Having only recently graduated to racing on mile-and-a-half tracks, it’s fitting that NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Todd Gilliland will be donning a cap and gown Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 18-year-old, third-generation NASCAR driver will walk across the PPG 400 pre-race stage, where Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage will conduct the commencement ceremony and present Gilliland with his diploma for completing all of his required high school credits.
“People always ask how it is to balance school and racing. Just to be able to finish it off and go full-time racing that’s what I can’t wait for,” said Gilliland, who is driving the No. 4 entry for Kyle Busch Motorsports. “Just to have it here, at Texas … it’s going to be fun weekend for us. We have a lot of family coming out for it; my mom is pretty pumped.”
Gilliland recently completed his online courses in order to receive his degree this Friday. He will become the fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver in the last five years to “graduate” and then race at Texas Motor Speedway on the same day. The other drivers include Erik Jones (2014), Cole Custer (’16) and Noah Gragson (’17).
“My mom is definitely way more excited than I am. I’m just happy to be done,” Gilliland said. “My dad and I are just excited to come out here and have another shot at a mile-and-a-half track.”
Todd is the son of David Gilliland, a NASCAR journeyman who now competes part-time in the Cup and Truck series. David also is the part owner of DGR-Crosley, which competes in NASCAR’s truck series, K&N Pro Series East and ARCA Racing Series. Todd is also the grandson of Butch Gilliland, who raced in NASCAR during the 1990s.
“The last two years, (my dad) has been my spotter in the K&N Series, but this year has been a little bit different of a dynamic with him having his own truck team and us competing against him,” Todd said. “But he’s always still there to help me out. He has a lot of experience on these (1.5-mile) tracks. That’s what it’s all about is utilizing anyone you can to be the best that you can.”
The PPG 400 will be Todd’s first career start at Texas. He was forced to miss four of the first six races of the season because of a NASCAR rule that restricts drivers under the age of 18 to only compete on oval tracks that are 1.25 miles or less in length.
Todd turned 18 on May 15, allowing him to compete on the 1.5-mile oval three days later at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he finished a respectable 10th. But he’ll need to flip his tassel the other side of his mortarboard before he can show off his skills at Texas Motor Speedway.
“When my mom graduated high school, she was really sad and going to miss all her friends and stuff,” Todd said. “My dad was the same as me, I just want to go racing.”