Listen to this article
Gilliland, a full-time competitor in the Cup Series for Front Row Motorsports, decided to go trophy-hunting on the Knoxville dirt this weekend. The decision paid off with the young racer taking victory for the third time in his Truck Series career.
“The Cup Series is tough, just racing every single week,” said Gilliland. “I’ve had like a million people ask me if this is really what you want to do on your off weekend and absolutely. Nothing beats racing. I’ve been telling everyone that I’m young and I wish I could do this every single weekend of the year. Just so happy for my whole team.
It was quite the Father’s Day gift for Todd’s father David Gilliland, who played the role of team owner in the Knoxville victory.
“I’m super proud,” he said post-race. “I told him when the race started — I said, ‘Bud, all I want for Father’s Day is that trophy.’ And now we’ll be taking it home on the plane with us.”
Gilliland took the lead from John-Hunter Nemechek with ten laps to go and then hung on through a late-race restart to claim victory. He led 58 of 150 laps.
Zane Smith, Ty Majeski, Stewart Friesen, Derek Kraus, Matt Crafton, Grant Enfinger, Tyler Ankrum, and Ben Rhodes rounded out the top-ten.
Kraus started the race from pole position, but it was Carson Hocevar who quickly took control of the race. Despite nose damage sustained in an earlier heat race, he was able to hold back all challengers.
It didn’t take long for the first incident with Dean Thomspon spinning off the nose of Christian Eckes on Lap 4.
Later, Ben Rhodes would challenge Hocevar briefly before falling back. As he faded, it became clear that something was wrong as his truck began to spit water and overheat.
An incident involving Tanner Gray and Spencer Boyd offered an opportunity for Rhodes to fix the issue under caution. He fell a lap down, but remained in the race.
It was a one-lap shootout to end the stage, but it was one lap too many for Friesen. A right rear tire failure sent him up the track and to the back of the pack in a massive blow to his chances at a dirt win.
Hocevar took the stage win ahead of Gilliland, Nemechek, Kraus, Majeski, Enfinger, C. Smith, Brett Moffitt, Matt DiBenedetto, and Z. Smith
Hocevar led Kraus and Gilliland at the start of the second stage, which would fall back under yellow due to a bizarre incident. Jessica Friesen clipped the inside berm and actually rolled her truck and got stuck after landing back on her wheels.
On the ensuing restart, Gilliland took the lead from a dominant Hocevar, who suddenly slowed with an issue. An engine failure ended his night and what was looking to be a real shot at his first Truck Series victory. His teammate Tyler Carpenter suffered an engine failure right around the same time.
Gilliland would go on to win the stage ahead of Z. Smith, Nemechek, Moffit, Kraus, Enfinger, Kaz Grala, S. Friesen, Matt Crafton, and Ankrum.
There were some gamblers during the final stage break, staying out on old tires in hopes of gaining track position.
Moffitt now led the way, but his stay at the front would be short-lived. NASCAR penalized him for jumping the restart and he was forced to come down pit road.
Enfinger then took over control of the race. He was also on older tires, and could not hang on for long as a charging Gilliland reclaimed the race lead with 49 laps to go.
After a caution for a truck that was off the pace, Nemechek was able to jump into the lead of the race. Todd Gilliland was able to fight back and took the lead again with just ten laps ago.
Jack Wood then spun in what was to be the ninth and final caution of the race, setting up a four-lap dash to the checkered flag.
Gilliland held strong on the restart and captured the checkered flag in his first start of the 2022 NASCAR Truck Series season.