Todd Gilliland appeared headed for his first win of the season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, but a flat tire took him out of contention with less than 20 laps to go at Memphis International Raceway on Saturday.
After a quick pit stop, the 17-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina returned to action in the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry to salvage an eighth-place finish.
Gilliland had started the 125-lap race from the outside of the front row, after qualifying second in time trials earlier in the day. He led briefly on two occasions in the first half of the race before taking the lead shortly after the midway break and pulling away by about 15 car lengths.
As he appeared headed for a possible win, Gilliland slowed on Lap 106 with a right rear tire going flat. He headed to the pits during a subsequent caution for a tire change.
“Our NAPA Toyota was definitely one of the cars to beat,” Gilliland said. “The first half, we were about a second-place car. We made some really good adjustments at the break, and we took command of the race.”
Despite his misfortune, Gilliland remains second in the championship standings. He is 28 points behind Harrison Burton, who inherited the lead and won the Memphis race. Gilliland, a member of the NASCAR Next program that spotlights NASCAR’s rising stars, has three top-five, and six top-10 finishes in six starts this season.
Saturday’s race featured a NAPA Hospitality event with a special visit by Gilliland. NAPA guests were also treated to a VIP pit tour.
The Memphis 125 is scheduled to be televised on NBCSN on June 8 at 8 p.m. ET.
The next event on the K&N Pro Series East schedule will be the inaugural series visit to Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan on July 1.