In the Camping World Truck Series, Kyle Busch Motorsports has been right on the money in terms of picking the next breakout star in NASCAR. They won the 2015 championship with Erik Jones, who had been winning races for KBM for the previous two years. In 2016 they won seven races with rookie William Byron. Now with the recent addition of 2016 K&N Pro Series West champion Todd Gilliland for four races in 2017, the trophies may increase for KBM.
He’s only a kid, sure. But at 16, he has eight total K&N Pro Series wins to back his championship as well as an ARCA win. An ARCA win that he won at 15, giving him the record for youngest ARCA race winner. He knows how to bring home the hardware, and after running seven Super Late Model events for KBM this season, he’s finally graduating to trucks starting at Gateway in June. This promotion is right on schedule for Gilliland, who literally began winning races as soon as he sat down inside a stock car. He even managed to match Dan Gurney’s 60-year-old record by winning in his first four K&N Pro Series starts.
Along with his Gateway start, he’ll also be starting at MoSport and Loudon in September as well as Phoenix in November. That’s only four starts, but they’re all on track types that Gilliland is familiar with. Also, KBM trucks have won at all of those tracks at least once in the past three seasons. There is nothing saying that Gilliland won’t manage to score a win in one of those four starts. He has the drive, the equipment, and every opportunity to prove himself during his limited run in the No. 51 Tundra.
Everything points to Gilliland setting a high standard for himself in 2017, and from there it’s a given he’ll get more starts in KBM equipment. We could very well see a situation similar to Jones’s, where a win leads to more starts, and from there more wins lead to a championship opportunity. He’s versatile on different types of tracks, and what he doesn’t know he’ll learn quickly. He’s great on equipment; his lone slip-up this season at Sonoma was due to another driver’s error. Had that not happened he would have been on his way to scoring a top-10 in every race in 2016.
KBM knew what they had when they signed him, and in 2017 everyone else will see just how much potential Gilliland possesses behind the wheel. NASCAR may very well have its next juggernaut in the wings.