Saturday, May 28, 2022

XFINITY: Career-best qualifying run for Timmy Hill undone by broken shock mount

PHOTO: @STaranto92

Timmy Hill picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #13 Prime Hydration Toyota was involved in a single-car crash after 25 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Hill’s 232nd start, was his first of the season and first since October 24, 2020 at Texas, 48 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 10th for the #13, the 154th for Toyota, and the 364th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 35th for the #13, the 373rd for Toyota, and the 1,290th from a crash.

The 2022 season has been another step forward for Hill, who continues to split time between driving and team ownership. Hill Motorsports, the Truck Series team he fields with brother Tyler, has upgraded its flagship #56 to the new Toyota, yielding four top-twenty finishes in the first nine races with a season-best 14th in Daytona. The team has also expanded to a second part-time entry, the #5, which Tyler raced to a 21st in Kansas and 25th last week in Texas.

On the Cup and XFINITY side, Hill has remained loyal to Carl Long, whose Motorsports Business Management team has continued to enter him in races whenever possible. After left following the pandemic-affected 2020 season, Hill’s full-time Cup schedule scaled back to just 13 starts in 2021 with no finishes better than 27th. MBM did acquire at least two NextGen cars, but Hill ended up missing the Daytona 500 field for a second-straight year. Other than Boris Said’s 26th-place run at COTA, the #66 has not started a race since. Their second entry, the #55 with J.J. Yeley, has only made one start at Talladega, taking 25th.

Hill and MBM have instead focused more on the XFINITY Series, which has had its own share of challenges. While J.J. Yeley secured full-time backing to run the team’s #66, their #13 entry began the year struggling to even qualify. Stan Mullis failed to make the races at Las Vegas and Phoenix, followed by another two DNQs for Chad Finchum at Atlanta and Martinsville. Natalie Decker took the controls at Talladega, but the result was the same. Hill, meanwhile, picked up a one-off with RSS Racing for Fontana, an opportunity inherited from Yeley before he’d landed his full-time effort. But that ride ultimately went to Joe Graf, Jr., who failed to qualify a Stewart-Haas Racing prepared entry for SS-Green Light Racing.

In late April, RSS appeared to return the favor by selling the owner points for their struggling third entry, the #28, one of at least three XFINITY programs to have scaled back from full-time to part-time this season. The points went to MBM’s #13 just in time for Chad Finchum to make the field in the following race at Dover. Hill then took the wheel the next week at Dover, finishing 33rd, and improved last week in Texas with a 27th-place finish. 

In his previous two series start, Hill carried sponsorship from Coble Enterprises, which joined he and MBM late in the 2021 season. But he would carry a new look at Charlotte. This time, his Toyota was blue, matching the color scheme of sponsor Prime Hydration. The latest in a series of coconut water-based drinks similar to Ryan Blaney sponsor BodyArmor, Prime carries the branding of social media influencers Logan Paul and KSI. Paul tweeted about Hill’s sponsorship in the lead-up to the race.

Despite his Owner Points from RSS, Hill would have his work cut out for him in Charlotte. His was one of 42 teams in the garage area set to contest the 38-car starting grid, meaning four would be sent home. In practice, Hill ranked 28th – just ahead of teammate Yeley – but then stunned with a fast lap in qualifying, securing 9th with a lap of 176.131mph (30.659 seconds). Hill’s was third-fastest of the Toyotas, trailing only the high-powered Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Brandon Jones in the #19 Menards / Bali Toyota (5th) and Trevor Bayne in the #18 Devotion Nutrition Toyota (6th). Ultimately, both Jones and Bayne would incur tail-end penalties before the start for unapproved adjustments, making Hill’s the highest-classified Toyota in the lineup. This was Hill’s career-best XFINITY Series qualifying effort, improving on his previous mark of 15th at Darlington last year.

Five drivers failed to turn a lap in qualifying, of which three made the field – Ty Gibbs, whose team was making repairs to the right side of his #54 Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota, Riley Herbst in the #98 Monster Energy Ford who was sent to a backup car, and Jeffrey Earnhardt in the #26 Forever Lawn Toyota. These three secured the final starting spots with Earnhardt in last place. All three would also incur pre-race tail-end penalties – Herbst’s for the backup, and Gibbs and Earnhardt for unapproved adjustments. Also docked for unapproved adjustments were Ryan Vargas in the #6 Chevrolet, Joe Graf, Jr. in the #07 Ford, and the aforementioned Jones and Bayne.

