By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – What started off as the absolute lowest of lows ended on an absolute high for Timmy Hill, who brought the No. 66 RoofClaim.com/VSI Racing Toyota Supra home in third during Saturday’s NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
The 120-lap race was Hill’s 186th Xfinity Series race but he never finished better than seventh on three different occasions. That would all change as the chaotic contest boiled down to a three-lap shootout which saw him trying to push Harrison Burton and position themselves for their first series win.
Their bid of beating Noah Gragson on the final lap ended after a multi-car crash involving Michael Annett brought out the caution. Hill’s result marked he and car owner Carl Long’s maiden top-five in the series.
“This was an incredible day for us. I feel like this year is kicking off on a great note,” an enthusiastic Hill commented. “Making the Daytona 500 on Thursday was awesome, but I didn’t think it couldn’t get any better. Third-place was a nice finish but I thought we could’ve had a shot at the win.
“We had a plan in place with Harrison. We just came up short on laps, but that’s okay. Really proud of this team and effort. Man this feels really good.”
It was a total sigh of relief as the genuinely happy Hill endured a massive road block prior to qualifying. NASCAR handcuffed the MBM Motorsports team with a $50,000 fine and a 75-point penalty due to improper body modifications on the nose of his Supra. Consequently, Hill’s crew chief Sebastian LaForge will serve a six-week suspension.
Knowingly, Hill understands the penalty being found last night will put him in a steep hole to start of the season but with a top-five at Daytona, it’ll ease the agony.
“It’s a tremendous hit. That fine is going to cost us severely money wise,” Hill on the 75-point penalty. “It’s probably going to keep us in the negative points for at least three or four races. We’ll have to qualify for a lot of these races and it’s going to be tough for us for the next few weeks. A third-place finish will help us purse wise and pay that money back. This is a nice way to kind of bounce back from that.”
The strong build Hill and the team truly began during the second half of the season with more sponsorships coming along and support from Hattori Enterprises propelling him to seventh-place finish at Bristol last August being prime examples. Additionally, Hill had success in his own truck last October at Martinsville, scoring a fifth which was his highest national touring series finish until Saturday.
“We started putting some better efforts together. A lot more sponsors coming in, more funding equivalent to more tires that were bought. We ended the year strong last year and to kick the season off with a third and making the Daytona 500. I’ll tell you what, I’m on a career high right now. I want to keep riding this wave and I can’t wait to continue on.”
Hill’s primary sponsor will not only be a part of his Cup Series car in Sunday’s Daytona 500, it’ll also be on board of Hill’s Xfinity car for seven races and with a strong outcome, things can only go up from there.
“A finish like this will really give them confidence to our race team and can have him come on for more races and really help us funding wise,” Hill said. “We put together more of an effort here on the speedways than we normally do and it obviously shows every time we come to Daytona and Talladega. Hopefully, we can put together bigger efforts at more tracks and that’s what we hope from this.”
Hill had one thing to say to his critics for saying he’s a driver that only ends up finishing outside the top-30 all the time.
“I hear a lot from fans from about how bad I am. Hopefully, days like this can show how good I am,” Hill said. “Days like this make it so much more special and I hope that can show more people that this is what we can do on a regular basis.”
Now the big mindset for Hill is competing in “The Great American Race” for the first time after making the 40-car field during Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race No. 2. With a Roush Yates Ford engine that they put a lot of money to get in order to put themselves in a strong position for yet another banner day to cap off Speedweeks, Hill is ready for the greatest task the sport has to offer.
“Tomorrow’s race car is just as good,” Hill on making his first Daytona 500 tomorrow. “It’s a Roush Yates motor with incredible power. We lost the draft in the Duel but I’m telling you I think it’ll run just as good as today car go.”