Author: Jim Utter
Date: Sept. 28, 2017
Two drivers with similar backgrounds and pedigrees will battle it out Friday for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Todd Gilliland enters Friday’s season finale with an eight-point lead over Harrison Burton and both are looking for their first series championship.
Gilliland, 17, is the son of NASCAR veteran David Gilliland while Burton, 16, is the son of veteran Jeff Burton, now a TV analyst for NBC Sports. Both run part-time in the Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports and both are members of the NASCAR Next class, which spotlights up-and-coming drivers in the sport.
Gilliland is trying to become the first driver to win championships in both the K&N Pro Series East and West in the same season. He also leads the West standings with three races remaining.
“I’m really confident about our Dover package for our NAPA Toyota,” Gilliland said.
Chasing both titles will require double duty for Gilliland this week. After competing in the East race at Dover on Friday, he will travel approximately 2,400 miles west for a West race at Meridian Speedway in Idaho on Saturday.
“It’s going to be really busy, especially with it being the finale for the K&N Pro Series East,” Gilliland said. “Right after Dover, we’ll get busy focusing on the K&N West and Meridian. It’s been super busy, but I feel like it’s made me better as a driver.”
Gilliland and Burton have enjoyed virtually identical seasons statistically. Each has four wins, and each has finished in the top-10 in all 13 East races to date, making them the series leaders in both categories.
Gilliland, the reigning K&N Pro Series West champion, can clinch the championship with at least a third-place finish.
Of the two, Burton is the only one who has competed at Dover previously in the East series. He started eighth and finished sixth a year ago in this race. Both drivers ran in the Truck race at Dover in the spring – Burton finished 13th and Gilliland 20th.
Burton sees the previous track time as an advantage heading into Friday’s race.
“I have more experience than Todd does at Dover. He ran the Truck race along with me earlier in the year but I have a K&N race under by belt there and got a strong finish out of it,” Burton said. “In my opinion, Todd’s not going to run outside of the top eight or nine, so I’m going to have to win.
“I’m going to have to perform at Dover, hopefully, for a long time in my career and I feel it’s a good track for me. I feel like I’m plenty capable of going in there running well and winning especially with the great team that I have behind me.
“We’ve won four races this season. It’s not like we’re going into this with no shot.”
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