“I don’t know if the smile is going to come off my face.” – Timmy Hill
While Daniel Suarez, Chad Finchum and JJ Yeley suffered the bitter defeat of missing the Daytona 500 field, there was another driver who was feeling the euphoria of making The Great American Race.
If I could use one word to describe journeyman race car driver Timmy Hill, the word I would choose is persistence.
The obviously talented racer from Maryland has been in the NASCAR National Series ranks for a decade but never has he driven for a team that has truly been capable of winning a race.
While it doesn’t seem fair, it makes sense with how the sport is structured these days. Hill, 26, doesn’t bring big dollars with him and he certainly doesn’t have a legendary name in the sport. He’s just a guy who consistently makes lemonade out of lemons in hope that someone some day, will notice.
Thursday night, in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona, Hill opened some eyes for sure, as he raced his way into the 2020 Daytona 500.
“For us, people don’t really give us much of a shot,” Hill said following the event. “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.”
Making the show has to feel like a win to Hill and his team, but can they actually win the race, now? That remains to be seen, but regardless, this is his best shot ever. Oh, did I mention this is his first shot?
Hill has attempted making the Daytona 500 one other time — back in 2017. However, a blown motor crushed his dreams that time around as he didn’t make the starting lineup.
Hill was determined to do everything in his power to make the field this time around. Yes, because he hadn’t ever raced in the Daytona 500 before, but also because with the NextGen car coming to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021, which will be a costly upgrade for teams, Hill felt this could be his last shot at making the Daytona 500.
“The thought crossed my mind with the new Cup car coming next year,” Hill explained. “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.”
If this indeed turns out to be Hill’s first — and last — Daytona 500 start, he will be doing it with a team that invested heavily to give him an outside chance of turning heads.
MBM Motorsports, owned by former underdog NASCAR racer Carl Long, usually runs Toyota chassis. This offseason, the team attempted to purchase a TRD power plant to give their No. 66 team a distinct edge as in their hopes of making the Daytona 500 field. The price tag? Much too steep.
As a result, Long began to shop around to find a superior motor that would work into the budget.
Long ended up swapping the No. 66 to a Ford Mustang after he landed a Roush-Yates motor. The money spent is already paying huge dividends on the race track as Hill was able to stay connected to the other cars in the pack on Thursday night.
Now, Hill feels he has a car capable of potentially upsetting the apple cart on Sunday in the Daytona 500.
“Look, as a kid, everybody who is a racecar driver has a dream of driving this stuff,” Hill stated. “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.”
Conversely, Hill’s teammate Finchum in MBM’s No. 49 Toyota, which was running an under-powered power plant, could not keep up in Duel No. 1.
Finchum finished 20th, three laps off the pace in his Duel. Likely, this would have been close to the same outcome for Hill, had Long not reached into the wallet to bring a stout piece to Florida.
Instead of coming to the beach with two bricks, Long opted to maximize his odds by bringing a brick (the No. 49) and a bullet (the No. 66).
As a result, the 2020 Daytona 500 now has it’s Cinderella Story in Timmy Hill.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.