Todd Gilliland, David’s son, impresses with 2nd-place finish in Late Model debut — not bad for a 13-year-old eighth-grader

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Given how many sons follow their fathers into racing, it’s not that much of a surprise that Todd Gilliland has followed in the footsteps of his father, Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland, and grandfather Butch Gilliland, who raced in the former Winston Cup Series.

But what IS surprising is how successful the third-generation racer is already, and at such a young age.

In his first-ever Late-Model Stock Car (LMSC) race Friday night at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. (northeast of Greensboro), the 13-year-old Gilliland finished second in his No. 98 Ford.

A few minutes later after crossing the finish line, Gilliland went out and competed in another race at the track, a 40-lap Limited Late Model event, and finished second again.

Let’s recap all that, because it deserves repeating:

* Gilliland finished second in his late-model racing debut in a 75-lap race.

* After that race, he went out in a 40-lap Limited Late-Model and finished second again.

* He’s only 13 years old!

Oh, yes, one more pertinent bit of information:

* He’s an eighth-grader!

In the 75-lap event, if he would have had a few more laps, Todd might have wound up winning, given the impressive way he worked his way up through the pack from his eighth-place qualifying position in the 75-lap event at the .4-mile track.

Falling back to 14th in the opening laps, Gilliland began moving up, reaching third 52 laps in, and was second by Lap 60.

He came within a few car lengths of the eventual winner, but just couldn’t reach the point in time.

And for an encore, he finished runner-up in the LLM race, as well.

“I’m really happy with how I did,” the young Gilliland said in a team media release. “In the first race, I was mad that I fell back so far, but my car was really fast so I was able to get back up to the front pretty good.

“I’m just really thankful for all the help my mom and dad and Chris (crew chief Chris Lawson) have given me. This is what I really want to do and it’s been awesome.”

Including a LLM race he competed in last November at Myrtle Beach, S.C., Todd has three runner-up finishes in as many starts.

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.