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Hillman's team out to gain owner points

While many of NASCAR's top tier teams will race today in the rain-postponed Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips At The Glen to try to improve their standing in The Chase for The Cup, others at the other end of the spectrum will be racing for something equally important.

They will be looking to stay in the top 35 in 2011 owner's points. That can prove valuable in finding sponsors to keep themselves running with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Germain Racing is a solid racing organization but coming into The Glen, the team, managed by Lockport native Mike Hillman Sr., was 34th in owner points with their No. 13 Geico Toyota Camry and driver Casey Mears.

Teams must be in the top 35 in owner points to automatically qualify for the next race should they not be able to qualify based on speed. Other provisional rules can also come into play.

Of greater importance, teams that finish the current season in the top 35 are guaranteed to be in each of the first five races the following season. Hillman says that staying in the top 35 in very essential when trying to convince perspective sponsors to make deals and provide funding with teams like Germain.

"Geico is a great partner and they've done a great job with us but we're only funded through them for 23 races," said Hillman. "So we've been trying to race out of our pocket with other support to make sure that when the end of the season comes along we're locked into the top 35 going into next year so when we go to Daytona (Daytona 500) we don't have to worry about the first five races of next season.

"This helps us to be able to sell sponsorship to run for the whole year for next year knowing that we're locked into those races and the sponsor can activate their stuff knowing their going to have a car there on Sunday. It's been our goal this year to set out to do it from the beginning of the year and were going to do whatever we have to and to maintain that.

"Right now it would probably take about three bad races in a row for us to fall out of the top 35 in the next few weeks. We have a bit of a barrier there from the people that are behind us. We can probably improve a couple positions real easy."

Hillman has added responsibilities as Germain Racing will field three cars in today's race. Besides Mears, the No. 50 Green Smoke Chevrolet driven by T.J. Bell and the No. 60 Big Red Toyota driven by NASCAR veteran Mike Skinner are in today's 90-lap joust.

"We're starting to do a little program here with T.J. Bell and the Green Smoke team to help them get started and use some of our employees and pit crews from our truck teams," said Hillman.

"It helps us to keep more people employed and we get to have more fun. We have somewhere around 62 employees working for us here at the track this weekend."

As Germain's racing general manager, Hillman Sr. was busy Sunday morning here booking hotel rooms and taking care of matters when a race gets rain-delayed. It will add more unplanned dollars to the team's budget.

"We had to go ahead and make new hotel arrangements this morning," said Hillman. "We had to get about 42 motel rooms rebooked for the rain situation. I just got done changing our airplane schedule.

"Fortunately we fly private charters so they won't leave without you and you don't have to rebook your flights. That makes it a lot easier. You don't count these extra days on the road in our budget but it's part of the game."

Robert "Bootie" Barker is considered a very knowledgeable crew chief and enjoys working with Hillman as his crew chief of the No. 13 car.

"I guess we have a similar background -- kind of old school somewhat," Barker said.

Hillman's sons, Mike Hillman Jr. and Mark Hillman, are still very much involved in the Germain operation, mainly working with the team's entry on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driven by Chemung native Todd Bodine.

Bodine is tenth in Truck Series points.

Hillman Sr. has multiple championships in his NASCAR big league career including two Truck Series titles (2006 & 2010) as a general manager with Bodine and a NASCAR Busch Series championship as crew chief with Tommy Ellis in 1988.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com