While all of the attention for this season’s Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Cup Series has focused on the battle between Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., another rookie, Timmy Hill, has been quietly competing in his own way and on his terms.
“Going into this year, I’ve had two years of Nationwide experience and in those two years, I’ve been able to learn the race track multiple times,” Hill, driver of the No. 32 FAS Lane Racing Ford, said. “Starting the year off running for Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series, I knew it was going to be tough, as a driver and as an underdog race team with a lower budget.”
“I knew going in that my schedule was going to consist of 18 to 20 races, with Kenny Schrader and Terry Labonte and Boris Said at the wheel for some of the other races.” Hill continued. “Our goals were to finish all the races, run as many laps as we can and along the way try to beat Danica (Patrick) and Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) for Rookie of the Year in the races I ran.”
“Knowing that I wasn’t going to run the full schedule, I was going to make the best of the races that I was going to run,” Hill said. “All season long, it’s been tough at some times but we feel like we’ve done a great job.”
Although Hill has been very proud of his performance to date, he did have a tough run in last weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.
“I was kind of bragging about how we haven’t torn up any equipment and wouldn’t you know we tore one up at Phoenix, which I wasn’t very happy about,” Hill continued. “So, we’ve just had that one issue all year long and I’ve been happy with that and so has the race team.”
“But all in all, as a team and as a driver, I’m very happy,” Hill said. “It’s been a great learning experience and I’d say we have done a good job all year long.”
While Hill has been very pleased with his team’s performance in his rookie season, he has been a bit disappointed in not getting the recognition of the media, fans and the sport as far as running for ROTY honors.
“I do feel forgotten sometimes when the reporters do articles about the Rookie of the Year battle without mentioning me,” Hill said. “We knew it would be a long shot for us to have a shot at it but we ran every bit of the races that would qualify us for the Rookie of the Year.”
“It’s kind of a letdown, to myself, the race team and the sponsors just because a smaller team like us could have used the attention, press and publicity to try to build our program,” Hill continued. “To not be mentioned and forgotten about is kind of a letdown.”
While Hill may have been disappointed as far as the ROTY mention, he has felt completely fortunate and blessed to have learned many lessons in his rookie season, on the track and from his fellow competitors.
“I’ve learned so much,” Hill said. “Running in the lower divisions and then the Nationwide Series, I’ve learned how long these races are and how you really have to be there at the end of the race.”
“Those extra laps really teach you patience.”
“You have to gain the respect of the other drivers on the race track,” Hill continued. “You have to run around them for 400 to 500 laps every weekend and when you are racing that close you really have to trust because any small movement can lead to ultimately changing someone’s race.”
“I was the new kid on the block,” Hill said. “Running with these guys, I’ve learned that they are all really great drivers and there is a lot of talent there.”
“It made it a heck of a lot tougher racing-wise because they are all at the Cup level for a reason,” Hill continued. “You just have to realize that you are among some great drivers and you really have to be on it each weekend.”
“You always have to keep working on your race car because they are very smart and always pick up the pace,” Hill said. “It’s almost like a big chess match and you just have to keep after it.”
Hill has also had to learn how to compete in his own way through effective communication with his crew chief, as well as how to best relate what was happening on the track to his team.
“I have a rare situation where my crew chief is actually the owner of the race team,” Hill said. “Frankie Stoddard has been around the sport for years and has had a lot of success.”
“I’ve had to talk about the car and he’s been able to change the way I’ve been saying thing,” Hill continued. “The first race is always tough with the crew chief/driver relationship in just defining how we talk about the car.”
“As soon as we got on the same page as far as the adjustment levels, it is easy after that,” Hill said. “We learned that pretty quick and we worked well this whole season.”
Hill has also learned a great deal from the drivers off track, especially those veterans that he has looked up to his whole racing life. And he also credits his family for teaching him the life lessons that he has found so important as he competed for the Rookie of the Year honors for his sponsors and his team.
“Being young, I didn’t know a lot, but there are veterans I can lean on,” Hill said. “Being at this level, you have to make appearances and conduct yourself well all the time.”
“I like to base my actions off some of the veteran drivers like Carl Edwards and Mark Martin,” Hill continued. “I like the path that they have taken themselves on and use them as a role model.”
“I’d also like to thank my family for raising me the right way.”
Unfortunately, Hill’s last race in his rookie season was at Phoenix as Kenny Schrader will be taking the wheel of the No. 32 for the Homestead Cup finale. Hill will, however, be competing in the Nationwide race for one last time in 2013.
“I got an opportunity to drive the No. 23 car for Rick Ware Racing, who used to be the team owner for me in Nationwide,” Hill said. “He’s given me a lot of chances which I cannot thank him enough for.”
“So, I’m very happy and very blessed to run the final race of the year, even if it is Nationwide and not Cup, on a track I really like.”
So, after completing his rookie season in the Cup Series, what does Hill have planned for 2014?
“As far as my 2014 plans, we’re working up to that,” Hill said. “It is only a few months away but it seems like awhile before the plans will come together.”
“It’s a lengthy process but I have plans to hopefully be able to achieve even more.”
While Hill finalizes his plans for the next season, he also has interesting plans for his off season.
“Last off season I went to flight school,” Hill said.” I got my pilot’s license last year.”
“There are different types of pilot certificates and right now I have what’s called a visual flight certificate, meaning I can fly based off of visual,” Hill continued. “I want to go for IFR, or instrument rating, so I can fly into weather and into clouds.”
“So, I’ll be able to fly more often and not be as limited,” Hill said. “That’s what I want to look into for this off season.”
For more information about Timmy Hill’s rookie season and his future plans, follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @timmyhillracer.