An interview with: TIMMY HILL
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to you all for joining us for the E NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race. We are now joined by Timmy Hill, the driver of the No. 66 RoofClaim Toyota and today’s winner of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 125 at the Virtual Texas Motor Speedway.
Timmy, talk to us a little bit about the final lap.
TIMMY HILL: Sure, very happy to be here. The race was really exciting. The last lap basically was a two‑lap run to the finish, green‑white‑checkered. I had to fight off Ryan Preece and Garrett Smithley, two excellent iRacers. They put in a lot of practice, I knew they would be tough to beat.
After the white flag, I knew how tough it was to pass into three and four, I knew if I could hold them off going into turn one, I could almost coast and drive to a victory. That’s all I was focusing on the final lap. I held those guys off in one and two, got a good run in three and four.
I couldn’t be more excited. Very exciting times for us because we just don’t get the recognition on a normal basis. To be on an even playing field is excellent. To be on this platform, the Cup platform, is exciting. The amount of folks that reached out to me has just been tremendous.
The last lap was just one I will definitely remember for a while.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate your time today. We’re going to get as many questions in as we can. We’ll open it up for questions from the media.
Educate me a little bit on iRacing etiquette. How many times can Byron do the same to you? What do you expect from him going forward? I could predict if it was actually going from Texas to Bristol, the actual cars, but what is the etiquette in iRacing?
TIMMY HILL: Well, I think the etiquette is similar to real life: basically you race people how they race you.
In this situation, we’ve never really raced each other. In real life we’re on two completely different levels of competition. So this is a unique situation where we were kind of competing for the win in the closing laps. I think that kind of changes the element and style of racing.
I’m sure you’re talking about the bump‑n‑run to take the lead. For me it was a situation where I don’t get the chance to win much on this big of a platform. I told myself, If I have a chance to win any race, NASCAR, short track level, if it came down to it, that’s what I would do. It doesn’t change because it was iRacing. That’s what I would do in real life.
Going forward, I’m sure William isn’t happy about it. I’m sure he’ll do the same back to me. Reverting back to what I said before, you race others how they race you. I’ll probably get a lot of abuse going forward. I’ll have to accept that. But that’s in the future. I’m kind of living in the present and happy to get the win.
How does Timmy Hill celebrate a win? Was it worth it?
TIMMY HILL: Yes, definitely worth it. The amount of outreach and the amount of people who watched this race and have reached out to me, my sponsors, I think it’s well deserved. I would do it a hundred times over.
The way I celebrate the win, my wife comes up the stairs, gives me a big hug. My favorite drink is a cup of milk. She gives me a cup of milk. Downed that right away. Hugged her.
I had quite a bit of friends that were in my channel throughout the race that were spotting me, crew chiefing me throughout the race. I kind of got to chat with them.
I am not surrounded by all my loved ones right now because everybody is trying to be safe. But I got a lot of phone calls, messages. I feel like the hero today.
As someone who has participated such a long time in iRacing, been very successful, did you ever think the two worlds of real racing and sim racing would collide like they have in this fashion? What did you think about the quality of the competition this week compared to last week?
TIMMY HILL: I got into iRacing probably 10 to 12 years ago. I wasn’t there for the really beginning, but I was in the early stages when iRacing was kind of forming. I used iRacing as a tool. I knew this platform had potential to grow as much as it has.
Obviously in the last couple weeks, it’s really taken a jump because of the circumstances that we’re under. But am I surprised? No. It’s a very realistic service. It’s unique in the way it allows young racers who may not have the funding to go out and drive maybe a go‑kart or a late model level, gives them the opportunity to practice their skills or even race competitively on iRacing.
I’m not surprised there to see it grow. It’s exciting that iRacing has gotten the opportunity to showcase the excitement and the realism on a national television broadcast.
With that being said, I have taken advantage of it over the years. I’ve really enjoyed my time in iRacing. We do a couple races a year on iRacing they try to put together, invitational races throughout the winter. They’ve been a success. This is something they’ve been trying to work towards. I’m excited to see that.
