Timmy Hill doesn’t want to be in the back side of the Nascar garage for the rest of his career. In his 11 years in the sport, he’s never been parked alongside the sport’s greats.
This is not what Hill, 28, expected when he made his Nascar Xfinity Series debut as an 18-year-old. However, these are the cards he’s been dealt, and he is now known as a driver who races clean and gets the most out of low-funded equipment.
“It’s always a challenge for guys like myself,” Hill, who races part time in the Nascar Cup Series and Xfinity Series for MBM Motorsports, said. “You don’t see guys from the second side of the garage making that jump. It doesn’t come down to driver ability. You see every now and again that a guy gets support and picks up a sponsor, but it’s difficult for the second side of the garage to get that opportunity. You used to see it all the time years ago, but not anymore.”
Hill wants to change that.
In 2019, Hill even started a Camping World Truck Series team with his brother Tyler Hill to change things up. Oftentimes, Hill will compete in all three races in a weekend, even if it’s just a start-and-park effort to run a handful of laps before ending his day.
But Hill believes he deserves a shot to compete near the front of the pack. He’s shown he can get the job done when the low-funded MBM Motorsports actually has solid income for one or two races per year.
“We’ve proven that when we can get sponsorship and buy a full allotment of tires, we can rent a top-notch engine and run well,” Hill, whose best Nascar result is third in the Xfinity Series race at Daytona in 2020, said. “We don’t have major sponsor backing. The prize money is nice to have, but it’s not enough to drive a team to the top-10 level.”
And when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world last year, Nascar took to iRacing to fill a void left by drivers and fans. Hill, an iRacing ace who has hundreds of wins on his virtual resume, automatically became a favorite.
Hill’s virtual No. 66 Toyota Camry took to the track during the pandemic and performed exceptionally well in the simulator. Hill won at Texas Motor Speedway en route to the eNascar iRacing Pro Invitational Series championship.
So when Nascar originally announced the series would return this year and be streamed on Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN, Hill’s team started selling sponsorship for both the real-life No. 66 car and virtual one. But he was snubbed from the entry list because of what Nascar claimed as an “oversight.”
“We aren’t a charter team, meaning that we’re not in the RTA [Race Team Alliance] meetings and others, and they breezed over us,” Hill said. “At that time, we were a full-time team, but we weren’t a part of those meetings. Since then, we’ve stopped running some of the races because it’s been so difficult finding sponsors. We don’t get the same prize money charter teams do.”
While Nascar and Fox Sports apologized to MBM and Hill, it was too little too late. His sponsorship deal, which would’ve likely let him run a large portion of the 2021 Cup Series season, was out of the question.
Hill ran all five of the races this year and led the standings until Nascar canceled the portion of the virtual series that would air on NBCSN in the second half of the season. That was more exposure that could’ve helped Hill elevate his name and team.
Team Penske’s Austin Cindric even offered to let Hill drive the virtual No. 2 Ford Mustang in the opening event of the virtual season at Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt track. Cindric understood how important this is to Hill, even though it didn’t help the Maryland native in the long run.
Hill said, “It was good for me because I still got to run the race. But for the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really help with our sponsors and our team.”
The real-life MBM ran the first six Cup Series races this year besides failing to qualify its two entries for the Daytona 500. But Hill is now watching most of the Cup events from his living room, mostly competing in the Xfinity and Truck series. Because of this, the financial burden hasn’t been easy to deal with at home.
“It’s difficult as far as not running races means I’m personally not making money right now, which is a challenge,” Hill said. “I have a newborn, and babies are very expensive. Not running on Sundays means I get more time at home, which is good. Financially, it’s been difficult and I have to watch what we’re spending and how we’re spending it.
“People assume Nascar drivers make a ton of money — some of them do — but I’m not. I have to watch my everyday spending. On the bright side, I get to spend more time with my wife and kid, and that’s a blessing.”
Now, Hill wants a chance to prove what he’s really capable of. He believes the iRacing events are just a small sample of what he can do on an actual racetrack, even though he’s never had the opportunity to showcase his talent.
That’s why Hill Motorsports, his Truck Series team, is something he enjoys working on. With just one employee, crew chief Greg Ely, he is finally competing for top 10s whenever he is racing. Most of all, he is giving his younger brother a shot to make a name for himself.
“It was also an avenue where I can dictate my own career if something happened where I didn’t have a ride, so I can create this opportunity for myself,” the elder Hill said. “I never had this great idea that I wanted to be a Nascar owner, but it just happened that way. I’ve been successful, and I’ve been in this sport for a long time. It was a natural progression to go in that direction.
“As far as going forward, it would be neat one day to expand the team to be a two-truck team or another level, or even have both of us driving at the same time instead of us swapping seats.”
For now, as Hill hits the reset button, he’s just looking to get the most out of his equipment. He firmly believes he offers potential partners a lot when it comes to a return-on-investment, with sponsorship for each of the divisions he races in coming at a much lower cost.
But if he wants to succeed, he also believes Nascar’s TV partners need to respect him and other low-level drivers when they have a good run.
“I finished third last year at Daytona, and Fox interviewed fourth, fifth, everybody but third,” he said. “I have a lot of support behind me and a lot of fans. I have a good personality and good work ethic, and I’d like to think I have everything somebody would want. I’ve always been skipped over.”
With four top 20s this year in a stacked Xfinity Series field, Hill is showing that he can get the job done when given the chance to do so. Now, it’s time for him to put himself in the free agency conversation with the Next Gen car approaching.
“The future is cloudy, but there’s different avenues to make it work,” Hill said. “I feel good about the next stage of my career. It may not be clear, but I feel good about the different options we’ve got.”