ROSEVILLE, Calif. (Feb. 14, 2017) – Todd Gilliland will be going for a repeat win; while his Bill McAnally Racing teammate, 15-year-old Derek Kraus, will be making his series debut as the 2017 season gets underway for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway on Sunday.
The Jet Tools 150 is part of the 51st Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing on the half-mile track.
Gilliland will be aiming to win his second straight season opener at New Smyrna in the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry. Last year’s victory came in the first of five starts he made in the K&N East – while also racing the full schedule in the K&N West, where he had a sensational season and won the championship as a rookie.
“I’m really looking forward to going back there,” Gilliland said of his return to New Smyrna Speedway. “It’s exciting just knowing the level of preparation we have with our NAPA Toyota this year, compared to last year, and how competitive we were there last year.”
The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina is tackling the full schedules in both the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this year. The New Smyrna race marks the first of 27 NASCAR K&N Pro Series events on the calendar for Gilliland and his NAPA AUTO PARTS team.
“I’m definitely more excited about this season than any season,” said Gilliland, a member of the NASCAR Next program that profiles NASCAR’s rising stars. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to be able to run so many K&N races, along with some (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series races. This is going to be the start of a really busy season.”
Kraus of Stratford, Wisconsin, will be competing in his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series race, driving BMR’s No. 99 Carlyle Tools Toyota Camry. Much like Gilliland did a year ago, Kraus will focus on racing the full schedule in the K&N West as a rookie this season – while also competing in select K&N East races.
Kraus expressed confidence as he prepared for his debut in a K&N Pro Series car.
“We have a day of testing before the race. That will help a lot,” he said. “And I’m working with some really good people at BMR.”
In addition to the K&N East event, Kraus will also be racing in a super late model at New Smyrna – something he has previously done about six times. Practice for that division is slated for Thursday, with racing set for Friday and Saturday.
“We’ll be there with a super late model, so I’ll get familiar with the track again,” he said. “Racing the super late model before and getting use to the track, then getting in the K&N car, should help a lot.
“I really like the track,” Kraus said. “It’s probably one of my favorites in the South.”
Prior to the New Smyrna event, Gilliland and Kraus will attend a Grand Opening at a NAPA AUTO PARTS store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The New Smyrna race, which marks the fourth series visit to the track, is scheduled to be televised on NBCSN on Feb. 25 at 10 p.m. ET.