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For Hill and RWR, plenty of building to do in 2012

February 01, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Nationwide Series rookie of the year Timmy Hill didn't wreck any cars in 2011, mainly because he knew Rick Ware Racing didn't have any cars to wreck.

"Pretty much the entire year, we were short on funding," Hill said. "We didn't have a lot of sponsorship. So they said, 'Protect the car as much as possible because you may not race next week if you tear it up.'

"... We didn't wreck all season, which is a huge help for an underfunded team. We were able to keep building the cars faster instead of rebuilding them from crashes."

"The team's building chemistry and building equipment. The cars are better, we've got another team with Blake coming on board."

--TIMMY HILL

That's pretty impressive for any young driver, but even more so for a kid who missed the season opener at Daytona because one week shy of his 18th birthday, he wasn't eligible to race in NASCAR's top three national series.

Not only did it prove to be a successful economic strategy, but it paid long-term dividends for Hill in another way: additional race experience. In 33 starts, Hill completed 93 percent of the total laps run -- and failed to make it to the halfway point in only two races.

"By not tearing the cars up, I got as much seat time as possible," Hill said. "We had little failures all year long. We had two engine failures, but for 33 races, that's awesome. So I got to do all the laps. For a rookie, I got to run all 300 miles -- and 300 miles is a long time for getting experience.

"Going into my second year, I'm ahead of some of these other rookies who didn't. It's just going to better me for this season, because I know all the tricks, all the bumps. So I don't have to worry about learning all of that. I can just go out and do my thing."

Hill has proven his consistency, with 14 finishes of 21st through 24th. That showed he was able to take care of his equipment. Now he wants to take the next big step: running up front.

"Our goal this year is get a top-10 in points," Hill said. "We missed the first race last year because I wasn't old enough, so we had to shoot for rookie of the year title. It changed our game up a little. This year, we're going to go out and go for the best finishes possible and just do our thing."

Hill began racing go-karts at age 12, and won more than 80 races and a pair of World Karting Association championships in his first season. That led him up the ladder to Bandoleros and Legends cars, and eventually late model stock cars and ARCA.

But the heavier Nationwide cars were a whole different deal for the Port Tobacco, Md., native.

"Growing up and not racing anything like a Nationwide car -- it's big and kind of low on horsepower for the types of tracks we race on -- I learned a lot," Hill said. "They're big momentum cars. I learned what's better, as far as braking or letting them roll [through the corners]."

It also helped Hill to play "follow the leader" in many instances, using the experience of veterans to help him learn the fastest way around the track.

"It's a big level of competition out here and you learn fast from these guys," Hill said. "When a car comes by, you learn their line. And when another comes by, you learn their line. You learn the braking points and the acceleration points. It definitely helps."

Another thing Hill feels he'll have a better handle on in 2012 is setups.

"The biggest thing I've got to work on -- and I've pretty much got it down now -- is to go out and really tell the crew how the car is handing right away," Hill said. "For the first half of the season, I wasn't really able to do that because I was still learning the tracks, so that's the biggest thing."

Surprisingly, the tracks on which Hill felt most confident in 2011 were road courses. He finished a season-best 11th at Road America and held his own at Watkins Glen and Montreal.

"I never really had any road course experience growing up," Hill said. "The only experience I ever had was running the Legends car on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"A Nationwide car [has] synchronized shifting, which is the same thing as a Legends car -- they're light and small, but they have real high torque, almost like a heavy stock car. Even though they're completely different in size and the tracks they run on, in their own way, they're similar. When I went out there and made the first lap, I said, 'Hey, guys, this handles just like a Legends car.' "

With a new teammate in Blake Koch and an influx of sponsorship money, Hill sees good things happening for him in 2012. And if he happens to bend up a car or two along the way, it'll probably be OK.

"The team's building chemistry and building equipment," Hill said. "The cars are better, we've got another team with Blake coming on board. Rick Ware Racing has done an awesome job over the offseason and this team is really going to be good for us."

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