MARNE, Mich. — Todd Gilliland worked the tire conservation game to perfection Saturday night, picking the perfect time to power to the front, en route to his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory of the season.
The 17-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, led the final 31 laps to claim the Stars & Stripes 150 in the series’ first visit to Berlin Raceway.
It is Gilliland’s second career East win and first in 11 starts since winning his debut in the 2016 season opener. He has 11 K&N Pro West wins in 23 starts and leads the West championship race after eight events.
Gilliland’s No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota was fastest in practice at Berlin and qualified third. He spent most of the first half of the race near the front, but really made his move before the halfway break when he marched back up to third. Following a Lap 92 restart, he picked his way to second. He bolted past Hunter Baize on Lap 120 following another restart and led the rest of the way.
A multi-car scrum on the backstretch on the white flag lap ended the race under the yellow/checkered, but by then the race wasn’t in doubt as Gilliland had built more than a two-second lead.
Gilliland’s teammate Chase Purdy finished second. Earlier in the day, Purdy had earned his second straight 21 Means 21 Pole Award presented by Coors Brewing Company. Fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Cabre finished third for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, and Cabre’s teammate Jay Beasley was fourth.
Ronnie Bassett Jr. completed the top five.
Championship points leader Harrison Burton finished sixth and saw his lead trimmed to 19 over Gilliland. Purdy is third in points, 27 back of Gilliland and leading a pack of five drivers separated by six points.
Dippel, Ruben Garcia Jr., Enrique Baca and Collin Cabre rounded out the top 10 at Berlin. Baize led a race-high 104 laps but was collected in the final lap incident and finished 11th.
The Stars & Stripes 150 will air on NBCSN on Friday, July 7 at 12:30 p.m.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to the track Saturday, July 8 with the Busch North Throwback 100 at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.