The other two who didn’t time in missed the cut – Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in the #77 Honest Amish Chevrolet – still shut-out of a start so far in 2022 – and the same #28 RSS Racing team that had sold its Owner Points to MBM and Hill. To be raced by Kyle Sieg, the #28 Night Owl Ford was a dazzling “throwback” scheme to the late Davey Allison’s Havoline Ford - specifically the black-and-gold version that won the Mello Yello 500 at the Charlotte track in 1990. The other two who made attempts, but fell short were Mason Massey in the #91 Anderson Power Services Chevrolet and David Starr in the #08 EVERFI / Special Report Ford.

Hill on pit road.
PHOTO: @DnfRacers

Another team that, like Hill, turned heads in qualifying was Mike Harmon Racing. Just before his eventual last-place finish in Friday’s Truck Series race, Brennan Poole qualified Harmon’s #47 American Scroll Chevrolet a solid 19th on the grid. This would mark just the fourth series start for Poole in 2022 and his first since Martinsville, where a clutch failure coming to the green flag also left him in last place. But when the command to start engines came on Saturday, history repeated itself. The #47’s engine wouldn’t fire, stranding him on pit road as the rest of the field rolled away. Ryan Sieg also had issues securing his window net some distance behind in his stopped #39 A-Game Ford. Sieg caught up to the field after the first pace lap, but Poole was still on pit road when the green flag dropped, citing a battery issue. Poole immediately took over last place from the penalized drivers, and wouldn’t return to the track until around Lap 10.

Hill, meanwhile, did not drop to the back of the field, and defended his top-ten start from the top lane. He didn’t drop to 11th until Lap 3, and even then still engaged in a tight battle with Jeb Burton in Our Motorsports’ #27 Puryear Tank Lines Chevrolet. On Lap 7, Brandon Brown made an unscheduled stop under green for a flat right-front tire on his #68 Trade The Chain Chevrolet. Brandon Jones then brought out the first yellow on Lap 16, when he spun during his charge from the back of the pack. Both Brandons avoided serious damage with Brown getting the Lucky Dog under Jones’ yellow, each still several laps ahead of the returning Poole for the Lap 20 restart.

Heading into Turn 3, Hill broke loose in Turns 3 and 4 and only made minimal contact with the right-rear corner of his Toyota. He then came down pit road reporting a flat tire, during which time Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick of the “Drivers Only” FS1 broadcast crew remarked on Hill’s excellent qualifying run. The MBM crew changed right-side tires and sent him back on track under the ensuing caution. But by Lap 31, with the race back underway, Hill was behind the wall and out of the race, the Damaged Vehicle Policy ultimately citing crash damage as his reason for falling out. Hill tweeted that a broken shock mount caused both the spin and incident - the same reason for Keith McGee's short night in Friday's Truck race.

Jeffrey Earnhardt’s day also ended early when on Lap 42 he tangled with Kyle Weatherman’s #34 Equity Prime Mortgage Chevrolet and Myatt Snider’s #31 Chevrolet, drawing the fourth caution of the day. Both Earnhardt and Weatherman were done for the day while Snider recovered to finish 10th. Poole’s battery issue became a brake issue later in the first half of the event, leaving him 35th. Joe Graf, Jr. rounded out the Bottom Five following a five-car tangle on Lap 110 that turned out to be the final caution of the race.

*This marked Hill’s first XFINITY last-place finish at Charlotte since October 9, 2016, when electrical issues after 33 laps handed him his first series last-place run.

38) #13-Timmy Hill / 25 laps / crash
37) #26-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 41 laps / crash
36) #34-Kyle Weatherman / 41 laps / crash
35) #47-Brennan Poole / 71 laps / brakes
34) #07-Joe Graf, Jr. / 109 laps / crash

1st) Alpha Prime Racing, JD Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing (2)
2nd) Big Machine Racing, Kaulig Racing, Motorsports Business Management, Richard Childress Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


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