Todd Gilliland takes NASCAR truck race on wet Austin track

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Todd Gilliland celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Truck Series auto race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Saturday, May 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Todd Gilliland powered through wet conditions early, then grabbed the lead late to pull away for his first NASCAR trucks series victory of the season Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas.

Gilliland was in a four-car group that drew from the pack at the start of the final stage, then overtook Sheldon Creed, Tyler Ankrum and Kaz Grala over the final laps. This was his second career trucks win and first since 2019.

“From the drop of the green flag, I was aggressive,” said Gilliland, who started fifth and overcame a penalty that briefly put him in the back of the field. “If you’ve got the truck to do it … you’ve got to get by people when you can.”

Gilliland noted he just turned 21 a week ago.

“It might be a fun night,” he said.

The victory also marked the first of any kind for a NASCAR series race at the Circuit of the Americas. NASCAR is racing at the 3.4-mile Formula One road course for the first time this weekend and doing it amid wind and rain that soaked the track through practice and the early part of the race.

None of it seemed to bother Gilliland, who won the first stage, then was penalized and pushed to the back when a crew member jumped the wall too early on his pit entry. He quickly recovered and was back among the leaders with 10 laps to go.

A nip-and-tuck battle with Ankrum for the lead finally put him in front for good. Gilliland got only faster as conditions dried. He put in his fastest lap on worn tires with two laps still to go.

Even with the bad conditions early, the race was mostly clean with lots of bumps but no collisions to bring out a yellow flag.

Ankrum finished third behind Grala, who led 11 laps.

“It was challenging keeping up with track conditions. We ended the race on a totally different track than we started,” Grala said.

Creed, the defending series champion, who has won the previous race at Darlington, faded late to fifth.

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