With 18 victories, 27 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes so far on the short tracks of the Southeast, Casey Roderick of Lawrenceville was the unanimous choice of a media panel to be the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame’s Driver of the Year.
Roderick, who drives primarily for Georgia Racing Hall of Famer Ronnie Sanders and is considered one of the top young drivers in America, also has three championships already this season.
Throughout the year, the 25-year-old Roderick has raced and won on many of the same tracks that Sanders dominated during his time behind the wheel.
Roderick’s first win of 2017 came on Jan. 7 in the Zack Donatti Memorial at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway. He backed that up with a win at Crisp Motorsports Park in the Pro Late Model portion of Speedfest on Jan. 29.
He got his second victory at Cordele and his 18th overall of the year on Oct. 18.
He opened the month of March with a victory at Montgomery Motor Speedway in the first installment of that track’s Show Me The Money series. He went on to win four more of those races and the season title of that series as well.
Roderick won four Pro Late Model races at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tenn., and that track’s Big Machine series season championship.
He also found success at Five Flag Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., where he opened his season there in March with a win in the Allen Turner 100 for Pro Late Model drivers. He went on to win three more races in that series and the division title.
While most of Roderick’s wins have come in the Pro Late Model division, he’s also found success in the Super Late Model division. He won a Southern Super Series 100 lapper at Fairgrounds Speedway in April and posted five other top-five finishes.
Roderick already has made starts in NASCAR’s Xfinity and Camping World Truck series and won an ARCA race on the road course at New Jersey Motorsports park in 2010.
A big win on the West Coast, a SpeedFest triumph at Watermelon Capital Speedway and an All-American 400 victory at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tenn., propelled Senoia’s Bubba Pollard to his second Driver of the Year Award from the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
Pollard, who has more than 90 career Super Late Model victories and countless others in different divisions, started his season in a winning way by taking the Super Late Model headliner of SpeedFest. He then won the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., in February. That victory was his second in a row in the West Coast equivalent of the Snowball Derby and earned him a cool $40,000. In October, Pollard won the All-American 400 at the historic oval in Nashville, pocketing another $16,000.
Throughout the summer months, the third-generation racer began racing Crate Late Models at Senoia Raceway, the dirt track co-founded by his late grandfather Hence Pollard. Despite his lack of dirt experience, the 29-year-old driver reeled off seven victories there, which pushed his total win count to 13 on the season, including a Southern Super Series victory at Five Flags Speedway in September.
Pollard, who won the inaugural Driver of the Year Award from the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, lives in Senoia with his wife Erin and daughter Elizabeth McMillan Pollard.
Long-time motorsports journalist Joe Cawley of Augusta is the 2016 recipient of the Jimmy Mosteller Award from the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
The award is given annually to a journalist in recognition of lifetime achievements in Georgia motorsports.
Cawley, who was born on Nov. 15, 1945, in Austin, Texas, where his father was stationed at Bergstrom Field, saw his first stock car race at the old Speedway Park in Martinez, Ga., in 1961. There he saw racers like H.G. Rosier, Weldon Adams, Frank Warren and Joe Penland in action. He also attended races that year at the Augusta International Speedway and began photographing races there.
From 1981 to 2000 he did writing and photography for several short tracks including Gordon Park Speedway near Augusta and Modoc Speedway in South Carolina.
Afterwards he traveled and covered races with the National Vintage Racing Association for more than 10 years. His work has appeared in newspapers and racing publications across the country for decades.
Cawley is the current president of the Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society and received that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Cawley’s activities on behalf of the motorsports community have slowed some since he contracted leukemia in the fall of 2015, but his love of the sport remains as strong as ever.
“It is nice when you can find a hobby you can enjoy for over 50 years,” he said.
Cawley will be honored during the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Nov. 12 at the Hall in Dawsonville.
For more information on the ceremony, visit georgiaracinghof.com or call 706-216-7223.
