NASCAR Truck Series

Todd Gilliland claims Toyota Tundra 225, first NASCAR COTA winner

3 Mins read
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series were the first NASCAR-sanctioned division to officially race at Circuit of the Americas with Saturday’s Toyota Tundra 225. Despite the race name, Chevrolet and Ford drivers dominated the day and the latter camp’s Todd Gilliland came out on top.

Tyler Ankrum was the fastest qualifier earlier in the day when he set a lap time of 163.591 seconds at 75.041 mph, allowing him to start on the pole ahead of road ringer Kaz Grala. Cameron Lawrence, an IMSA driver making his NASCAR début, impressed by qualifying seventh for Reaume Brothers Racing’s best starting spot. Seven drivers failed to qualify including series regulars Spencer Boyd, Dawson Cram, and Jennifer Jo Cobb; the other four—Logan Bearden and the CMI Motorsports trio of Samuel Lecomte, John Atwell, and Brad Gross—were NASCAR newcomers.

Grala, who scored a top ten in the first Truck road race at Daytona in February in a one-off, quickly took the lead and dominated the opening stage. However, Gilliland kept pace and caught him with two laps remaining, making the pass to win the segment after the two ran wide. Ankrum, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Sam Mayer, Stewart Friesen, John Hunter Nemechek, and Timmy Hill rounded out the top ten.

Gilliland was among a variety of drivers who received pit penalties between stages and GMS Racing team-mates Sheldon Creed and Zane Smith, who topped Friday’s practice session, led the field to begin Stage #2. Creed, who won the Daytona Road Course in 2020 and the Stadium Super TrucksX Games gold medal at COTA in 2015, led much of the stage before being one of many who pitted under green. Rhodes inherited the lead as a result and won the stage ahead of ThorSport Racing ally Crafton. Derek Kraus, Creed, Ankrum, Grala, Bayley Currey, Mayer, Nemechek, and Gilliland also finished in the top ten.

Nemechek was penalised for pitting while pit road was closed and started the final stage at the rear. Rhodes, Crafton, and Kraus—all Toyota drivers—pitted between stages as Creed and Ankrum occupied the front row. It did not take long for the spins to mount with Kraus, Friesen, Tanner Gray, and Parker Kligerman all going around. Timothy Peters and Lawrence dropped off the pace due to damage or mechanical trouble.

Creed, who won the most recent Truck race two weeks ago, continued to lead until Ankrum passed him with ten laps remaining. The reigning champion began to sink through the order as Gilliland moved by him and began chasing down Ankrum. Gilliland finally cleared Ankrum with six laps to go and drove off to his second career win and first since fall Martinsville 2019.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It is Front Row Motorsports‘s first Truck victory since forming a Truck programme in 2020, and the team’s second victory of 2021 after Cup Series driver Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500. Gilliland’s father David, who runs FRM ally David Gilliland Racing and is a former Cup racer for FRM, celebrated with his son in Victory Lane.

“Great race for us here at COTA,” began the younger Gilliland in a Twitter video. “First NASCAR winners here, that’s so cool. Just a great truck. […] Man, what a race. Started off in the rain and kinda ended up pretty dry and we were just able to pull away there at the end. Just such a fast truck.”

Grala got by Ankrum to finish second, marking his third top ten in four national series starts in 2021. Creed led a race-high fourteen laps and finished fifth, preserving his 100% top-five Truck finishes on road courses.

In his return to NASCAR after retiring in 2019, Paul Menard finished his first Truck race since 2007 just shy of the top ten in eleventh. Jack Wood (twenty-eighth) was the highest finisher of the three Truck Series-débuting drivers ahead of Michele Abbate (twenty-ninth) and Lawrence (thirty-sixth).

Race results

FinishStartNumberDriverTeamManufacturerLapsStatus
1538Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord41Running
2202Kaz GralaYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
3126Tyler AnkrumGMS RacingChevrolet41Running
4239Grant EnfingerCR7 MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
532Sheldon CreedGMS RacingChevrolet41Running
62132Sam MayerBret Holmes RacingChevrolet41Running
71742Carson HocevarNiece MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
81521Zane SmithGMS RacingChevrolet41Running
9916Austin HillHattori Racing EnterprisesToyota41Running
101199Ben RhodesThorSport RacingToyota41Running
112666Paul MenardThorSport RacingToyota41Running
1264John Hunter NemechekKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota41Running
131375Parker KligermanHenderson MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
14281Hailie DeeganDavid Gilliland RacingFord41Running
15488Matt CraftonThorSport RacingToyota41Running
162922Austin Wayne SelfAM RacingChevrolet41Running
171652Stewart FriesenHalmar Friesen RacingToyota41Running
18851Parker ChaseKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota41Running
192411Camden MurphySpencer Davis MotorsportsToyota41Running
201240Ryan TruexNiece MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
211919Derek KrausMcAnally-Hilgemann RacingToyota41Running
222713Johnny SauterThorSport RacingToyota41Running
233234Lawless AlanReaume Brothers RacingToyota41Running
242256Timmy HillHill MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
253012Tate FoglemanYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
261445Bayley CurreyNiece MotorsportsChevrolet41Running
273123Chase PurdyGMS RacingChevrolet41Running
283324Jack WoodGMS RacingChevrolet41Running
292530Michele AbbateOn Point MotorsportsToyota41Running
303404Cory RoperRoper RacingFord41Running
313615Tanner GrayDavid Gilliland RacingFord40Running
321825Timothy PetersRackley WARChevrolet40Running
332018Chandler SmithKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota39Running
34353Roger ReuseJordan Anderson RacingChevrolet38Running
351098Christian EckesThorSport RacingToyota36Suspension
36733Cameron LawrenceReaume Brothers RacingChevrolet34Running
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
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History major and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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