2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Chad Hillier Chad Hillier lived a dream last season as he competed full-time with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series for the first time in his career. He...
2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Preview: Chad Hillier
Chad Hillier lived a dream last season as he competed full-time with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series for the first time in his career. He visited countless tracks for the first time from to coast-to-coast as he raced against the best sprint car drivers in the world night after night. After a busy off-season, he is prepared to compete full-time with the series again in 2008.
The new season will kick off in just about two weeks for Hillier, as he takes part in the 37th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida.
"I can't wait to get back to racing, said Hillier. "We have been working real hard in the shop this winter getting a bit more organized and prepared to hit this season hard."
Hillier has a vast collection of notes from last season that he and his team can turn to when they visit tracks this season. They also will be able to look back at their experiences both on and off the track from last season to help them better prepare for the 2008 campaign.
"It really does help going back to tracks for another time instead of the first time and will definitely take some pressure off of us," said the native of Burlington, Washington. "We have learned from the mistakes that we made last year and don't plan on making as many as a team and as a driver."
Hillier, finished third in the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award standings last season, and a very respectable 20th overall in the championship points. He earned his first career Top-10 finish with the series at Kokomo Speedway in Indiana during the Hoosier Sprint Nationals in June. He also set fast time during time trials in his first visit to Paducah International Raceway in Kentucky in early April.
Competing with veteran drivers, some of which have been racing longer than he has been alive, helped Hillier to gain confidence last season. Each time he took to the track in 2007, he learned, as well as each time he watched other drivers during hot laps or heat races from the pit area. He also took advantage of every opportunity that he had to talk with the veteran drivers and to pick their brains.
"You learn how to adapt quickly not only to the size of new tracks, but the surface and shape as well," he noted. "I still need more experience on many of the tracks that we go to and that will only come with time. That is one thing you can not find overnight. Experience is time you must live and learn from."
Hillier will again have the chance to race at his home track this season. He is the only driver in the history of Skagit Speedway in Washington to win a title in all three sprint car divisions: 410, 360 and Sportsman. While he is excited to race in front of his home fans, he also is cautious, knowing that he puts extra pressure on himself when he returns home.
"Every one wants to do well on their home turf and I might have a bit of and an advantage, but I really look forward to every night of racing as much as the rest," said Hillier. "I love going to new places and working hard as a team to do our best and love the feeling of accomplishment when we leave."
Having faced stiff competition each and every night last season, Hillier expects this season to be just as tough. He also is quick to point out just how tough the local and regional competitors are who compete against the travelers from coast-to-coast.
"The level of competition and quality of cars is not only high within the series, but also at the tracks we travel to," explained the second year driver. "This year will be even tougher than last and tougher again in the years to come, because every team is that competitive. They want to win more than the next guy and more than the year before."
While Hillier learned a great deal about set-ups and the nuts and bolts of going fast last season, the most important thing he may have learned was off the track and how to prepare himself and his team mentally for a full season on the road with the series.
"I guess if I had to say what made me a better racer was learning how to take the good with the bad, and to not lose focus on the bigger picture," he said. "Staying focused every night is a key, as well as not getting lost in your goals. Experience and success can only be achieved if you can give more than the week before and even more the week coming, and staying positive in all situations."
After utilizing a few different crew members in 2007, Hillier and his team will start the year off with Pete Stephens who joined the team last year as crew chief, along with Travis LoGrande helping turn the wrenches.
"I feel they will work together well and keep each other positive and aggressive all year," said Hillier. "We all are really good friends and I think that will help with all the hours that we do spend with each other."
With the season stretching from February until early November, Hillier looks to continue to learn each time he hits the track as he did in 2007, and one of his main objectives is to run at the front of the field.
"The ultimate goal is to get that first victory, but we are shooting for the moon every night and have team goals that we hope to meet," he said. "Give my all every lap, and do our best with no regrets, is how I approach it. Dave DeWitt has given me the opportunity of a lifetime and my goal is to return the satisfaction he has given me."