Gragson spins KBM teammate Gilliland on final corner at CTMP

Image by Gavin Baker/LAT

Gragson spins KBM teammate Gilliland on final corner at CTMP

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Gragson spins KBM teammate Gilliland on final corner at CTMP

Todd Gilliland would fight Noah Gragson if he could, but being Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates, Gilliland knows better.

But that’s how upset the 18-year-old was after the finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, after he was run into and then spun by Gragson. The contact happened on the last corner of the last lap as Gilliland headed for what would be his first career win in the series.

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Gragson got to Gilliland’s right-rear quarter panel at the start of Turn 10, and then his door as they began to make the right-hander. The two slid up the track and spun around as fellow title contender Justin Haley drove by for the win.

“Can’t thank everyone at KBM enough, they gave me an amazing Frontline Enterprises Toyota Tundra,” Gilliland said after getting his truck righted and crossing the finish line 11th. “Should never have let him get to me, should have just given the inside and maybe let him wreck himself. I don’t know. He’s done that to me on like five or six road courses. Sucks.

“We had the fastest truck, and we didn’t win again. I’m going to have to talk to him for sure.”

Asked how he would address the incident with a teammate, Gilliland said, “I’d go fight him right now but I can’t. I just need to I guess get my emotions in check and go talk to him. But I’m extremely mad.”

Gilliland chased down Gragson after the checkered flag and hit his back bumper as they both made their way back to pit road.

A win for Gragson would have locked him into the second round of the playoffs. Gragson qualified for the postseason — the only KBM truck to do so — and Sunday afternoon was the first race of the first round.

Gragson finished ninth with one of the fastest trucks in the field. He started second and won both stage one and stage two, easily coming through the field when put in traffic, and is credited with a race-high 35 laps led.

“That one’s on me,” said Gragson. “Racing for the win. It’s my teammate. I apologized to Todd. I apologized to the 4 team, apologize to everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports. But we’re in the playoffs and I’m trying to win a race. I was squirting the throttle right there in between [Turns] 9 and 10 and just wasn’t quite there. Just unfortunate.

“That one’s on me. Just trying to get a little bit too much, just trying to win. Wins are so big here, just mainly apologize to Todd and the 4 team.”

Gragson said it would be handled between the two “later.”

“Right now, it’s just all about getting back and regrouping and focusing on Vegas,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to take him out, I was expecting him to give me a little more room on the bottom and it just wasn’t there. Wasn’t meant to be. Just apologize to everyone.”

A caution on Lap 61 erased a four-second lead that Gilliland had built up and lined Gragson up next to him on the final restart. Gilliland had taken the lead from Johnny Sauter on Lap 54.

Earlier this week, Gragson admitted he and Gilliland needed to work better as teammates now that the playoffs were starting. Friends off the track, Gragson felt the two had been racing each other and putting themselves in situations that did not benefit them.

The win is Haley’s second of the season.

“We were just in the right place at the right time” Haley said. “I can’t thank everyone at GMS Racing enough; it was a truly blessed day.”

Haley advances into the Round of 6, which begins October 27 at Martinsville Speedway.

“This is what we came to do,” he said. “This is road course racing and now we are really looking forward to Vegas. Mission accomplished.”

The series returns to action Sept. 14 in Las Vegas.

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