What was the second part of the question?
What did you think of the quality of competition this week compared to last week’s race?
TIMMY HILL: Obviously I think it was way better. I think all around between the drivers and the iRacing officials, the broadcast team. I think obviously last week was put together super quickly. Whenever something is thrown together quickly, you find bugs. Everything got better.
I think the drivers understood that this isn’t an arcade game. It takes effort, it takes practice. They couldn’t just jump into a server and expect to compete well. You saw a lot of competitors that you didn’t see at Homestead doing well, driving fast times.
For me, I qualified 10th, I got shuffled back to 20th at the beginning of the race. Took me a while to get back to the front. These guys were that tough to pass. Hats off to drivers working on it.
I thought the broadcast team did an excellent job of learning iRacing, how it works, between the tires you put on, the restarts, the way the caution process works.
Obviously I think iRacing officials learned a lot about when to throw a caution, when not to. Obviously when somebody spins, we had the luxury of not throwing a caution where in the real world you may throw it every single time.
It keeps the entertainment factor going. I think this week’s show was probably a hundred times better than last week’s.
When you look at how quickly this has come together in so short a time, what’s impressed you most about the drivers really rallying around iRacing as a platform right now?
TIMMY HILL: I think it’s a great way for a lot of the fans to interact with the drivers. Personally, I speak for myself, I’ve joined a lot of public races as a practice server. I’ve raced with probably hundreds of people throughout the week as I prepared for this Sunday event. The response I get from other competitors that are just iRacers that get the time off from work or at home right now looking for something to do, they really love communicating with the drivers.
It’s a cool way for the fans to interact with us, stay in tune with NASCAR, keep the NASCAR promotion going. I still think it’s a neat process to be in the NASCAR and iRacing community combined together.
What do you see these next few weeks like? We’ve seen the momentum grow. What do you see this doing for iRacing going forward?
TIMMY HILL: I think it’s only going to make iRacing grow. I think as more eyes kind of lay on iRacing, I think people understand about how realistic it is. Obviously for me as a younger kid looking into this, when I first joined iRacing, one of the big reasons I joined, along with wanting to get better, was to race with the stars I was watching on television.
Obviously people watching, racers in general who have interest in driving themselves would love to get involved in something like this, with how realistic it is, the opportunity to basically race with your favorite drivers.
A lot of these drivers use the service. You see these guys throughout the week at any hour of the day. iRacing it’s only going to grow from this. I’m excited to see it grow. It’s such a great tool for us drivers to use. It’s such a great way for anybody to really get involved in racing.
How did virtual TMS compare to the real track? Do you think you can get a cowboy hat from Eddie when you come back here for real?
TIMMY HILL: I’ll have to ask Eddie that. I appreciate the question (laughter). I hope I get a cowboy hat. I love how Texas celebrates their wins with the pistols and the cowboy hat. I would love to talk to Eddie about that.
I tell you, it’s really, really realistic. iRacing, I’m sure most of you know, they laser scan the racetrack. The details are really special, cool to be involved with.
The way we drove this racetrack is just like real life. Texas, one and two, they extended the corner closer to the apron, they widened out turns one and two. Three and four has much more banking.
The way we attack this racetrack is we would have to lift in one and two, then actually run three and four wide open. As the tires wear off, we have to clip more and more (indiscernible). In real life, we would go to Texas, three and four is definitely wide open. So much banking down there, so much downforce in the racecars, you can run wide open for a number of laps. Spot on there.
The amount of lifting we do in one and two is exactly the same. In real life, I find myself lifting quite a bit more in one and two because my car is not as good. The car in iRacing is working better. Really spot on, the racetrack is really, really close to real life.
Does what you pulled off today rank among your other career achievements or do you view this completely separately than the rest of your real life racing career?
