On Wednesday, AJ Allmendinger and JTG Daugherty Racing’s family of brands revealed their Darlington Raceway Bojangles' Southern 500 throwback paint scheme, raced by Topeka, Kan.-native Bruce Hill in the 1970s (1974-1977). The throwback No. 47 Kroger/Kingsford Chevrolet SS maintains its continuity with the red, white and blue theme.
“It is an honor quite honestly,” Bruce Hill said. “Being remembered for something is always an honor especially as big as the sport has gotten. I thought it was kind of neat when they decided to do the throwback schemes at Darlington Raceway. I had good memories of Darlington. It was a track that you either loved or hated and that probably hasn’t changed over the years. I loved the track because it was slick and I ran better on a slick racetrack because it was all about getting your car to handle. I always loved Darlington and you always love a track you have good luck at. I think my second top-five finish came at Darlington. I’m just happy for the recognition and I really look forward to meeting AJ and everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing and all the brands.”
Hill and Allmendinger will meet for the first time at Kansas Speedway. Both will join each other this Friday in the media center at 9:15 AM Central for a media availability.
“I’ve never met AJ in my life,” Hill said. “I really do like the way he drives. I was kind of proud to watch him race the No. 47 car number. AJ has such great potential. I’ve seen him run and he is aggressive and that’s what you’ve got to be. I do think he’s a pretty good driver. If you are not aggressive, you become irrelevant. I really watch the drivers. Of course, I don’t know hardly any of them, but I do know Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. I know Jr. because of his dad (Dale Earnhardt). His dad and I were good friends. That’s about it. The last really good friend I had that I raced against was Sterling Marlin. Sterling and I were good buddies too. It’s interesting to watch. I think AJ does a really good job.”
“I’m really looking forward to meeting Bruce on Friday,” Allmendinger said. “I think what Darlington Raceway does to recognize former NASCAR drivers and the heritage of the sport is unprecedented. It’s a great way to celebrate our sport and the people who made it what it is today. It’s pretty neat to see all the sponsors and teams really get into it.”
Hill raced in NASCAR’s premiere series for seven seasons, meeting Darlington Raceway’s requirement for paint schemes to fall somewhere into the 1975-84 era. His first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (formerly NASCAR Winston Cup) start was November 24th 1974 at Ontario Motor Speedway (Ontario, Calif.) where he finished 13th in what would be his only race that year in the division. However, Hill’s presence became known in 1975 when he recorded three top-five and 11 top-10 finishes earning Rookie of the Year honors and finishing 16th in the driver points standings after completing 26 events.
“My overall best NASCAR memory is winning Rookie of the Year mainly because I came out of Kansas and that was unheard of back then because it was a Southeastern sport,” Hill said. “I think a lot of people thought I was crazy when I thought I’d take a jump and go down there and try it. That was by far my fondest memory. It came down to me and a guy named Carl Adams out of California.
“When I was a rookie, I had two people I’d like to mention that gave me the most advice and that was Richard Petty and Bobby Allison,” continued Hill. “I went to Bobby a lot after practice. They gave me the best advice starting out. Bobby and Richard said, ‘First, gain respect’ and I knew what they meant. That was the best advice for a young guy. I was 25 years old. It soaked in and I think it helped because I finished a lot of races and avoided a lot of wrecks.”
Hill, who was born July 9th, 1949, competed in a total of 100 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, led nine laps, posted three top-five and 21 top-10 finishes. He also competed in ARCA and the NASCAR West Series during his racing career and was the 1967 International Kart Federation (IKF) national champion. Today, he still resides in Kansas and works with a different form of horsepower.
“I’m retired, but I raise show horses here in Kansas - - quarter horses - - in my hometown of Topeka on a ranch,” Hill said. “It’s something I really enjoy.”
Located not far from Kansas Speedway, back in the day Hill never thought he would see the likes of a facility built like that in his parts.
“I’ve often said back in my day, if someone told me there would be a speedway in Kansas I would have told them they needed a straightjacket,” Hill said. “It’s great to have Kansas Speedway. It was quite a big deal when they built the track. Now, everything has grown up around it. It’s shown the growth of the sport in the country. As a young man, I could see where it had potential to grow as big as it did.”
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