For Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, the “The Double” always referred to running the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the same day.
For NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers, “The Double” has become partaking in their high school graduation ceremony and a race at Texas Motor Speedway in the same evening.
Eighteen-year-old Todd Gilliland became the fourth NCWTS driver in the last five years to have his high school graduation commencement exercise during the pre-race ceremonies and then trade in the cap and gown for a firesuit and compete in the PPG 400 race.
Gilliland, home schooled in Sherrills Ford, N.C., came on stage in a cap and gown, along with his mother Michelle, father and fellow NASCAR driver David, and sister Taylor.
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, wearing professor’s regalia, presided over the ceremony that included Gilliland’s on-line diploma being presented by “The Great American Sweethearts,” Libby and Alyssa. Gilliland culminated the ceremony with the tradition of moving his tassel from the right to the left and then tossing his mortarboard into the air.
“It’s a very special event to be out here in front of all these people and honestly, just doing what I love – racing,” the teenager said. “It’s cool that we could bring it together and hopefully we have a great night tonight. I was wearing the cap and gown up on the stage, so a very special moment for me and my family because we missed out on a lot of other high school experiences.”
Gilliland follows Erik Jones (2014), Cole Custer (2016) and Noah Gragson (2017) in the high school graduation line at Texas Motor Speedway. The tradition has quickly become a favorite for the parents and family members in particular.
“It’s awesome,” his father David said. “All his life he’s loved race tracks, racing and race cars, so it’s super special to be here. We missed a lot along the way with my career, so to see him walk across that stage and get his picture taken on the frontstretch at Texas Motor Speedway is super special. He’s closing one chapter with high school and I think he’s got a bright future in NASCAR racing. He couldn’t race without school and he knew that all along and did a really good job with balancing all the racing we’ve done over the years with focusing on his education along the way, too.”
Gilliland, driving the No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, nearly celebrated his high school graduation with the pole position in the PPG 400, which is exactly what Gragson did last year. Gilliland qualified second in his Texas Motor Speedway debut, his third top-10 start of the season. He finished ninth in Stage 1 of the PPG 400 and took the race lead early in Stage 2 of the 167-lap, 250.5-mile race.
TMS PR/Photo Taylor Gilliland, David Gilliland, Todd Gilliland and Michelle Gilliland pose for a photo as Todd receives his high school diploma prior to the PPG 400 Friday night.