row and Starts the 2016 season with a big win

Gilliland, a third-generation NASCAR driver, won the K&N Pro Series West season finale at Phoenix International Raceway in November. It was his debut in the K&N Pro Series. He won the K&N Pro Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida in February, his second win in a row.

Partridge, who raced late models at Irwindale Speedway before moving up to the K&N Pro Series ranks, led for 33 laps, the same as Gilliland.

“Todd had a great car,” Partridge said. “Our car lost a little bit of forward drive, a lot of bit of forward drive, early in the race while we were saving the tires, which is never good if you’re trying to save and you still don’t have the forward drive.”

Todd Gilliland works his way up the field to win by two seconds over Ryan Partridge at Irwindale.

Todd Gilliland works his way up the field to win by two seconds over Ryan Partridge at Irwindale.

A caution on lap 130 set up the last restart of the race. When the race resumed on lap 133, Gilliland stayed in front of Partridge and the field.

“Todd on the other hand, I don’t think I ever saw his car wiggle once,” Partridge said. “He was absolutely glued to the race track. It really showed there with the last few laps. He was able to break away. I was praying for a green-white-checkered. I really thought we could have made something on the restart. It is what it is. It was a great run. We are looking forward to the next one.”

Chris Eggleston, the reigning K&N Pro Series West champion, was third at Irwindale.

“I thought we had something for them. On the last 100 to 110, I started to slip the right rear in the last couple,” Eggleston said. “The short runs were killing us. I had to try so hard. As hard as we had to work for this third-place finish, it was definitely a struggle, but we’ll definitely take it.”

Gracin Raz, who started on the front row next to Gilliland, led a race-high 82 laps but finished in 14th place. Noah Gragson was fourth, followed by Johnny Borneman in fifth.

The next race on the K&N Pro Series West is the NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, Calif., on April 2.


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