With his finish in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel race on Thursday, Timmy Hill has earned a spot in the Daytona 500.
Following the duel race Hill met with members of the media to talk about what it means to him to make the season opening NASCAR Cup Series race.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Timmy Hill, driver of the No. 66 RoofClaim.Com Ford, who has raced his way into Sunday’s Daytona 500.
We’ll open it up for questions for Timmy.
Just discuss how big of a deal this is for the Carl Long team to bring this car into The Great American Race. Also, what was the team reaction knowing that Yeley was out?
TIMMY HILL: First off, like I say, I’m really proud about what the car, our team prepared for this race. They brought me a beautiful racecar. 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. This team, they jumped off the wall and celebrated. I could hear their voices on the radio.
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.
I saw in 2017 you tried to make it, had an engine failure. You mentioned this is your 10th year. Did you think this would ever happen for you? Had you kind of thought maybe you’d never get a shot at the Daytona 500?
TIMMY HILL: The thought crossed my mind that I may never have a shot at this. 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.
The thought crossed my mind 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.
TIMMY HILL: For a non?charter team, it’s impossible.
You’ve branched into team ownership now in the Truck Series. You can put yourself in more than most drivers what Carl goes through trying to put together an operation to contend in a big race. Speak a little bit to that.
TIMMY HILL: Yeah, with Carl Long, he’s brought me into his camp. I worked in his garage for four years now. I learned so much. I thought I knew it all. Here I go start my own team. Gosh, I didn’t know it all.
I learned so much last year starting my own truck team, going pretty much full?time this year with our truck team. I feel like it’s made me a better driver.
Basically 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.
With that being said, it’s neat to bring that over to Carl’s camp. It makes me be more involved than I already was. I’m really appreciative of all the experience. Carl, like I said, he gives me a lot of opportunities. I can’t thank him enough for that.
How long is it going to take to get the smile off your face? At what point do you move on from celebrating to preparing for Sunday?
TIMMY HILL: I don’t know if the smile is going to come off my face.
Look, as a kid, everybody who is a racecar 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.
How does this race give you momentum heading into Saturday’s race in the Xfinity Series?
TIMMY HILL: I tell you what, I feel a lot better. It’s going to be stressful on Saturday as well. There’s four extra Xfinity cars. We’re in a position where our car is not locked in on points.
This group has really prepared an awesome Toyota Supra for us. In that car, we do have a Joe Gibbs Racing engine. That car will be just as strong if not stronger. That car ran top five here with less than 10 to go in the July Daytona race.
With that being said, I feel like our Saturday car for the Xfinity is going to be a really good piece. Just the excitement alone that will carry definitely into that race.
You mentioned the payday and momentum it gives making the 500. How much does it benefit the team that the misfortune of Daniel Suarez missing the 500 helped this organization as it fights for the top open spot this year?
TIMMY HILL: Yeah, I know for us, speaking on our behalf, our truck team, all my credit cards are maxed out. I heard Carl is the same way. I takes lot of money to get here, to buy licenses, to buy motors, without any money coming in.
For our team personally, it makes a big difference. Everybody thinks we’re going to make this huge payday, but we’re going to just pay off a lot of our debts.
With that being said, those guys are fortunate because they have a lot of money coming in. Just grateful we made this race.
I think it was your second trip ever here to Daytona in an Xfinity car, you went out and ran seventh. Knowing you have a Roush?Yates motor underneath you, you’re locked in now, can you race on Sunday, go up and mix it up if the opportunity is there?
TIMMY HILL: Yeah, with this being my 10th season, I’ve had a little bit of every racecar. I’ve been fortunate the last few times I’ve been here, I’ve had a really strong car, especially in Xfinity. I’ve had some really weak cars where I could barely hang the draft, cross my fingers, hope a bunch of cars wreck out.
The racecars this weekend are cars that can compete and run well. Me personally, I can take these racecars and do a lot of moves I really couldn’t do earlier in my career with some of the racecars that weren’t quite up to snuff.
With that being said, no, coming here with the Roush motor in our Cup car, Gibbs motor in our Xfinity car, it’s a game changer for us.
You said if you didn’t make it, the team might fold.
TIMMY HILL: We weren’t going to fold, no. It’s tough climbing out of this hole. Like I said, to come here, we spent a lot of money on this motor. For those who don’t know, Carl does have his own motor department. They have a lot of dedicated people that work on those.
We’re still working on getting the powerplant and everything closer to the competition. It makes it tough. These guys had to really big deep to risk spending money on a motor to get me to this race in hopes to make this race.
We weren’t going to fold up. It would be hard to climb out of it.
It’s enough pressure to try and race your way into the race. What’s it like when the weight of the company is on your performance?
TIMMY HILL: Unfortunately for me, it’s not my first time. I feel like Carl and I, we have a lot of respect for each other in this race team. I’ve had to bail his race team out. There’s probably a hundred races I had to make with a car that probably shouldn’t make the race. In Xfinity I make a lot of races on time.
At the same time, Carl, he’s really bailed me out in my career where I really didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities, he put me in a racecar.
With that being said, I had a lot of weight on my shoulders for this race. I felt like I was prepared for the pressure. It wasn’t going to be a problem. I knew we had to make this race.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations. Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.
TIMMY HILL: Thank you so much. Appreciate it, everybody.