Time for me to step away Thursday, September 13, 2012
Posted by: Hillary Will, Dote Family Racing

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My first Wally
Well, this is going to be my final blog. It is time for me to step away from my career as a professional drag racer. I can’t even express how thankful I am to have had the opportunities I have had in the sport I love, NHRA drag racing. Nor can I express how thankful I am for the support I have had from all the fans, many of whom have become my friends. I could not have imagined how supportive people would be throughout my career. The interaction I had with fans helped me get through some of the lows that come with the highs in racing.

I was released from my driving job last Sunday evening at the U.S. Nationals. At first I was upset, then sad and hurt, now I’m accepting and ready to move on. I am thankful I had the opportunity to race this year. I love driving, I love winning, and I love being a part of a team. I wish the Dote Racing team the best of luck. It is a safe and good-running car and I’m thankful I got to drive it. I’m even more thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know some of my former Dote teammates: Doug, Glen, Charlie, Steve, Chris, Brandon, Ryan, Tad, Justin, Steve B., and Whitey. Special thank you to one of our sponsors and a good friend of mine, Dave Stickland. He came to a number of our races, helped out where he could, and provided us with all the Adam’s Polishes we could ever need.

I have always asked myself whether my racing career was doing anything to contribute to the world in a positive way. In order for me to get a sense of fulfillment from my job, which I need, I have to know I’m giving something back. Eventually I realized that I was. I realized I could be an example to women and girls of all ages by showing that a woman can succeed in a male-dominated field. I made it my platform to help females see that they can succeed in any male-dominated field such as politics, law, construction, truck driving, flying, engineering, law enforcement, and the list goes on. I strongly believe that our country can only benefit from more women joining the work force and pursuing traditionally male-dominated careers. Then we can be an example to the rest of the world. I could write an entire book on this subject.

Now I will continue this platform and contribute to the world in a different way but not by way of being a race car driver. I am starting a new chapter and starting a new career. I feel like I have had a successful racing career. The opportunity to drive a car at over 330 mph is not something many people can say they have done. While this was awesome, racing gave me so much more than I could have imagined and I will forever be thankful.

The best part is the people I have had the opportunity to meet.  The track is where I met my future husband, Matthew Hines. I am fortunate to have him by my side, and I am looking forward to our life together. The trials and tribulations of this season have brought us even closer. I love him, his daughter, Adyson, and his family.

Drag racing allowed me the chance to work with the late Scott Kalitta. I have great memories from him teaching me and mentoring me through my transition into Top Fuel. I still have the hand-written notes he gave me about how to do the warm-up procedure when I was first learning in 2005. One of my favorite wins was in Australia for the Scott Kalitta Memorial Race in 2008. We raced in honor of Scott and were able to bring home the trophy for his father, Connie Kalitta. There was no greater honor.

I loved driving for team owners Ken and Judy Black. They are terrific people, and I will be forever thankful that they gave me the opportunity they did. They made me feel like a part of their family and Ken always assured me that I just had to do my best and that was all he asked.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work under the tutelage of crew chiefs, Bucky Austin, Dick LaHaie, Jim Oberhofer, and Tom Conway. They are all very smart and it was a privilege to work with them. Jim “O” never gave up on me when I was struggling as a rookie driver. He was always very encouraging.

I wouldn’t have even been on the Top Fuel radar if it hadn’t of been for Bucky Austin risking his reputation and helping our upstart, family-owned Top Alcohol team. We didn’t know what we were doing and didn’t even have the right tools, but he took us under his wing and taught us how to be a winning team and taught me how to be a winning driver. I will forever be grateful to him as well.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity to meet and get to know at various levels some of the legends of the sport like, Paula Murphy, Barb Hamilton, Darrell Gwynn, Kenny Bernstein, and Don Prudhomme. I appreciate the support from racing announcer Bob Frey and National DRAGSTER editor Phil Burgess. Both offered me much-needed advice last Sunday as they have throughout my career. I would suggest to anyone wanting to become a professional NHRA driver to get to know these two individuals.

Racing allowed me the once-in-lifetime opportunity to do two goodwill tours in war zones where I met men and women risking their lives for our country on a daily basis. They were very inspiring and I came back a changed person.  In the beginning of 2008, I went to Qatar and Afghanistan with former NASCAR drivers Ricky Craven, Randy LaJoie, and Jeff Fuller. Then in late 2008, I went to Kuwait and Iraq with race car drivers Jeff Bodine, Arie Luyendyk Jr., and Scott Wimmer. Both tours were life changing. I will forever remember the soldiers I met and the stories I heard.

Ken Black and Grandpa

I loved racing with my family and getting to spend so much time with my Dad and Grandpa when I raced in the sportsman ranks. We have so many amazing memories that we talk about all the time.  My Dad and Grandpa have always been so supportive of whatever I do. Before racing, it was gymnastics. They go above and beyond what most parents and grandparents would do. And sometimes they are just there to lend an ear. I can’t tell you how many times my Dad has been there for me on the other end of the phone while I vent my frustrations or concerns and sometimes shed some tears.

Of course, there is other family members who have be behind me in my career. I think I get my need for speed from my Mom. She has been super supportive in my quest to make that need for speed into a career. She supports anything I do. My sister, Kim, gave me good driving advice whenever I needed it and she’s a racer too so we can understand each other’s highs and lows in the sport.  My Dad’s wife, Chris, and my Grandpa’s wife, Lonnie, were willing to let their husbands going racing so often which was so cool. My aunts, uncles, and cousins made every effort to come out to the races. Don Ringler and Jerry and Betty Brazil, from my hometown, were instrumental in my moving up through the ranks in the sport and I consider them like family to this day.