TIMMY HILL: I definitely rank it up there. The reason being is just because the platform is being televised on FOX, having essentially the entire NASCAR audience tuning in. I’ve won a lot of iRacing races. It’s neat to win on there. It’s really neat to win against your competitors that you race each and every Sunday.
Like I said, iRacing is a huge tool for me. Never replace real life racing. I tell you what, the way I celebrate this win, the way it ranks for me, it’s definitely towards the top. It’s not the top just because of how the fans react and how the media reacts to it.
How much time did you practice? We saw drivers who ran in the Cup Series practicing a lot, but they haven’t iRaced like you. How many hours did you put into this?
TIMMY HILL: I probably put in at least four hours a day leading up to this race. That was every day of the week. My wife says, When you going to come downstairs, you’ve been on this thing all day?
I think she understood how big this event was. I can say the same for a lot of the drivers. When I would join these sessions for practice, I would see a lot of my competition putting the same number of hours, even more hours than I was putting in.
I think most of the field, if not all the field, I think they understand the level of this event, the opportunity that we all have to put on such a great show and entertainment factor.
We all wanted this to be a great show and continue to be an exciting entertainment factor for everybody, keep NASCAR fans in tune with us. We’re all trying to do our best to put on a good race. I definitely put in my share of hours and laps. I think it all paid off.
How do you think this will help you with all the viewers who pay attention to it, all the social media? How often you are drivers parked in iRacing like Suarez?
TIMMY HILL: For me personally, what I’ll gain from this is recognition. For us, it’s hard to get that recognition because of the level of competition that we are in real life. We’re doing our best.
Frankly, we just don’t have the money, the dollars, to compete at a high level. Every once in a while we’ll get a big sponsor and you’ll see us exceed normal expectations for us, like at Daytona where we had a really good Daytona 500 car, really good Xfinity car. We finished third in the Xfinity race, made the Daytona 500.
Every once in a while we’ll get that big payday and we can really reinvest in our race team. But most weekends we got to kind of do the best we can with the dollars we have.
This win will hopefully gain some recognition and attract more sponsors for us maybe in the real world when we get back racing because they know Timmy Hill from iRacing, from FOX, from this invitational. That’s what I hope from it. Hopefully it will help me in the real world.
How about the parking, like Suarez?
TIMMY HILL: You don’t typically see that too often. The bigger events, like iRacing, they put on the Coca‑Cola Series, they have live admins. If somebody does something inappropriate or something reckless, they will disqualify somebody and remove them from the server.
In this case, I haven’t got a chance to look at the replay, but from what my spotters and everybody was telling me, I think he was intentionally wrecking another competitor. You really you don’t want to see that. Everybody is trying to race for a win, for a great position, put on a good show. You really can’t have that.
You see it probably once in a blue moon, but it does happen. In this case, it’s one of those blue moon moments.
You obviously coming in were one of the guys who does iRacing a lot more than the other competitors. Your mindset, was it more so of I can actually compete for wins in this thing because those that were watching today that also watch real Cup racing every week know you’re not in the picture for a win? What was your mindset going into these events thinking you have an edge on the competition?
TIMMY HILL: For me personally the iRacing platform, it’s kind of an equalizer in effect that the cars that we’re driving on there, I’m in the same cars as everybody. Most weekends, like you said, I’m not in that situation. I’m in a situation where I’m racing on 15‑lap tires, have a motor that’s 5200 horsepower down, got a car that’s probably five years old. I’m really kind of behind the eight ball as soon as we show up at the racetrack at times.
To come into the server where everybody has the same cars, in this case even the same setup, everybody is on the same exact playing field, basically the driver conquers all in this situation.
I had more experience coming into it because I’ve been on the service quite a bit longer. I knew that would be to my advantage. At the end of the day, these guys are all competitors, they’re all turning hundreds of laps. They’re all doing the best they can.
For me to actually beat these guys on a level playing field, it really feels good for my driving talents. I look forward to the competition as it gets better in the coming weeks.
