Not your typical eighth-grader: Todd Gilliland, 13, wins first career Late Model race

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Normally, when you put the words “sweep” and “13-year-old” together, it typically means mom or dad want Junior to use a broom.

That’s not the case for young Todd Gilliland.

The son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland thoroughly swept through things Friday night at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C., leading two practice sessions, earning his first-ever pole in qualifying and ultimately winning the race, his first triumph in a Late Model car.

What’s more, it was just the seventh stock car race the younger Gilliland has competed in, driving for his father’s David Gilliland Racing team.

After the top three qualifiers were inverted to start the race, Gilliland moved into second within the first 10 laps and romped over the rest of the field in the final 24 laps to win the 40-lap Limited Late Model event.

Oh, and did we mention that David is only an eighth-grader?! But it’s also obvious his father has imparted a lot of veteran knowledge to his young son.

“I just had to be smart and patient the whole race,” Gilliland said. “I needed to stay calm and take my time, because I knew if I wrecked, I was done.”

The younger Gilliland now leads the points in both the Limited Late Model and Late Model stock car classes at the .40-mile track. With his win, he now top-three finishes in each of his last five starts.

“I just wish my dad had been there, but he’s in Talladega. I couldn’t wait to talk to him after. I want to be just like him when I grow up.”

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”