Jeff Gordon’s upcoming first-ever authorized biography, Jeff Gordon: His Dream, Drive & Destiny – http://jeffgordon.com/book.
The 8.5” x 12” fully-illustrated 192-page hardcover book retails for $39.95. The book is a sort of hybrid – it’s a cross between a traditional text only biography and a photo intense coffee table book. It’s over-sized for a biography, fully illustrated with a lot of photos and images of things like his grade school report card, termination letter to Bill Davis Racing, etc., but yet smaller than a full scale coffee table book.
“I purposely waited until I retired from driving so the book would encompass my entire career,” says Jeff Gordon. “People are going to be able to read about me like they’ve never read about me before.”
The first-ever authorized biography of Jeff Gordon, the four-time champion racing legend. For over a year, Garner interviewed and observed Gordon at races, special events, and at home. The book is based on extensive interviews with Gordon – as well as in-depth interviews with dozens of family members, friends, competitors, and colleagues, some of whom have never gone on the record before. Jeff speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about his childhood, his much publicized divorce, those he competed against, his family, and life after racing. This fully illustrated hardcover biography will allow privileged access to a wealth of exclusive unseen and rare material from Gordon’s personal photo and memorabilia collection. Gordon’s meteoric rise through racing’s ranks is a classic American success story. Readers will find inspiration in Gordon’s candid take on his pivotal life episodes.
About the Author:
Five-time New York Times bestselling author Joe Garner has become one of the premiere chroniclers of America’s popular culture. With his seminal work, WE INTERRUPT THIS BROADCAST, he took publishing by storm, selling nearly 700,000 copies and hit the New York Times bestseller list in two consecutive years. He has produced several other bestsellers. His most recent New York Times and USA Today bestseller is 100 YARDS OF GLORY, about the greatest moments in NFL history, with Bob Costas. Gordon and Garner first worked together in 2006 on the multimedia book titled SPEED, GUTS & GLORY, about landmark moments in NASCAR history. Gordon narrated the video chapters that accompanied the book.
About the Foreword:
Tom Cruise is an American actor and filmmaker. Cruise has been nominated for three Academy Awards and has won three Golden Globe Awards. He is also a huge NASCAR fan.
- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Jeff Gordon, Inc. (Scheduled to Release Nationally November 22, 2016)
- Language: English
- Dimensions: 8.5” x 12”
On many a Friday or Saturday night back in the 1970s and ‘80s, Ricky Williams of Fayetteville and Stan Massey of Mableton went door-to-door racing for checkered flags on the dirt tracks in Atlanta suburbs like Douglasville, Senoia and Woodstock.
Now the two again will be sharing center stage as members of the 2016 Class of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
|Ricky Williams||Stan Massey||Dick Brannan||Sam Sommers||Jimmy Thomas|
Joining Williams and Massey are drag racing legend Dick Brannan of Dawsonville, longtime short track and NASCAR driver Sam Sommers of Sylvania and the late Jimmy Thomas of Columbus, who was a car owner, car builder, crew chief and founder and operator of East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City.
The five were selected by a 21-member voting panel that made the selection from the Fast 15 semi-finalist list.
Williams led the voting with 12 votes, followed by Sommers with 11, Brannan and Thomas with 10 each and Massey with nine.
Just missing the cut were Fast 15 members Mike Love and Jabez Jones, who had eight votes each.
The five inductees will be formally recognized during the 49th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville on Oct. 21 – 23, then inducted during a ceremony on Nov. 12 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville.
Gordon Pirkle, the founder of the Hall of Fame, said he continues to be amazed at the impressive credentials of the inductees.
“Of course, I think any member of the Fast 15 is deserving of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I think this class is just outstanding,” Pirkle said.
Williams, who was voted into the Hall on his first time on the ballot, began racing in 1976 and is now in his 41st year behind the wheel of a dirt-track car.