To see you did it with what looked like a 10‑year‑old steering wheel, compared to people like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch who have multi‑thousand dollar rigs, that look like spaceships, like Clint Bowyer says, what does it say about the system and the capability of people watching to say, I can spend a couple hundred bucks and go out like the way who won this race and do it too?
TIMMY HILL: To give you the background. My setup, I bought this wheel 12 years ago when I was branching into NASCAR. It cost me 300 bucks back then. It’s been a great wheel. Hats off to Logitech. Actually this wheel is obsolete. If I were to break it, I would have to get a different type of wheel. They’re on a whole different model now.
I’m used to it. It’s my favorite. If it ain’t broken, I typically don’t fix it. It’s neat to beat up on these guys with these big, massive, expensive setups. I think for the viewers, it’s neat for them because they can understand that they don’t have to spend that huge dollar amount to get into iRacing.
I think 80% of the viewers or iRacers, excuse me, that are on the service, I think they’re probably on similar setups to what I got. I think they relate to a lot of the average racers a lot more because they’re on a similar rig than I’m on, a wheel tied to a desk, up in my little man cave upstairs.
I think it really shows this is a very inexpensive way to get involved in racing. I’m excited to kind of show that off.
You talked about the reality of what we see as viewers. As a driver, do you ever lose touch with the fact that you are actually in the virtual world versus in the real deal racetrack?
TIMMY HILL: I tell you what, the rush of emotions typically feels a lot the same because I knew a lot was on the line, a lot of people watching. I wanted to be careful about what I did and what I said.
It’s definitely not the same because when I’m in the car in real life, I really don’t want something to fail because it’s probably going to get hurt. I think you see a lot more aggressive moves on iRacing than you do in real life just because at the end of the day it’s not going to hurt you.
With that being said, the rush of emotions definitely feels just like a real race.
You talk about things that you can do in a virtual world maybe you wouldn’t try on the real track. Are there takeaways that you can carry to Texas that will transfer to the real Sunday afternoon?
TIMMY HILL: What iRacing does for me personally, you can really find where the limit is, right? You can say I practiced tons of laps, this is where the limit is at. When you go there in real life, you say there is the limit, let me work to the limit, not do past the limit.
Obviously when you go there in real life, you’re hoping your car works just as good if not better. My case definitely doesn’t work as good. I kind of back it up from there, say my car drives pretty good.
Have any doors started to open from a real world opportunity, an opportunity with a bigger team?
TIMMY HILL: For me, I haven’t contacted anybody yet. I hope that maybe from this some people would open their eyes to some of the guys towards the back of the garage, several guys that don’t really get a lot of coverage because of the equipment they’re in. You just don’t hear their names.
For me personally, I’ve been in this sport for 10 years, don’t get talked about much. I feel like I can get the job done given an opportunity. I’m trying to showcase that as many times as I can.
One of the reasons I built a truck team was to build a better program for myself so I can compete and do well. I’m trying to build as much as I can with the money I have. I’m trying to invest in myself so I can put myself in a position where people can recognize that.
When I finished last year fifth with my truck I thought it was a big statement. I’m only trying to continue that. I’m trying to showcase my own name, showcase my talents. I really feel that I can drive at a high level in tough equipment given that opportunity.
I don’t know if that will come from this, but you never know. I kind of hold hope for that. We’ll kind of see.
Three weeks ago did you ever think on national television you’d be racing Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin for a win, then the next week on national television you’d be winning a race?
TIMMY HILL: No, no, I wouldn’t think so. It’s crazy. Three weeks ago I was down in Atlanta with my truck team. We were unloading the truck. We had to push back inside. We didn’t know what the coming weeks had to offer.
I’m glad that this happened because it’s a great way to showcase a lot of guys who maybe don’t get the recognition. Garrett Smithley has done a good job, Chase did a good job last week, Ryan Priest finished second today. A lot of guys who don’t get as much TV time or talked about, it’s a fun way for fans to kind of learn more about it.
