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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Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.