Skirts and Scuffs had the pleasure of speaking to Timmy Hill months ago; during the July Daytona race Rosalie Thompson spoke to him about his rookie season and his goal of earning the Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Well congratulations Timmy, mission accomplished! After a season long battle with Blake Koch, the Rookie of the Year contest was won by just one point. Both Hill and Koch fought hard for this honor and are deserving of the title, but this year the title goes to the 18-year old who spent the season behind the wheel of the No. 15.
Was it as hard of a battle as it seemed? “Yeah definitely, the mid-season we had a lead for the ROTY battle but Blake made a pretty good charge where we were tied up going into the last race,” recounted Hill. "Whoever finished ahead would be ROTY. At the beginning of the race, Blake was just a tick better than us; we got some adjustments made and then were able to get a lap ahead of him. That relieved a lot of pressure. We were able to beat him but the battle between me and Blake the entire season was super tight. For us to pull it off with a one point difference – that is HUGE!”
As we saw this season, one point truly makes a difference and can make or break your season. Knowing just one point won him the ROTY title, Hill has thought back to where he could have gained or lost points. “There are a number of things we could have changed, that we could have earned more points at. It makes you wonder in your mind.”
Having a week to digest it all, the reality set in. Hill now joins a list of past ROTY such as Kenny Wallace, Steve Park, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and many drivers who have gone onto be Cup Series stars such as Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. “It feels really great for me to be Rookie of the Year along with those other guys. What they have accomplished after winning ROTY gives me high hopes for my future, I hope I can achieve that and I think we can,” said Hill. “We have good things going on here at Rick Ware Racing for 2012 and I think we will have a great season next year.”
With that time to reflect, Hill said “I stepped back and looked at everything, and was like..wow! After it all sank in, it was pretty cool to look back at the things you did. It’s just great to take the time and think about that after all the ups and downs of the season.
“It was tough at the beginning of the season, juggling high school and racing at the same time,” said Hill. “I had to maintain my homework, do my tests and come back and still race so it was tough. Since I graduated in June, I was able to finish out the year really strong.” Hill lived a bit of a “Superhero” existence, high school student by day and NASCAR driver on weekends. Friends and classmates would say, ‘Hey I seen you on TV’ as they went to school on Monday. Many pointing out that Hill did not win, but as Hill said, “they don’t know how tough it is.” Although the cool part of it all, coming back to school after a race and being the “hero” cause of your TV time. Hill remains thankful that his friends have continue to treat him normally, “if they didn’t it would add stress and pressure.”
Throughout the season, Hill worked hard to get to this point. “Working on lots of things but specifically restarts, I got really good at restarts towards the end of the season,” said Hill. “Another thing, before the season started, I had only run short races, so these 300 mile Nationwide races were new to me. I had to learn to pace myself and not do anything stupid because we need to be there at the end and in the right position. There are numbers and numbers of things I have learned to prepare me for the 2012 season.”
For Hill, he says he feels his area he needs to improve upon is “I need to be quicker in practice to tell the crew what changes to make. I have learned the tracks now, so in 2012 I will be able to go out and tell the crew what I need and where I am running wrong. Be confident in the car and be confident that I know where I need to be.”
After speaking to Timmy, it was hard to keep in mind that he is only 18-years old, until I asked him who his mentor has been this season. His answer was truly heartwarming and should make his family very proud. “I have numerous people that have helped me throughout the season but the number 1 guy I would lean on was my dad. He was in the Truck Series back in 2003 (father Jerry Hill also raced for Rick Ware for a time and completed 58 races in the Truck Series) and he has pretty good information and knowledge of the racing and the different types of tracks. He has been in all the situations before, he tells me the characteristics or the tracks. He has just told me everything he learned and I have him to tell me all this since he is retired.”
Jerry Hill makes it to just about every race with his son, missing only a select few this past season. “It’s a confidence builder,” said Timmy as he talked about having his father by his side each weekend. “It shows how much he cares; he is there for me no matter what. Every time I need advice I can just walk over to the coach and he is there.”
While the 2011 season just concluded, Hill already has his goals in sight for 2012. “Our main goal is to finish top-10 in driver’s points and top-10 in owner’s points also. That is the main goal we are shooting for. We are looking for some top-10 finishes, looking like we are going to be building some better cars for next year also. We have more funding for our program for next season also, our sponsors are picking up the program. It’s looking like a really good season for us next year.”
On a more personal note, I interviewed Timmy on Monday and Tuesday we learned of the passing of Dave Mitchell from Rick Ware Racing. I wanted to include a note here, I worked with Dave for this interview, and he was so kind; even e-mailing me on Thanksgiving to set this up for me. Clearly he loved his job and his team.
Timmy shared this on his Facebook page and I thought it was the perfect way to end this interview:
Today I lost my Best Friend Dave Mitchell. Dave was the hardest working man you could ever meet! Dave is a loving husband and father. I'm glad we were able to spend such a great time together and to achieve our accomplishments together this year! My prayers go out to Danielle, Morgan, and Chase. Dave you will always be in my heart! R.I.P Dave! Godspeed