I think when we actually go back racing, fans will interact with us more. I think the whole sport will be positively affected because of it.
How is what you did with William, the bump‑n‑run, how was it similar or different on the iRacing model compared to what you would do in a real car? Was it the same thing? Was that the plan all the way through or did something happen?
TIMMY HILL: For me personally, no, I didn’t go into it thinking I had to move William. I’m sure as everybody watched the race, Texas, with the way this format is, wide open in three and four, barely lifts in one and two, I think you see drivers get in massive runs.
The car in front has a couple options. You can try to race the guy heads‑up, side‑by‑side, or block all you can. For me, in the time remaining, when William threw a big block to protect his line, I had the option of either get hit from behind, hope I don’t get hit from behind, or give him a little bump‑n‑run and keep going.
My mindset, had to make a quick split‑second decision, was to go for the win. I didn’t want to put myself in a bad spot to get hit from behind or take myself out of it. When William blocked going into turn one, kept a low line, protect his position, it left very few options for me in turn one. That’s kind of my mindset through it.
A lot of times people talk about if something happens on the track, there may be a need to have a conversation with somebody. When something like this happens in a virtual race, is there a virtual conversation or something you actually have to have, check in with William?
TIMMY HILL: Well, this is a very unique situation because, trust me, it feels real. I’m sure he is mad. That’s one of the situations where I think if I call him today, he probably really wouldn’t even want to talk about it. I got to probably give him some time to cool down.
I may try to reach out to him. He’ll probably still be mad probably for the next coming weeks. Even though this is iRacing, it is virtual, the feelings are real. I’m sure he probably is going to be very unhappy about it.
Could you talk a little bit about the intensity. Do you expect it to raise appropriately as each race goes on?
TIMMY HILL: Yeah, the intensity is there. Like I said, I’m extremely focused. After the race, I can’t believe how tight I hold the wheel. I got callouses on my hands.
The intensity is there, the focus is there. Like I said, that’s a very real part of this game. Going forward I’m going to have to kind of try to earn some respect back. I don’t necessarily know that I lost respect, but when you kind of give somebody a bump‑n‑run, they know pretty much no love lost if they do it back to you. I have to watch that going forward.
I’ll be prepared for it. I’ll try to race as clean as possible going forward. I saw an opportunity and I just couldn’t resist.
So you expect as each week goes kind of maybe we’ll see a little bit more of that?
TIMMY HILL: Yeah, I’m assuming that next week we go to Bristol, if that’s the plan, I’m not sure, I haven’t really spoken with NASCAR or iRacing or FOX about that yet, but if we go to Bristol next week, you’re probably going to see quite a bit of it.
I think guys are learning the limits right now. I felt like what I did wasn’t reckless, it was just enough to kind of move him out of the way, continue without William crashing. I think guys will probably push the limit harder and harder each week, learn how to bang on each other more and more.
These guys want to get better on the service. I fully intend to see something like that in the future.
How much do you have invested in your setup?
TIMMY HILL: I’ll kind of run you through it. My wheel is a 10‑year‑old wheel, paid 300 bucks for that. My desk, I bought that at Black Friday, Office Depot. 75 bucks for that. We have a hundred bucks in my chair. The most expensive thing I have is my computer. It’s a gaming computer. Probably cost me $1,400. That’s probably the most expensive part of my little rig here.
Thing with my computer is I use it for everything. I use it for my taxes, my business. It’s not just solely a gaming computer. I have other things I do with it. I don’t really count 100% of that towards iRacing. I think feasibly somebody can usually get into it for under $1,000.
You were talking about game changers in all of this. Does it make it like a virtual IROC if you’re running the same cars, setups, the driver makes the ultimate difference at the end of the day?
TIMMY HILL: Yeah, it almost does. I always try to play for the checkered flag. At times you will see different drivers charge to the front, then you see those drivers fade to the back. The reason being is we’re in the same cars and we’re trying to push the cars at different times.