He has racked up 11 track championships and more than 350 feature victories at tracks across Georgia and Alabama, but was at his best at the old West Atlanta/Seven Flags Speedway in Douglasville. He also won two track championships and numerous feature wins at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock and Rome Speedway in Rome as well as at Senoia Raceway and other tracks across the Southeast.
Throughout his racing career, he’s worked full-time in a body shop, and now is helping his grandson Bailey Williams launch his racing career.
Brannan, who won more than 200 NHRA, IHRA and AHRA sanctioned drag racing events, was directly involved in the development of the Ford 427-cubic-inch race engines, as well as the 428s and 429s.
He already is a member of the Super Stock Magazine Hall of Fame, East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame, Drag Racers Reunion Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the Dearborn Classic Award.
Sommers won races and championships all over the Southeast and also had a brief career in the series now known as Sprint Cup. He ran 30 Cup races from 1976 through 1978 with two top-five and nine top-10 finishes plus a pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1977.
He retired from racing in 1986 and was inducted Jacksonville Raceways Hall of Fame in 1995.
Thomas was involved in all aspects of the sport, and even helped start a racing publication.
He was crew chief of the car that Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member the late Sam McQuagg drove to NASCAR rookie of the year honors in 1965, and won the National 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1966 with Lee Roy Yarbrough driving a Dodge he prepared.
Thomas owned as operated several tracks including Rocket Speedway, Columbus Super Speedway and East Alabama Motor Speedway, which his family continues to operate. He died on Oct. 19, 1980.
Massey, known to many a fan as “Handsome Stan” got his first win at Senoia Raceway July 14, 1972, and his last win came on June 17, 2000, at Seven Flags Speedway. He ended his career with 188 confirmed wins and countless others that, like many a racer of his era, were never documented by him or his supporters. He won four Late Model championships at Dixie Speedway, and won some of the biggest events in dirt-track racing.
His biggest career victories came at Dixie against the best dirt racers in America. Running against the cream of the crop in the 1981 Dixie Nationals sanctioned by the National Dirt Racing Association, Massey prevailed to win a then-record $17,000. And to prove it was no fluke he came back the next year and won the 1983 NDRA Nationals at Dixie. He drove for many of the top car owners of his time including his father Ed Massey, Jack Diemer, J.R. Foster and Ronnie Dobbins, who has ties to two members of the 2016 Class as he has been a long-time car owner for Ricky Williams.
A veteran dirt-track racer with more than 350 career victories and two major figures on the drag-racing scene head the list of names being added to the ballot as voting for the 2016 class of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame gets under way.
Ricky Williams, now in his 41st year behind the wheel of a dirt-track car, led the way in the first of three rounds that will determine the five new inductees into the Hall, located in Dawsonville, Ga. He was named on all nine ballots submitted by the voting members of the Nominating Committee.
Joining him are drag racing leaders Dick Brannon and the late Lamar Walden. Also added to the ballot were retired dirt racer Mack Waugh and the late Peach Bowl star Johnny Sudderth, who also ran eight races in the series now known as Sprint Cup.
The five will now join 45 others voted onto the ballot in recent years. From there, a 31-member panel will choose the Fast 15 semifinalists, after which a separate 21-member voting group will select the five that will be inducted in November.
Williams, who has won 11 track championships at Atlanta-area tracks like Senoia Raceway, Dixie Speedway, Rome Speedway and the old Seven Flags/West Atlanta Raceway, has won some of the area’s top dirt racing events, including a 200-lapper at Dixie Speedway and the Rome Boss 100.
Walden, who died last year, had a strong career in drag racing and also was a long-time engine builder, working on engines for drag racers as well as NASCAR teams.
He was elected to the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame in October 2012.
Brannon was directly involved in the development of the Ford 427 race engines, and won more than 200 NHRA, IHRA and AHRA sanctioned drag racing events, including 89 strip elapsed time or speed records.
