TALLADEGA — It’s a good thing they don’t do three-point turns on a race track. If so, Todd Gilliland might be in trouble.
The 18-year-old driver is thriving on the NASCAR Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series, and he jokes that his toughest racing assignment was passing his test to get his driver license so he could drive a regular car on a regular road. He said the three-point turn was the toughest part of the test.
“I was so nervous,” said Gilliland, who is in town for Friday’s General Tire 200. “I actually had a few helmets in the back seat, and I was going to ask the guy if he wanted one but I didn’t. I didn’t pull that one.”
Gilliland didn’t even take his driver’s test until he was “almost 17.” He was too busy driving.
The son of former NASCAR Cup driver David Gilliland and grandson of former professional racer Butch Gilliland, Todd went behind the wheel when he was only 4½ years old, driving a quarter-midget. He’s been racing professionally since he was 15.
“It was ... in a dirt lot in quarter-midget, and I ran out there all day,” he said. “Wasn’t very good, but did a few donuts and drove around and had some fun. I ran my first actual race on my fifth birthday.”
He qualified for the ARCA Series race in Toledo, Ohio, on May 15, 2015, which was his 15th birthday. A day later, he won the race.
Gilliland has raced K&N Pro Series races since 2016, and he began driving on the NASCAR Truck Series in 2017. Over the past three years, he has participated in 30 races, finishing in the top 10 a total of 14 times. He’s still searching for his first victory.
This year, he is racing full-time on the Truck Series and part-time on ARCA.
He races some for his father, who had four top-10 finishes at Talladega. In 2013, he was second and seventh in the two Cup races at the superspeedway. He also was fourth in 2007 and ninth in 2011.
Todd raced at Talladega for the first time last year, finishing 20th in a Truck Series race. He led 13 laps but went out in a crash. His dad placed third.
“He always seemed to be pretty good in the restrictor-plate races for one reason or another,” Todd said. “Coming here last year for the truck race, I was pretty nervous. We watched a ton of races together. That’s one of the hard things about this place. You can watch five years in a row and something different happens every single time.”
He summed up his superspeedway philosophy like this: “It’s about learning about all that stuff but also going with the flow during the race. See if there’s a trend during the race and try to be ready and ahead of it, but always be patient.”