For me personally, I will kind of settle in, take care of my tires. I wouldn’t work the car too hard. Guys would charge through the field, pass me, pass others, really abuse their tires on the racetrack and fall to the back.
It does have the IROC feel. It still allows you as a driver to do different things. If it were at Daytona, probably would be a different feel. At a track where you’re still lifting, Texas was a track where we didn’t lift a whole lot. I think you saw separation at Homestead because we saw more lifting. Definitely tightens the field up and creates an IROC feel.
Since you have had so many starts, talk about the evolution of iRacing. For a lot of us, the last two weeks have been our introduction to the sport.
TIMMY HILL: I think when I first started they probably had half the number of cars on the service that they do now. What I mean by that is over the years, iRacing loves to reinvest in their service. They’ve added lot of road courses, a lot of road cars. They’ve added racetracks. They really try to keep up with the racetracks as they change.
For Texas in particular, they just repaved. For iRacing, they can’t just make a couple adjustments when a track repaves. They actually have to come to the racetrack, rescan it, reprogram it, put it back in the system. It takes them a long time. They do an excellent job of reinvesting in their service. I can’t thank them enough.
Over the years they’ve updated the Cup car a number of times because in real life we’ve updated the Cup car. They look to keep iRacing as real as possible. When NASCAR does updates, whether that be the style, the body of the car, whether that means the spoiler or the downforce package, the restrictor plates, iRacing is really quick to jump on along with NASCAR.
They come to race shops and they come to the racetracks, they really learn. They take a lot of advice from drivers. They really try to get their platform and their service as realistic as possible.
To see the evolution of iRacing has really grown over the years, it’s only going to keep on growing.
During this unprecedented time, do you think this invitational series might lead to a new branded division during the 2021 off‑season to showcase drivers, teams and sponsors?
TIMMY HILL: I think the potential is there. NASCAR has been working with iRacing, they’ve been working with NASCAR Heat. Personally I think iRacing is far greater than NASCAR Heat. I’m glad that NASCAR has partnered with iRacing.
It’s only going to become bigger and grow more. I think the competition is definitely there. I think its potential to grow is as much as it can.
With that being said, iRacing has done a good job in the last couple years not to be involved in the PEAK Series, now the Coca‑Cola Series. They have a tremendous opportunity for iRacers to get involved. I believe the purse this year is $300,000. They have a heck of an opportunity to win a much larger purse.
The only thing they’re lacking right now is the broadcast side of it. Right now they’re only broadcasting on YouTube and Twitch. They get a lot of viewers right now. With this trial that FOX is doing with NASCAR and iRacing, it’s getting more of an audience involved. It’s introducing people to virtual racing a little bit more.
I don’t know what will come from this. I think the possibilities are definitely there. I’m excited to see how it could grow.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times running in the real world for some of the smaller teams, starting your own truck team. How challenging are these times, the smaller teams depend on being at the track every week to make this work, how challenging are these times for you with the Cup side and as the owner of a team on the truck side?
TIMMY HILL: It’s extremely challenging. We don’t have that many employees on my truck team. Like I said, I only have one employee for me, so only the two of us. I feel pretty safe about some of the work we do. Kind of space out from each other. We’ve been still working the last few weeks, really building our stuff.
I’ve had to dig into my savings account. I got a really good crew chief in Greg. I don’t want to lay him off during this times. At MBM Motorsports, they’ve had to make tough decisions how they want to move forward because unfortunately we need the purse money to keep progressing. For me personally, I think NASCAR is really trying to run all the races.
I always want to reinvest for my program. For me personally on the truck team, I haven’t laid my one employee off. I’m still paying him, going into my savings trying to figure it out. We worked together a full year now, I feel like he’s part of my family. We’ll keep working hard. Hopefully we can race sooner or later because we do rely on that purse.