He played an important role in development of the 1967 Ford Fairlane 427, including the one Mario Andretti drove to victory in the 1967 Daytona 500. He is a member of the Super Stock Magazine Hall of Fame, East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame, Drag Racers Reunion Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Dearborn Classis Award.
Waugh counts an estimated 200 victories over a 30-year career at tracks like the old Troup County Speedway, Zebulon Speedway and Coweta Raceway as well as Penton Raceway and Lee County Speedway in Alabama. He also was the promoter for a season at Troup County.
Sudderth, who died in 1975, began racing in the early 1950s in amateur classes and drove jalopy and sportsman divisions for two years, winning numerous races at the old Peach Bowl Speedway in Atlanta.
He also raced at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta in divisions including NASCAR’s Convertible Division and the ARCA series and at the Milwaukee Mile.
Gordon Pirkle’s famous siren, sounded for years every time Dawsonville residents like Bill and Chase Elliott scored victories in automobile races across America, wailed long and loud Wednesday afternoon for another Dawsonville native who had just received one of racing’s greatest honors.
The late Raymond Parks was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
“I just about burned that thing up,” said Pirkle of his siren known across America as one of the more unique ways of celebrating racing triumphs.
Wednesday’s news was a long time coming for Pirkle and other friends of Parks, who died in 2000 at the age of 96.
Parks, who was born in Dawson County in 1914 and got his start in business selling moonshine, was the leading car owner in the early days of stock car racing. He hired one the best mechanics of his time, Red Vogt, and employed that era’s top drivers, a roster that included Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, Red Byron, Bob Flock, Fonty Flock, Curtis Turner and Bill France Sr. among others.
His cars were both fast and immaculately prepared. Parks himself presented a classy image as well, always dressed in a wood suit, tie and fedora hat. There are photos of Parks from the inaugural Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, which show him changing tires on one of his cars, still wearing his white shirt and tie.
Parks, with Hall and Seay driving, won races at Atlanta’s Lakewood Speedway and at tracks across America from 1938 to 1941.
Seay was the national car champion in 1938, with Hall taking the title 1939, using a set of rules agreed upon by the various groups and clubs of the sport at that time.
When World War II began, racing was halted for the duration of the war. Parks served in the U.S. Army and was in one of the toughest battles of the war, the Battle of the Bulge. After repelling the Germans in that cold, December battle, he and his fellow soldiers fought their way across Germany until the end of the war.
Upon returning home, Parks resumed racing, and winning. He usually fielded three cars per race and in a rare instance, drove the third entry himself.
It happened in 1947 at the legendary Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania.
Parks, who had honed his driving skills hauling moonshine in his early days, started the car in case his drivers Byron or Bob Flock, had trouble during the race.
Parks often recalled being unable to sleep the night before, but his worries were unfounded. He had his car in third place, behind Byron and Flock, when Byron experienced engine trouble. Parks dropped out of the race turned his car over to Byron. Despite mid-race mechanical troubles with both cars, Flock and Byron still finished the race in first and second place.
With Red Byron doing the driving, Parks won the inaugural NASCAR Modified Championship in 1948 and followed that the next year by winning the first championship of the Strictly Stock division, which is now known as Sprint Cup.
Parks raced on into the mid-1950s but eventually scaled back his racing ventures to focus on his businesses.
“I had to start making a living,” he often said in explaining why he left racing.
Although Parks continued to follow the sport, and attend the Daytona 500 each year, he soon faded from the memory of many racing folk as NASCAR continued to grow.
Like many members of the Greatest Generation, he wasn’t one to brag on himself.
“Raymond was such a first-class person,” Pirkle said. “People just didn’t know what all he had done, and he never was one to toot his own horn.”
Eventually others began to spread the word about him, and the honors began to flow his way.
Modern-era drivers also began to take note, and many of them, including Bill Elliott, Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt, became friends with him. Parks was sitting in Earnhardt’s box at Daytona in 2001 when Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
In 1995, Parks was inducted into the Stock Car Hall of Fame in Darlington.
