West Series: 100th career race for Bobby Hillis Jr.

By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires.

This Friday at Sonoma Raceway, CA, a 39th driver will reach the mark of 100 career races in the history the ARCA Menards West Series since its creation in 1954. That driver is Bobby Hillis, Jr. He is the owner/driver of the No. 27 Fierce Creature Racing.

Bobby hillis jr. Will make his 100th arca menards series west start at sonoma raceway.
Photo by Ryan Hale via Vincent Delforge.

Moreover, he is not the only veteran with more than 100 career starts still in activity since we also find at Sonoma Johnny Borneman, III (128th race), Todd Souza (124th race) and Takuma Koga (117th race).

We are still far from Jack Sellers’ absolute record with his 282 starts. But Sellers experienced an era when there were more races per season, not to mention his longevity since he raced from 1985 to 2016. His last race took place on October 15, 2016 in Roseville, just nine days before to join the drivers’ paradise.

We were able to ask Bobby Hillis, Jr. a few questions.

But before, here is the table of drivers with 100 or more starts (updated prior to the Sonoma race)


1Jack Sellers282
2Hershel McGriff273
3Ray Elder240
4Bill Schmitt236
5Jack McCoy204
6Scotty Cain181
7Jim Cook166
8Jimmy Insolo164
9Scott Gaylord161
10Johnny Steele142
11John Krebs141
12Brett Thompson139
13Dick Bown138
14John Soares, Jr.137
15Don Noel134
16Lloyd Dane130
17Ron Gautsche130
18Johnny Borneman, III127
19Butch Gilliland123
20Todd Souza123
21Daryl Harr121
22Richard White117
23Rick McCray116
24Takuma Koga116
25Chuck Bown113
26St. James Davis113
27Austin Cameron112
28Ed Brown109
29Pat Mintey109
30Jim Robinson109
31Bill Sedgwick109
32Roy Smith109
33David Mayhew107
34Ernie Stierly105
35Eric Holmes104
36Jim Bown102
37Sonny Easley101
38Greg Pursley100

Vincent Delforge: 100th career race. Did you imagine you would achieve this when you started in the West Series in 2001?

Bobby hillis jr. Will make his 100th arca menards series west start at sonoma raceway.
Logo “100th race” by John Venard (Jack Racing Miniatures) via Vincent Delforge.

Bobby Hillis, Jr.: [laughing], I didn’t really think about it much. Pretty much fell in the West Series. Was racing Speed Trucks and doing pretty well so decided to go NASCAR Craftsman Truck racing. Not enough money for that and it was completely over our head as a start up family owned team. When we started the Craftsman Truck Series we only bought a roller and then because the engines were the same we bought a West car basically just for the engine. When it became obvious that we couldn’t afford the Craftsman Truck Series we put the engine back into the West car and it’s been home ever since.

VD: Johnny Borneman, III, Todd Souza and Takuma Koga also exceeded the 100 race mark in the West Series. What do you think about the fact that the West Series is a perfect mix between old hands and young guns? Young people learn from elders. But do the elders also learn from the young racers?

BH: There’s always something to be learned especially the speed of some of the young guns and the preparation of the teams that make that happen more than anything. I don’t believe that many of them would be able to do it without all of the support they have. It would be an interesting experiment to trade places with one of the hot young shoes. They do it the way we do with the limited funding and I jump into their car with all of the support and latest, greatest everything and now that would be fun!

VD: What are you hoping for as a result in Sonoma this year? As a reminder, you finished 10th here in 2021.

Bobby hillis jr. Will make his 100th arca menards series west start at sonoma raceway.
Photo by Ryan Hale via Vincent Delforge.

BH : I believe a top ten is completely realistic. We probably would have finished 10th or better if Jack Wood wouldn’t have taken us out with only a couple of laps left in Portland. Ed (Ash), Tony (Huffman), Ryan (Hale), and myself have been working on the car for several days up here at Ed Ash’s place and I believe it’s going to be better at Sonoma.

VD: This year you are driving full time and you have even owned a second car. Even if you are too young to retire as a driver (Canadian David Smith at 74 for example), how long do you think you can still race in the West Series? What if you had to stop racing? Can we imagine Fierce Creature Racing continuing in the future with other drivers?

BH: Not sure at what point in time I stop racing but I do know that it’s getting harder and harder to keep doing this. It’s like a full time second job and it can be completely exhausting a lot of times. Always wanted my daughter Kamree to take over the driving chores but her life is moving in a different direction and I don’t think it will ever happen. Never say never though right?

VD:  Sponsorship from Belgium, logo of the 100th race created by a Frenchman. FCR has fans and support from all over the world. However, life as a driver/owner of an “underdog team” is not easy compared to the powerful BMR or Venturini for example, what keeps you motivated? Passion, love of racing? Or is a little bit of madness necessary?

BH: Definitely A LOT of MADNESS sometimes really needs to fuel the fire to keep this small team motivated, focused, and moving in the proper direction! Really though it’s just the love of racing and the brut copper taste of fear as I am engaging in battle that keeps the whole thing moving ! Don’t know if I could ever live without it!

The General Tire 200 is a 64-lap (127.36-mile) race starting Friday 7, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. PT. The race will be broadcast live on FloRacing.

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