Obviously when I go back racing, I’ll be able to make a lot of that money back. Business as usual for me right now. I just hope we go back racing soon.
Eddie Gossage posted on social media he does have a hat for you.
TIMMY HILL: Excellent (laughter).
How much confidence does this give you? Obviously you won in iRacing before. Now you’ve done it in front of your peers. How much confidence does that give you going back to the track having this win under your belt?
TIMMY HILL: It definitely has, a lot of confidence. It was really neat the first race when I went and rewatched the broadcast, I look forward to rewatching this one this evening, to hear like Dale Jr. say I was his favorite, here a lot of commentators say I was their favorite, they were kind of rooting for me to win.
To come up short last week because of tires, I was really disappointed. I got so much experience on the service that I really want to capitalize on it. I put in a lot of hours this week, really wanted to do well. To finally win, that was really neat. I got a lot of congratulatory messages from the competition on the server before I left.
Going forward, I think (indiscernible) what to practice, what to shoot for. I think it’s exciting, looking forward to what that may bring for me.
Seeing how the popularity is increasing, they got the purse and everything for the series, you’re not one of the top drivers, making a living, but could you see this as a full‑time gig for you if the money came around and exposure came around?
TIMMY HILL: As far as iRacing?
TIMMY HILL: Well, for me personally, I tried iRacing. I was a part of the PEAK Series. I was part of the series that pays money, which was very tough to do, for the last three or four years. The toughest thing for me in that series is they require you to build your setup. For me personally, I just didn’t have that amount of time to take time and build setups and do well in the series.
At one point in the service, I was ranked No. 1. When I joined the PEAK Series at the time, I really kind of dropped us because your rating is based on how you race. It took so much of my time, I didn’t have the time for it. I’m so committed to real life racing, I kind of had to bail on that series because I couldn’t put the effort and time in for it.
What’s neat about the Sunday race is its fixed setup series. I can adapt. I only learn one setup, not drive, change an adjustment, drive again, change an adjustment. It takes a whole week to do.
I don’t know. I never want to take away from anything I do in real life. If iRacing can put on something for a fixed setup based series, it would be neat. I’d be an advocate for them to do that.
I think the racing you saw today was really great racing. I think it brings the driver’s talent out of it. When you force drivers to make changes on their own, they separate. When everybody is on the same setup and cars, driver talent rises. If they do something like that, I’d be totally in for it.
When you look at the top five, what do you feel like this does for guys like Garrett Smithley, Landon Cassill who are usually driving under‑funded equipment on the track?
TIMMY HILL: I say this time and time again. Some of the best drivers are underrecognized because of the opportunity they’re in. I’ve made a career personally out of taking cars that were 35th to 40th place cars, qualifying 25th. The reason I’ve been able to stay in this sport is because I can take a car and elevate it to a level to make fields, ultimately make a paycheck for teams.
I wish people would kind of focus back towards that side of the garage, understand the deficits that we’re facing going into a race, because I think a lot of guys are shortchanged, some of their talents. I feel like I’m one of them. I feel like a lot of the guys in the top five are in the same boat as I am.
I’m glad this is kind of showing a little bit of that. I don’t know if it will transfer in real life. I’m glad at least for the last couple weeks and going forward that can kind of showcase that a little bit.
Do you feel this is an important time for NASCAR just being even if it’s virtual this is the only sport putting something out there live every Sunday at this point?
TIMMY HILL: I think for NASCAR it’s a great way to stay relevant at a time where people are just starving for content and for entertainment. What’s neat about iRacing is it relates a lot to what we do in real life. Unfortunately for other sports, with basketball, different other sports, you can’t really translate to a virtual reality, so to speak. You can’t go on PlayStation, really get the same comparison to what iRacing provides as far as to the comparisons to NASCAR.
I think it’s a great way to put this content out there for NASCAR to stay relevant, for the drivers to stay involved with the fans, really to kind of get that competitive edge on each other. We’re all fighting here. It’s a great way to really stay relevant.