When the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame opened, he was in the inaugural class of 2002. In 2009, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, and when the NASCAR Hall of Fame opened eight years ago, Parks’ name was among the original nominees.
Now, he’s achieved his highest honor.
“I’ve always said I was shocked that he wasn’t in the first class, with Bill France Sr.,” Gordon Pirkle said. “But I’m so glad he finally made it.”
Five Legends Unveiled as 2017 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class
Childress, Hendrick, Martin, Parks and Parsons Comprise Hall’s Eighth Class
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 25, 2016) – NASCAR announced today the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The five-person group – the eighth since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 – consists of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. In addition, NASCAR announced that Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles won the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met today in a closed session at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2017 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced the class and Landmark Award winner, respectively, this evening in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s “Great Hall.”
The Class of 2017 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the third year, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion (Kyle Busch). In all, 54 votes were cast, with four additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Ricky Rudd, Robert Yates, Waddell Wilson and Ken Squier). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes.
Voting was as follows: Benny Parsons (85%), Rick Hendrick (62%), Mark Martin (57%), Raymond Parks (53%) and Richard Childress (43%).
The next top vote-getters were Robert Yates, Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki.
Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Buddy Baker, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Benny Parsons and Larry Phillips.
The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included, in addition to the five inductees chosen: Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday Jr., Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Ken Squier, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates.
Nominees for the Landmark Award included Earles, Janet Guthrie, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier.
Class of 2017 Inductees:
Long before he became one of the preeminent car owners in NASCAR history, Richard Childress was a race car driver with limited means. Childress, the consummate self-made racer, was respectable behind the wheel. Between 1969-81 he had six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 285 starts, finishing fifth in the NASCAR premier series standings in 1975. Having formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972, Childress retired from driving in 1981. He owned the cars that NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 wins between 1984-2000. In addition to Earnhardt’s championships, Childress drivers have given him five others. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series, and his 11 owner titles are second all time. Childress also owned the vehicles driven by NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champions Clint Bowyer (2008) and Austin Dillon (2013), as the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver champion Austin Dillon.
The founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick’s organization is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. Hendrick Motorsports owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles – six with Jimmie Johnson, four with Jeff Gordon and one with NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte. Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, most in NASCAR history. Gordon and Labonte combined to win four consecutive titles from 1995-98. In 2010, Johnson won a record-extending fifth consecutive championship. Hendrick also owned the car driven by 2003 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champion Brian Vickers. Hendrick’s 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time.
He is often described as the “greatest driver to never to win a championship,” but Mark Martin’s legendary career is so much more than that. He came incredibly close to that elusive title many times – finishing second in the championship standings five times. Over the course of his 31-year premier series career, Martin compiled 40 wins (17th all time) and 56 poles (seventh all time). Martin saw success at every level of NASCAR. He won 49 times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, holding the series wins record for 14 years. He retired with 96 wins across NASCAR’s three national series, seventh on the all-time list. In 1998, Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
Raymond Parks is one of stock-car racing’s earliest – and most successful – team owners. Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938 with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. His pairing with another Atlantan, mechanic Red Vogt, produced equipment good enough to dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Red Byron won the first NASCAR title (modified, 1948) and first premier series title (1949) in a Parks-owned car. Parks’ team produced two premier series wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events.
Benny Parsons won the 1973 NASCAR premier series championship and could be called an everyman champion: winning enough to be called one of the sport’s stars but nearly always finishing well when he wasn’t able to reach Victory Lane. He won 21 times in 526 career starts but finished among the top 10 283 times – a 54 percent ratio. One of Parsons’ biggest victories came in the 1975 Daytona 500. He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also was known as a voice of the sport making a seamless transition to television following his NASCAR career. He was a commentator for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65.
Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR:
H. Clay Earles
One of the original pioneers of stock car auto racing, H. Clay Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR’s development. Earles built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949. The speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947 – three months before the creation of NASCAR. That initial race drew more than 6,000 fans to the track, which had just 750 seats ready. In 1964, Earles decided it was time for a “different” type of trophy for his race winners. He gave winners grandfather clocks, a tradition that continues today.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™, NASCAR XFINITY Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), four regional series, one local grassroots series and three international series. The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit http://www.NASCAR.com and http://www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).
About the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Conveniently located in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, the 150,000-square-foot NASCAR Hall of Fame is an interactive entertainment attraction honoring the history and heritage of NASCAR. The high-tech venue, designed to educate and entertain race fans and non-fans alike, opened May 11, 2010, and includes artifacts, hands-on exhibits, a 278-person state-of-the-art theater, Hall of Honor, Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, NASCAR Hall of Fame Gear Shop and NASCAR Productions-operated broadcast studio. The venue is open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. seven days a week and has an attached parking garage on Brevard Street. The five-acre site also includes a privately developed 19-story office tower and 102,000-square-foot expansion to the Charlotte Convention Center, highlighted by a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is owned by the City of Charlotte, licensed by NASCAR and operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. Learn more at nascarhall.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Todd Gilliland heads to Bakersfield, California, on the hottest winning streak in 50 years.
Even if he doesn’t equal the all-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series mark for consecutive victories to start in the series, the 15-year-old from Sherrill’s Ford, North Carolina, is in pretty exclusive company.
It’s a club that includes two drivers in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the 2015 Daytona 500 winner and Gilliland. That’s it. In the 62-year history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series – dating back to the West Series’ beginnings as the Pacific Coast Late Model Series – just four drivers in both the East and West have won the first two series races to start their career.
Dan Gurney. Tim Flock. Joey Logano. And the most recent addition: A third-generation driver with California roots and a North Carolina upbringing; who was 5 when the still youthful Logano made his mark.
The weight of the names are not lost on Gilliland. The teenager is well aware of his racing history, especially in the West, where his father David and grandfather Butch each won races.
“I would say my overall success has come from preparation: from my family and I, and working from where we started to be ready for an opportunity like this,” said Gilliland. “It would be such an honor to tie a record with such a motorsports legend as Dan Gurney.”
Gurney, whose résumé includes wins in NASCAR’s Grand National (now Sprint Cup) Series as well as the 24 Hours of LeMans and Formula One, holds the all-time record with four straight victories between 1963-66. Flock, who would capture two NASCAR Grand National Series championships, won his first two West starts in 1955. And Logano, who graduated from 2007 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title contender, won the first two K&N Pro starts of his career.
Gilliland surpassed Flock and Logano with his win at California’s Irwindale Speedway on March 19, and can match Gurney’s streak with a win at Kern County Raceway Park Saturday night.
- 32 times in the history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series a driver has won their first K&N Pro Series start.
• Four times (Tim Flock, Dan Gurney, Joey Logano and Todd Gilliland) the driver has won their second start.
• Gurney won his first four starts, Gilliland has three straight, while Flock and Logano won their first two.
• For 16 of the first race/first win drivers, it was their only career series race
The series’ changes and evolutions over the years make it difficult to compare achievements. But regardless of the era, competition or the rules, the ability to win not only a first career start in a series, but also the second straight and, in very rare cases, a third and fourth, is a remarkable achievement.
Ken Clapp was there at Riverside when Gurney won, at Phoenix when Flock won, and has seen Gilliland from the start. The former NASCAR vice of marketing development, as well as vice president of western operations, feels the young Gilliland stacks up favorably.
“Regardless of what level it’s at, the playing field is level on the day that person accomplishes that,” said Ken Clapp, former NASCAR vice president of Western operations, who said. “If a guy can put that kind of consistency, where they’re the ones that are always a notch above, that’s special. He’s done everything to prove that so far and he has it in his genes.
“He’s taken what he’s learned from his grandfather and father, and put it all together. He’s extremely aggressively patient.
“You’ve either got it or you don’t. And he’s got it.”
