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Bobby Hillin, Jr. is a former driver in NASCAR. He became the youngest driver to start a Winston Cup series race in 1982, where at the age of 17, he finished 21st at North Wilkesboro Speedway in a Buick owned by his father. In later years, he served as substitute driver for several teams before fading back to the Busch Series, where he ended his career. His former crew chief, Harry Hyde, admitted that at one time he had never thought Hillin would make it in NASCAR.
Hillin was born in the state of Texas, where he led an active childhood. So much so, he spent much time in the hospital. When he was five years old, he was diagnosed with one of the first cases of typhoid fever in the United States. Another time, five years later, he had a tumor in his left leg, and was required to undergo surgery. The doctors began operating on the wrong leg and didn't realizee it until halfway through the surgery. Nevertheless, Hillin recovered from of all these setbacks, partly due to a strong relationship with his father. Since his father had a strong love of racing, Hillin decided to pursue a racing career himself, and began running the local short track races, and before he knew it, he made his Winston Cup series debut at the North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1982, when he was still a senior in high school. Hillin finished 21st in that race, twenty-two laps down. He ran four more races that year in the#8 Buick, posting a best finish of 19th at Talladega Superspeedway. In 1983, he ran an abbreviated schedule of 12 starts again in a car owned by his father, and sponsored by Trap Rock Industries and posted two eleventh-place finishes.
The Stavola Years Edit
Despite the fact that Hillin's limited Cup experience yielded no top tens, he caught the eye of two New Jersey businessmen, Billy and Mickey Stavola. The two brothers purchased Hillin's raceteam and began fielding cars for him in 1984. In 16 starts, Hillin only had one top ten finish and finished 32nd in points as the team struggled to finds its groove. In 1985, Hillin ran his first full-time schedule in the sport, posting five top ten finshing 15th in points. That same year, he met Lake Speed and Darrell Waltrip and soon be came a born-again Christian. 1986 was his career year in the series. With new sponsorship from Miller American when he beat out Tim Richmond to win the Talladega 500 to become the youngest driver at the time to win a Winston Cup race, and finished the year 9th in points. 1987 didn't see Hillin make a repeat performance, as he only posted four top tens dropped ten spots in the standings. 1988 saw Hillin move back up seven spots, but the year was marked with Hillin almost losing teammate Bobby Allison in a crash at Pocono Raceway. In 1989, Hillin missed his first race in five years and finished sixteenth in points despite being teamed with eventual Rookie of the Year Dick Trickle, and by the end of the 1990 season, it was obvious that the Stavola/Hillin tandem was no longer working, and he was released from his duties.
Hillin's first post-Stavola job came with driving the #20 team, replacing Rob Moroso, who had died in an accident the previous year. After ten races, he took over briefly for Jimmy Means, before he was called on by Felix Sabates to replace Kyle Petty in the Mello Yello ride while Petty nursed his wounds from a broken leg. After an admirable performance in that car where he posted four top-fifteen finishes, Hillin drove only briefly in 1992, before signing up with Donlavey Racing in 1993. The frustrating year resulted in no top-ten finishes, and he was released following the third race in 1994. After starting 1995 unemployed, he replaced rookie Davy Jones in the USAir ride owned by D.K. Ulrich, and finished 9th in the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hillin's 1996 season was less spectacular, as it was riddled with constant DNQ's and DNF's, resulting in a 37th place finish in the championship points. After his 1997 season started out on the wrong foot again, he was released from his ride.
Busch Series Edit
Following his toss from his Cup team, Hillin took the rest of the season off. He decided to rebuild his wallowing career in the NASCAR Busch Series, where he had two previous victories in the late 1980's. Driving the #8 car as a salute to his days with the Stavola team, he co-owned the car with baseball star Mark McGwire, himself in pursuit of the home run record. As a result, the team ran many baseball-themed paint schemes in addition to the Clean Shower sponsorship. The result was Hillin becoming a huge fan-favorite, and McGuire's success seemed to rub off as Hillin posted a second-place finish at the MBNA Platinum 200, and finishing 24th in points despite missing eight races during the season. Despite improving his championship status by five positions the next season, he only had two top-ten finishes and lost his Clean Shower sponoship. In 2000, he hooked up with Kleenex, hoping the success they had had with Jeff Green's team last season would carry over to his team. It did not, and Hillin only qualifed for half the races that season. He also made a brief return to the Cup series that year, substituting for Stacy Compton at the Melling Racing orginization, starting 21st before finishing 40th after a crash. After the season concluded, Hillin sold his race team and retired soon after. Many people were puzzled that a driver with such promise and seemingly so much gas in the tank could fail miserably in his career, but as Hillin wrote, "I've been in this position before and God has always provided. He has a plan for me; it's just a matter of exercising my faith, which stands as an example to other people. It's when we go through tough times that keeping the faith gets challenging."