What do you think this means for everyone, whether they’re NASCAR fans or not, during this crazy time having some sort of live sports to get away from everything?
TIMMY HILL: It’s really a fun way. I think racing fans in general love watching all types of racing. Heck, I was watching Twitter the other day, I saw somebody had marbles racing down a mountain. That was entertaining.
This is far beyond that obviously. It’s really realistic. The racing looks almost real. Some people flipping through the channels may even think it is real.
I think it’s a great way to keep the fans entertained. I think it’s a great way to keep the drivers involved, to keep talking about NASCAR. I think it’s a great thing.
You told us back in Daytona that was a bit of a statement for you to say to the fans that have discouraged you that you can pull it off. Is this kind of a feeling like that? Talk about the feeling of winning today’s race compared to the feeling of the final laps in Daytona or Martinsville.
TIMMY HILL: This finish today feels really special. Like I said back in Daytona, I try to capitalize on the opportunities when I’m given them. A lot of weekends I just don’t have the opportunity to really shine. It doesn’t look pretty most weekends when I take a 40th place car in Xfinity and we can qualify 25th. People say 25th isn’t very good. I don’t think they understand how much I elevate these cars.
When I come to Daytona, we’ve been able to put together good programs in February. This particular Daytona in February we came down there with a Gibbs motor. We ran much better, more competitive, finished third. In the 500 we rented a motor, made the 500, really ran well in the 500. Got caught in a crash with 12 to go.
With that being said, with iRacing I’m given a good car every time I log in, right? I’m able to take advantage of that every time and look better when I’m on iRacing because I’m not fighting a lot of the things I’m fighting on a regular basis in NASCAR.
With that being said, I definitely try to capitalize every time I get a great opportunity. I’m trying to capitalize every time in a car. It just doesn’t look like it a lot of times.
I really hope something can come from this. I hope to build from this. I hope to really keep carrying this on.
How often does iRacing update, whether it’s a new tire model? How long does it take you to get up to speed?
TIMMY HILL: Typically when they change a tire model, it doesn’t take that long. It takes a little bit of adjusting because everybody is used to a certain way of driving. It only takes me about a day, maybe two at most. I think each driver is probably going to be a little bit different. It could take some drivers a couple laps, could take them a whole week. Who knows?
iRacing does that to only enhance the racing, make it more realistic as possible. I commend them for that. But it doesn’t take that long. They’re only trying to make the racing better and more realistic. I look forward to every time. They do that quarterly, four times a year. I always look forward to that. I like to see the changes iRacing makes each time we do that each year.
How much of a new respect do your competitors have for iRacing?
TIMMY HILL: I think a lot of them are definitely taking it more serious now. I think they’ve underestimated the amount of effort it takes to be competitive. I think that’s why the situation is much better this week because they saw how tough it was at Homestead. They said we got to work harder at this.
I think the respect for the service has just increased. I think it’s only going to get more and more as we go down the line. I think they understand this takes a lot of effort a lot of work. You can’t just jump on it and expect to be good. I look forward to seeing how the drivers react in the next coming week and see how the competition increases.
Do you think they have a new respect for you, for Garrett Smithley and Landon Cassill?
TIMMY HILL: I think so. To be honest, I think they always did. I think in the back of their minds they always have. This almost puts an extra stamp on it. They and lot more.
I think drivers in general, in situations where I do have a better car, I look back to some of the other people, I kind of know what guys are up against, what they’re driving, some of the struggles they can’t control. You can always tell.
I think for the most part a lot of these drivers understood and respected the driving I’ve always done each weekend. They understand the struggles I’ve always been up against. I think if they haven’t, it almost clarifies that throughout these couple weeks we’ve been doing iRacing.
THE MODERATOR: Timmy, congrats again and thank you for joining us today.
TIMMY HILL: Thank you so much. I’m happy to answer these questions and excited to celebrate a little bit.
— NASCAR —