The original Pacific Coast Late Model Series would become the long-standing NASCAR Winston West Series, before eventual adoption of the same rules package of the then NASCAR Busch North Series helped create the NASCAR K&N Pro Series as it stands today. The series has become a primary launching pad for the sport’s rising stars looking to reach the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and eventually the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Gilliland is well on his way.
Gilliland initially made headlines when he became the youngest winner in series history with a victory in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut last fall at Phoenix International Raceway. He followed up by winning the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East opener in February at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. That victory made him just the 11th driver to win in both the East and West. Running for the K&N Pro Series West championship for Sacramento-based Bill McAnally Racing, Gilliland opened the current West season by taking the checkered flag at Irwindale.
Now the attention shifts to Kern, a high-speed half-mile on the outskirts of Bakersfield. While he’s tested at the three-year-old oval, it’s another in a list of tracks that Gilliland will be competing at for the first time. He remains undaunted.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of going to all these new tracks and learning as quickly as I can,” he said. “I’m hoping we can keep up this success and go after a championship this year.”
Twenty-four drivers in the history of the West Series won their first career start, a list that starts with Dick Rathmann winning the inaugural series event in March of 1954 and includes the likes of Roger Penske and Cale Yarborough. Flock, who earned the Grand National champion in 1952 and 1955, won the Pacific Coast opener at the old Phoenix Fairgrounds on May 8, 1955. He followed up with a win in his next series start on July 31, 1955, at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, California. His streak ended with a third-place finish back at Phoenix Fairgrounds in January of 1956, in a race won by Buck Baker.
In the early years of the series, the Pacific Coast Late Models would run both stand-alone events as well as combination races with the Grand National Series. Drivers who won the combination events were credited with victories in both series.
This was the case for Gurney, who dominated the combination races at the former Riverside International Raceway in California. Four of Gurney’s five wins at the 2.62-mile road course came with the famed Wood Brothers, while his first appearance and first win was with Holman-Moody.
Gurney won his first start in the Grand National/Pacific Coast combination event at Riverside on Jan. 20, 1963. He did not start the race in November of 1963 despite sitting on the pole. A last-minute edict from USAC, in which they did not grant their drivers clearance to compete in the event, forced him to withdraw. Gurney was able to come back on Jan. 19, 1964 and make his second career series start — winning the race over Marvin Panch and Fireball Roberts. Gurney stretched his streak with wins at Riverside in January of 1965 and 1966, before he finished 14th in January of 1967 in a race won by another notable sports car ace, Parnelli Jones.
Gurney did come back and win the 1968 Riverside race and closed out his stock car career with five West victories.
It was another 43 years before a driver went back-to-back.
In 2007, the first year NASCAR lowered the minimum age to compete in the touring series from 18-years-old to 16, a then-16-year-old Logano edged Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and fellow teenager Marc Davis to win his debut on April 19 in the NASCAR West Series race at Phoenix. Nine days later, he opened the East season with a win at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway.
Logano’s overall (and East) streak ended with a 19th-place overall finish in the East-West combination event on May 18, 2007, at Elko (Minnesota) Speedway. While he did score the overall wintwo days later at Iowa Speedway, his West run concluded with a blown engine at Sonoma Raceway in June.
Logano was just the seventh driver to win their East debut since the series was founded in 1987. The list is now up to 14 names, including inaugural series winner Billy Clark, three-time East champion Jamie Aube, and current national series drivers Austin Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Tyler Reddick.
Both lists include national series drivers who dropped down to run one-off K&N events, such as Brian Vickers (Sonoma, 2006), Aric Almirola (Dover, 2008), and Kyle Busch (Iowa, 2009).
The minimum age has since been lowered to 15, opening the door for Gilliland to make history.
Gilliland is also entered at Bristol Motor Speedway in the K&N Pro Series East race on April 16, which means regardless of how he finishes at Kern, he still has the opportunity to become the first driver to win their first two East appearances.