NASCAR’s Sprint Cup rookie-of-the-year race will have a third contender for the balance of the season. Timmy Hill, 20, will run most of the remaining races starting this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., except the remaining restrictor plate events and Martinsville in April, for Frank Stoddard’s FAS Lane Racing.
The other two rookies, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., garnered more preseason headlines for their relationship than their on-track merits – at least until Patrick scored the pole and finished eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500. Through four races, Stenhouse ranks 11th and Patrick 28th in the Sprint Cup series standings.
Hill, while unlikely to threaten the top 20 on a regular basis, did at least manage a top-25 effort for Stoddard’s fledgling team at Kansas Speedway last October. The 22nd-place result was his best finish for Stoddard in three starts last year. Hill has also been named the rookie-of-the-year in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2011.
“He’s a good young kid,” Stoddard told NASCAR.com. “He certainly wants to do it. His dad came to me last year and asked if he could get in the car a few times, so we made an arrangement and tried to work him in there, and I thought he did a really good job. He had a top-25 finish at Kansas City. He didn’t tear the car up, didn’t put a scratch on it in the races. His feedback was good. He had as good a speed as we’ve had with anybody in the car. … So I think there’s room for him to grow and get better, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The OXYwater hydration beverage brand will sponsor the team’s No. 32 Ford. Ken Schrader (Federated Auto Parts as sponsor) will race in Martinsville with Terry Labonte at the three remaining restrictor plate races.
With minimal rookie participation in recent years, the last three Sprint Cup rookies-of-the-year are Stephen Leicht, Andy Lally and Kevin Conway. None has a ride for the 2013 season in NASCAR, and Lally has returned to his sports car roots racing Porsches for the Magnus Racing (GRAND-AM Rolex Series) and Dempsey Racing (American Le Mans Series) teams.