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Best of 2016: K&N Pro Series West

Gilliland Emerges On Top; Young Talent Continues To Blossom
By Brooke Franceschini, NASCAR
December 28, 2016 - 4:15pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Todd Gilliland had a historic NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season.

The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, broke a couple records en route to his 2016 title.

The NASCAR Next driver kicked-off his season by matching a 50-year-old record set by Dan Gurney and then ended the season by becoming the youngest champion in NASCAR, both national and touring series, history with six wins, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s.

Gilliland’s road to the championship wasn't easy. Battling him throughout the entire season was K&N Pro Series West veteran Ryan Partridge. The 28-year-old Rancho Cucamonga, California, driver notched three wins, 10 top fives and 13 top 10s to challenge Gilliland for the title down to the very last race of the season.

Top Driver

Todd Gilliland: Todd Gilliland had the dream season. After he won his debut in the 2015 finale, the teenager kicked of the season winning the first four K&N Pro Series East and West races and kept his momentum going the remainder of the year. He sat a top the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standings until June when a misfortune at  California’s Sonoma Raceway caused him to drop out of the top spot. He rebounded quickly, winning the next three races on the schedule. The NASCAR Next driver ended the year with six victories and top 10s in all but one of the 14 races. Gilliland led a total 564 laps throughout the season and had average start of 2.7 and an average finish of 4.0. He made some history along the way: He match Dan Gurney’s record by winning his first four career NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts, became the third driver in West Series history to win both the championship and the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the same season, and became the youngest champion of a national or touring series in NASCAR history. The son of David Gilliland and grandson of Butch Gilliland announced he will be competing in both the K&N Pro Series East and West in 2017.

WATCH: TODD GILLILAND CHAMPION PROFILE | TODD GILLILAND AWARDS SPEECH

Ryan Partridge (Honorable Mention): Ryan Partridge fell just short of a championship once again this year. His remarkable season produced three wins, five poles and top 10s in 13 of 14 events to finish 13-points behind Gilliland. The California driver started the season strong finishing in the runner-up position in the first three events. At the third race at Arizona’s Tucson Speedway, he scored his first win of the year after leading 127 laps of the 156 laps feature. He went on to win two more times, at Oregon’s Douglas County Speedway and California’s All American Speedway. Partridge completed all 1,879 laps this season and led the most laps with 794. He produced an average start of 3.1 and an average finish of 4.4. 

Top Team

Bill McAnally Racing: In their 26th season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Bill McAnally Racing had a phenomenal season. BMR earned eight victories, 33 top fives and 45 top 10s and the most important win of all: the championship title for the second consecutive year. In addition to the title, BMR drivers finished fourth, sixth and seventh in the standings. Their part-time driver finished 17th in the standings with six starts. Gilliland brought home wins at California’s Irwindale Speedway and Kern County Raceway Park, Idaho’s Stateline Speedway and Meridian Speedway, Iowa Speedway, and Washington’s Evergreen Speedway while the 2015 K&N West champion, Chris Eggleston took home victories at California’s Orange Show Speedway and his home track, Colorado National Speedway. Bill McAnally Racing, recently announced that Gilliland would be returning in 2017 to defend his title and that they’d be partnering with David Gilliland Racing for the K&N Pro Series East season.

Jefferson Pitts Racing (Honorable Mention): Jefferson Pitts Racing returned for their second season with Noah Gragson and Gracie Raz. While their season wasn’t as successful as their inaugural campaihn, they still were one of the top teams at the track week in and week out. JPR produced a total of two wins, 17 top fives and 23 top fives. Gragson took home both victories for the team when he swept the weekend at Utah Motorsports Park. The team also led a total of 182 laps in 2016.

Top Breakthrough Driver

Julia Landauer: The New York City driver had a stellar rookie season notching seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes to finish fourth in the championship standings. The 24-year-old Bill McAnally Racing driver joined her teammate Todd Gilliland in the history books this season, she tied the record for the highest finishing female in a race with her second place finish at Idaho’s Meridian Speedway. She also became the highest finishing female with her fourth-place finish in the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship standings. The NASCAR Next driver had an average start of 8.5 and an average finish 6.3 en route to her runner-up finish in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings to Gilliland.

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Julia Landauer became the highest finishing female finisher in the history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with her fourth-place in the final championship standings. NASCAR via Getty Images

Riley Herbst (Honorable Mention): Like his Bill McAnally Racing teammates Gilliland and Landauer, Herbst, 17, from Las Vegas Nevada, had a great rookie season. Herbst finished seventh in the championship standings after tallying seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. He also finished fourth in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Herbst, earned his best career finish with third-place runs at Iowa, Evergreen and Douglas County. He led 13 laps this season, all at Utah Motorsports Park, and produced an average start of 6.2 and an average finish of 7.6. 

Top Races

Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150, Stateline Speedway, June 11: The Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 was the first of three wins that gave  Todd Gilliland a commanding lead in the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship standings. Gilliland took the checkered flag after edging past fellow NASCAR Next driver, Noah Gragson, by mere inches.Gilliland crossed the finish line .004 seconds in front of the 17-year-old from Las Vegas, and it was the only lap the 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, led all night. Multiple cautions pushed the race to a second green-white-checkered finish and to 166 laps. Gragson led the final restart and was a nose ahead at the line taking the white flag. But Gilliland got a strong run off Turn 4 coming to the checkered, and powered forward despite having his car pinched against the outside wall by Gragson as they crossed under the flag stand.

Utah 110 presented by Ken Garff Volvo, Utah Motorsports Park, Sept. 10: Gragson’s win over Gilliland in the first Utah double-header race set the tone for his weekend sweep. After finishing second to Chase Elliott at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, the first road course on the K&N Pro Series West’s 2016 schedule, Gragon achieved redemption. The Las Vegas driver took the lead from Gilliland with nine laps to go to earn his first win of the season out west. The NASCAR Next driver started the race in fourth and spent most of the race behind Ryan Partridge and Gilliland, conserving his tires and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. His window opened when Partridge cut a tire with 13 laps to go and it continued when Gilliland made a mistake late in the race. Gragson capitalized on the error and bumped Gilliland out of they way to take the lead and cruise to Victory Lane. It was a banner year for the 17-year-old on road courses, he recorded two wins and a runner-up finish on the road courses out west and notched a victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park, one of three road courses on the K&N Pro Series East schedule.

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Noah Gragson gets underneath Ryan Partridge en route to sweeping the road course doubleheader in September at Utah Motorsports Park. Jim Urquhart/NASCAR via Getty Images