KNOXVILLE, Iowa—On Monday, David Gilliland asked his son if he wanted to race the family truck at Knoxville Raceway.
On Saturday, Todd Gilliland rewarded the team co-owner with an early Father’s Day present—the Clean Harbors 150 victory.
Gilliland battled the lead away from John Hunter Nemechek with 11 laps remaining in the race to score his first win of the season and his first victory for David Gilliland Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.
“This will make tomorrow a lot more fun,” Todd Gilliland said in Victory Lane. “The Cup Series is tough, just racing every single week. I’ve had like a million people ask me, ‘Is this really what you want to do on your off week?’
“Absolutely. Nothing beats racing. I tell everyone I’m young, and I wish I could do this every single week of the year… I love the trucks. I ran here forever, it felt like. So to be able to come back and to get one, it’s so special.”
For the elder Gilliland, the opportunity to watch his son win with a team developed primarily form was well worth the wait.
“I told him when the race started, all I want for Father’s Day is that trophy,” David Gilliland said. “We’ll be taking it home on the plane with us.”
Nemechek finished second, 0.945-seconds behind Gilliland. Zane Smith, Ty Majeski and Stewart Friesen rounded out the top five.
Carson Hocevar led the first 40 laps en route to the Stage 1 win. The segment was slowed by two cautions, the first on Lap 4 following contact between Christian Eckes and Dean Thompson which resulted in the No. 40 truck coming to the pits to replace a tire. Tanner Gray and Spencer Boyd collided in Turn 3 to trigger the second caution. Following a seven-lap caution, Friesen, who was running second at the time, slid up in the cushion and stalled in Turn 4 with a flat tire. He dropped to 21st at stage end.
The second stage was slowed on Lap 57 after Jessica Friesen hit the berm and flipped between Turns 3 and 4. Just prior to the fourth caution, Gilliland was catching Hocevar. Before the field got up to speed on Lap 66, Tyler Carpenter slowed on the front stretch. Moments later, Hocevar’s reported, "I’m blowing up.” He led the first 65 laps but would be scored 35th.
Gilliland took the lead on Lap 66 and held serve for the Stage 2 win on Lap 91. Zane Smith was second followed by Nemechek and Brett Moffitt.
Moffitt grabbed the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 92 but NASCAR black-flagged the No. 22 Chevy for jumping the restart. Enfinger inherited the lead but 10 laps later, Gilliland rolled around to the point again.
The race slowed for the seventh time when Bryson Mitchell slowed on the front stretch on Lap 114. Gilliland held the low line with Nemechek on the outside for the Lap 122 restart. Coming off of Turn 4, Nemechek took the lead from Gilliland and pulled ahead at the start-finish line. Nemechek held the point for three laps and was preparing to complete a fourth when Kaz Grala and Brett Moffitt collided in Turn 2.
Nemechek remained on the high line with Gilliland to the inside with 18 laps remaining. Stewart Friesen worked the high lane and was gaining on Nemechek before his tires went away. Gilliland reclaimed second-place on Lap 135 and closed in on the No. 4 Tundra four laps later.
“I didn’t need that last caution when we were leading,” Nemechek said. “The bottom was really good. It had a lot of moisture in it. Then when the caution came out, the bottom went away. I don’t know if it was from everybody rolling around down there under caution and all of the moisture getting dried out of the race track or what. It seemed like the top got dominant up there at the end.
“Todd was really good on top and I was really good on the bottom. I don’t think you saw guys that were really good on the top be good on the bottom and vice versa. Hats off to the Knoxville prep crew. They certainly did a much better job this year compared to last year. It was a lot of fun.
Jack Wood spun on Lap 142 to ignite the ninth and final caution. By then, Gilliland had the race in hand.
“This is amazing,” Gilliland said. “It’s the last race I can run as a Cup guy this year—and I’d love to continue to run truck races. Hopefully, this gives me a foot in the door for the future. We’ll see. It’s just so fun to run for DGR. I go there about every day to see what my dad is up to. There are just so many near-dear faces there that I have known for most of my life.
“So to be able to go back there on Monday as a winner is really cool.”
Nemechek regained the CWTS points lead as his consolation prize. He holds a five-point lead over Ben Rhodes.