DAYTONA BEACH, Fla—Timmy Hill is the Rodney Dangerfield of NASCAR.
He gets no respect.
Hill, who turns 27 next Tuesday, finished third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday, and FOX Sports didn’t even bother with a post-race interview of the driver. Neither did his manufacturer Toyota.
Hill qualified 32nd for Sunday's Daytona 500—his first appearance for the Great American Race. He drove up to 10th in the first 20 laps before rain delayed the event to Monday. Although Hill has the only driver who made an effort to come to the media center on Sunday--for something to eat and then a question-and-answer session--NASCAR didn’t record the interview. Neither did Ford Performance, the manufacturer Hill drives for in Cup. Usually the OEM would release a transcript for a top-10 driver—just as fodder for rainout stories—but no.
Still, the Port Tobacco, Maryland, racer just flashes his toothy grin and keeps on trucking.
“I don't know if the smile is going to come off my face,” Hill said after he finished 16th driving the No. 66 MBM Ford in the Thursday’s qualifier. “As a kid, everybody who is a race car driver has a dream of driving this stuff. You want to run the Daytona 500. My car is very capable of running competitively in this race. I feel like we're not just here to participate, we're here to race.
“With that being said, we'll prepare as much as we can. We have a small amount of damage on the car to fix. Other than that, this car is ready to go for the race. I feel like we have a really good shot at competing well in Sunday's race.”
Hill has enjoyed a solid 2020 Daytona Speedweeks. His two-man operation—Hill Motorsports—fielded the No. 56 Chevrolet Silverado in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race for Gus Dean last Friday. Dean was running in the top 10 when he was collected in a wreck.
“I learned so much last year starting my own truck team, going pretty much full‑time this year with our truck team,” Hill said. “I feel like it's made me a better driver. For those who don't know, I have one employee that works for my trucks. I'm very hands‑on. We finished top five with one full‑time employee last year.
Driving for Carl Long, Hill started 26th in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday and raced to his first top-five finish in 186 starts. He carried that momentum into the 500—a race he could have only dreamed about running in the past. Although Long attempted to qualify for NASCAR’s most prestigious event in 2017, his engine failed after 29 of 60 laps in the second Duel.
“The thought crossed my mind that I may never have a shot at this,” Hill said. “Coming to the Daytona 500 takes a lot of preparation, takes much more money to prepare a car to come here, let alone make the race.
“With the new Cup car coming next year, if they didn't put the deal together this year, as a non‑charter car, I may never have a shot at this. This could very well be my last chance at it. I'm very happy that it ended up with us making this race.”
Over the last eight seasons, Long has logged 92 starts in the NASCAR Cup tour but Sunday marked his first start in the Daytona 500.
“I'm really proud about what the car, our team prepared for this race," Long said. “They brought me a beautiful race car. They invested a lot of money to rent a Roush‑Yates motor. Had great power all night long. Felt like we could hang with the lead pack.
“For us, people don't really give us much of a shot. To come into this race as an underdog, nobody's really counting on, it feels really great to prove a lot of people wrong…For me personally, this is my 10th year in NASCAR. It's my very first time making this race. I attempted it one other time. That ended in disappointment. To make this race, it's really special for us.”