Family has always been an integral part of the NASCAR tradition. Its history can be traced through generations of fathers and sons.
Richard Petty competed against his father, Lee, in NASCAR’s premier series between 1958 and 1964 and out-raced him five times. He holds the distinction of being the first son to win at the Cup level in a race in which his father also ran. The race was Richard’s first win on February 28, 1960 at Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina. Richard’s son, Kyle, captured his first win at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway on February 23, 1986; his father finished 20th in the race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in April 2000 while his father finished seventh. Bobby and Davey Allison also raced against each other as did Buck and Buddy Baker.
It is rare, however, to see three generations competing against each other at any level of stock car racing. For NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland, an intriguing idea blossomed into a unique opportunity to race against both his father and son.
The idea began taking shape when Gilliland learned that Irwindale Speedway, a half-mile oval in California, re-opened last year after being closed in 2012.
“When Irwindale shut down, I was bummed that Todd would never be able to race there,” Gilliland said in a Front Row Motorsports press release. “I think Irwindale Speedway was a key part of my learning to race and, to me, it’s one of the nicest, if not the nicest, racetracks I’ve ever raced on.”
When the track reopened, he was determined to find a way for his son to race there. The plan began to evolve when Gilliland decided he would take advantage of an off weekend in July on the Cup schedule and make it a father and son event.
“So, I went to work and tried to drum up some cars for Todd and I to race against each other. “Then,” he continued, “I thought it’d be really cool to have three generations of Gillilands out there racing. So, we got a car for my dad to drive, too, and talked him into coming out and racing.”
Racing has always been a family business. David grew up watching his father, Butch, race on dirt tracks in the Southern California area and was never far from his side. He worked on his father’s cars and was his crew chief when Butch won the 1997 K&N West Series championship.
It was only natural that David would follow in his father’s footsteps and it’s not surprising that David’s son, 14-year-old Todd, has continued the family tradition. This year is Todd’s first full-time season of stock car racing and he has already captured his first late-model pole and win at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, North Carolina in May.
The three generations will come together to race at Irwindale Speedway on July 19 in a 75-lap Super Late Model Series feature event that has been named Family Night at the Races, in honor of the Gillilands. For tickets and more information, please visit www.IrwindaleSpeedway.com.
David can’t wait to get on the track and participate in what will certainly be a treasured family moment that will be passed down to future generations.
“It’s going to be the first time that I’m racing against Todd and obviously the first time that he’ll be racing against his grandpa,” David explained. “We’re really excited about it. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for us to have three generations racing against each other. It’s something that not a lot of people get to do and I’m pretty proud to be able to do it.”
But don’t forget, this is a family of racers and the ultimate goal is to win.
“When we get there, we’re all going to be on the same team,” David stated. “But, my son wants to beat us both pretty bad. Hopefully we can all finish the race and just have a lot of fun doing it. And hopefully one of us will end up in Victory Lane.”