Hillenburg Ends 2018 on Positive Note, Turns Attention to 2019

Hillenburg Ends 2018 on Positive Note, Turns Attention to 2019

For team owner Andy Hillenburg, racing in the ARCA Racing Series has been a way of life since 1992. That year, he teamed with fellow USAC open wheel ace Ken Schrader to tackle the restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Hillenburg proved to be a quick study, staying out of trouble and coming home with a top-ten finish in each.

In 1995, Hillenburg competed for the full season - the only time he's done that in his driving career - and came away with a pair of wins, at the season opener at Daytona and on the smallest, tightest track the series visited that season, the quarter-mile Flat Rock Speedway.

Hillenburg's 1995 season saw him rack up nine total top-five finishes, 17 finishes among the top ten, and most importantly, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards national championship.

Hillenburg never again raced the full season as a driver. Once his driving career started to wind down, he turned his focus to team ownership, and working not only with young drivers but mentoring team members as well.

Since 1995, Hillenburg has fielded entries 441 times in ARCA Racing Series events, often with multiple cars in each race. Unofficially, Hillenburg has fielded entries for 85 drivers since 1995, including full-season runs for the championship with drivers A.J. Fike and Chad McCumbee.

Fast Track Racing has one win, Hillenburg's 1995 Flat Rock triumph, 23 top five finishes, and prior to 2018, 78 top ten finishes.

To say 2018 was a challenge for Hillenburg and his team may be the understatement of the season.

Just getting to the track proved to be a challenge in the middle part of the season when the team's hauler malfunctioned at Madison, necessitating a move from the relative comfort of the 18-wheeler to a dually with a tag trailer for much of the rest of the season.

"I am really fortunate to have a lot of great kids that work with us, and a couple of really good natural leaders," Hillenburg said. "We might not be equal to to the other teams right now in terms of funding, but I know we match them in heart and desire."

Bringing two cars, and crew members to prep them, in a dually pickup could be trying for even the heartiest of racers. But Hillenburg never wavered. He continued to show up, and by the end of the season there was light at the end of the tunnel.

"It was a challenge, but driving the dually to the races was something I enjoyed because I could actually drive it," Hillenburg said. "I am really hands on with my race team. I like to load and unload the trailer. I like to go up and be the spotter. I like to coach the drivers and they even let me wax the cars. I hire people a lot smarter than me to actually work on them."

Tyler Hill, son of former ARCA driver Jerry Hill and brother of current NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Timmy Hill, signed on to drive in a handful of the races at the end of the season. The No. 10 car's performance improved steadily over the final weeks of the year, and at Kansas the hard work paid off when Hill crossed the line in seventh position.

To make things even better, Hillenburg's second entry, the No. 11 car, also finished among the top ten with Zach Ralston at the wheel. It marked the first time in Hillenburg's long tenure as an owner than he had two cars in the top ten at the end of an ARCA Racing Series event.

"That's really cool," Hillenburg said. "I guess I never realized that we never had two top tens in the same race. We're always working hard with our noses down trying to get to the next race I don't think I ever paid too much attention to that stat. But it tells me we're getting our cars better. We've worked really hard to upgrade our equipment.

"We got a little behind in the conversion to composite body cars, but we're getting caught up. We just added another car this week. We have three Ilmor engines now. The transformation isn't complete but it's going to take a some time and a lot of hard work."

Hillenburg is already turning his attention towards 2019.

"Ed Pompa and Rick Clifton will be back for four to six races each," Hillenburg said. "Those guys are two of my best friends and I like working with them as much as I liked driving myself. Tyler Hill is a great kid and he helped us step up our program with great feedback and his skill behind the wheel. We hope he's back for a handful of races when his schedule allows too. And we have a full season deal that we're really close to announcing, which should be done around the PRI Show."

Comments
RobbyG83

Best of luck in the 2019 season .