Timmy Hill enters NASCAR’s rookie race

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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.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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