Season Review: Chad Hillier

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Chad Hillier had always dreamed of running a full season with the World of Outlaws. That dream became a reality this season as he contested the entire schedule as a contender for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award, driving for car owner Dave DeWitt from Washington.

With over 20 teams competing full-time this season with the series, including three other rookie drivers, Hillier knew he would be facing stout competition each and every time he hit the track. He was ready for the challenge and gained confidence each night he strapped into his race car.

“I think it was even tougher than I thought it would be,” said Hillier, driver of the DIRT Inc. Maxim. “I knew it would be no easy task by any means. The guys we were competing against for the rookie of the year were a bunch of tough guys. My hat is off to Kerry (Madsen) for the great year he had and to all the other guys. It’s a long year for guys that have not been out here to stick it out.”

While he was a rookie on the track with the World of Outlaws, life on the road was nothing new to the native of Burlington, Washington. He was a crew member for the Selma Shell Racing team in 2005, when Paul McMahan was behind the wheel of the machine owned by the late Dave Helm.

“Having been out here before, I kind of knew what to expect,” he said. “I knew there would be many sleepless nights and a lot of miles traveled. I love it, so it was not that bad on me. For some of the crew members we had out it was a new experience. For my car owner Dave (DeWitt) it was a new deal for him.”

Hillier visited a number of tracks this season that he had never seen before, including Paducah International Raceway in Kentucky, where he earned his first fast time honor in time trials with the World of Outlaws on April 6. He bested a very strong 39 car field and also earned a spot in the Crane Cams Dash that night, where he finished sixth.

“We all learned, and every year that you come out here, you will learn something,” he noted. “I’m sure there are guys that have been out here for 20 and 30 years that still learn out here. All in all, we learned quite a bit and are excited for next year, and we’ll just take what we learned this year and move on.”

Hillier knew that he would be competing against a number of drivers that have been racing sprint cars longer than he has been alive, but he did not dwell on that. Instead he focused on what he and his crew needed to do each night to make their car faster and for him to get more comfortable behind the wheel on numerous tracks he had never seen before.

“It was a little intimidating, but I got over that pretty quick,” shared Hillier, who is the only driver in the history of Skagit Speedway in Washington to win a title in all three sprint car divisions. “They put their pants on the same way that you do. They have been out here for so long because they are good at what they do. The nights that you can compete with them and even beat them are the nights that build your confidence.”

Hillier had a great respect for all the drivers he competed against this season, and was honored to line up next to some of the all time greats in the sport. He held his own very well in 2007 and learned each time he turned a lap, whether it was in hot laps, time trails, a heat race, the dash or a feature event. He and his crew also received advice from a number of the veteran drivers and teams over the course of the season that stretched from February until early November.

“There are nights when you start on the front row with Steve (Kinser) or (Danny) Lasoski or (Donny) Schatz and you try to do your best to hold them off, even though you know that they will probably take you to school,” he said.

Having competed over 80 times this season, Hillier looked at every race the same way, even when the team had some bad luck. This even-keel approach served him well as he finished the season with 12 Top-15 finishes. He earned a season-best finish of eighth at Kokomo Speedway in Indiana during the Hoosier Sprint Nationals in June. He also picked up the KSE Race Products Hard Charger Award once this season. The award went to the driver that gained the most spots in the A-Feature each night.

Hillier also had the opportunity to compete in the inaugural Dave Helm Memorial at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California in September. The event honored Helm, who was one of the most respected car owners in sprint car racing, and for whom he was a crew member in 2005. In addition to this, the rookie driver had the chance to return home to Skagit Speedway to compete, as well as racing at Grays Harbor Raceway, also in his home state of Washington.

“The whole year is a highlight as a whole,” smiled Hillier. “I don’t want to point out one night or anything. It was great as well to get to race in Washington. It was great getting to travel the entire country.”

After the inaugural Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, Hillier and his team made the nearly 3,000 mile journey back to the Evergreen state. After gain valuable experience this season, Hillier is looking forward to enjoying some time at home and then beginning to prepare for another round with the World of Outlaws in 2008.

“We’re going to go through the motions and get everything worked out for next year,” he said. “We’ll be home for two months and get some time to rest. We’ll probably get some time to do some of the things we don’t get to do while on the road.”

The 2008 World of Outlaws season begins on February 8 with the 37th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

Up Next: 2007 World of Outlaws Season Review: Sam Hafertepe Jr.

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