So my next move is to get a job that isn’t driving a race car. I have a lot of areas I’m interested in career-wise so it is time to pursue some of them. One of my good friends suggested I write a book about my life as a professional racer. I think it might be a good idea because it would be an entertaining read. Maybe now since I’m not traveling to Ohio every week and traveling to races I will have a better case to make for getting that dog I’ve been wanting. I will go to races as my job allows to support Matt, see my friends, and to support my sister who races super gas and my Dad who races Top Dragster.

In closing, I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunities I have had in racing. I am truly blessed and forever thankful for the support from my family, friends, and fans. Cheers to the next chapter.

Back-to-back successesThursday, July 19, 2012
Posted by: Hillary Will, Dote Family Racing

It’s been a busy, but successful few weeks for Dote Racing. In the first back-to-back race for our team, we won rounds at both Chicago and Norwalk, reaching the semi’s at Route 66 and second- round finish in Norwalk. The next weekend we participated in an exhibition race at Tioga Center, New York, where we exposed a lot of people to an 8,000-horsepower nitro-fueled dragster for the first time.

While we had a lot of success on the track, the most memorable events, for me, happened off the track. I was invited to have breakfast with the about 30 Jr. dragster races. I talked with them, answered their questions and gave them some driving advice. Then I got to see them in action as they all suited up and raced one another. It was so much fun hanging out with them all day.

Later it was pointed out to me that the majority of the racers were girls. That shows just how far our sport as come. What’s more significant was that I didn’t even notice. Our sport has progressed so far that it’s not even unusual or noticeable, to most people, that there are so many females involved.

I had the unique opportunity to meet the one of first female NHRA winners, a few weeks ago in Norwalk. Barb Hamilton was the first woman to earn an NHRA license in a supercharged car. In 1966, she won class at the Springnationals and was runner up at Indy in 1968. It was such an honor that she came by our pit and I got to talk with Barb. She is very nice and very friendly. It’s worth noting that she built, owned, wrenched and drove her car. She was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1992. I would recommend Googling her name.

Another memorable event during our three weeks of racing was going to our team owners’ house in upstate New York, near Utica. We had the opportunity to tour their company headquarters, Scooby Rendering. To say that was memorable is an understatement. I did find it inspiring to see how hard the Dotes work. Lynn and Sue Dote, their son Mike, and daughter Diana, all put in a lot of long hours. This makes it possible for them to do what they love, and have a top fuel team for which I’m thankful to be a part.

Connie and Mike had everyone over to their house for a little get together which was really nice to hang out and relax with everyone in a non-stressful environment. The whole Dote family was there. We had some famous New York pizza, rode four wheelers, enjoyed some refreshments, and just had a good time. Special thank you to Connie for organizing a little down-time for us at their house.

Now our team won’t race again until the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day Weekend. Being out of the driver’s seat for so long is not my favorite thing, but I plan to stay busy. Even some of my teammates get to have a little, rare time off which I’m sure they will enjoy. I’m thankful for all their hard work and dedication to our team.

Well I better wrap this up. Matt and I are flying to Denver in a few hours for the Mile-High Nationals. It’s a memorable place for Matt since that’s where he won his very first race. Then we will go to Northern California to spend a little time with my family before the race at Sonoma. It should be a fun few weeks. The only thing better would be if I was racing too, but hopefully next year.

Doing what I love Friday, July 06, 2012
Posted by: Hillary Will, Dote Family Racing

Hello from Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. I hope you all enjoyed your Four of July holiday and took the time to celebrate the birthday of the country where we live. I know I am very thankful to live in the USA. Because we live in such a great country, I am able to make a living doing what I love which is driving a top fuel dragster.

I had a great weekend on the job this last weekend at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. Our Dote Racing team made our best run of our season in qualifying with a 3.828 elapsed time. Then we advanced to the semifinals on race day.

We qualified No. 9 so I thought we were going to be the first pair, which I prefer. I love sitting on the starting line for the national anthem, firing the motor, and leading the way for the rest of the teams. However, we ended up having to be the eighth and final pair. Sometimes waiting is the hardest part. Especially this time because there was a long oil down and then the dark clouds were very threatening.
Just as we pulled up to the water box, it started to sprinkle and the wind picked up. I was all suited up, in my zone, and ready to go. I wanted to win SO bad. Every other dragster pair got to go except us. Unfortunately, we got sent back to the pits along with our opponents the Al Anabi team and Khalid alBalooshi.  We rushed back to our pit just in time to take cover from the high winds, thunder, lightning, and pouring rain. The storm lasted for a few hours, but when everything cleared, we were ready.

We were the first pair to go down the track after all that weather so the crew chiefs had to make the tough call of how to negotiate the track. I did not envy their position. Fortunately, our crew chief, Doug Kuch, made the better call and we ran quicker with a 3.852. To get our first win of the season was awesome! I was so pumped up after I saw our win light come on. Our team has about half the number of runs this season and about half the budget as our first round opponent so it was a really satisfying win.

Then following the run, we had to do the quickest turn around I have ever experienced in my top fuel career. It seemed like we had barely gotten back and NHRA was telling us it was time for round two. All the other teams had run in the morning so they were ready. We did the best we could. My team worked their butts off in the scorching heat and humidity. We didn’t even have time to warm-up our car which is standard procedure. We just confidently rolled up to the lanes after a mad scramble. I heard my crew chief say in the radio before the run when he was talking to our car chief, Glenn Camp, that he was aiming toward running a 3.86. I was confident we would. I just had to go up and do my job against TJ Zizzo. We did better than that and ran a 3.85 for the win.

I have to tell you, I absolutely Iove going over 300 miles per hour and seeing our win light come on. It had been awhile since that happened for me. I’m hoping it will happen many more times and I’m confident that with the team I have right now, it will happen many more times.

After the race last weekend, I got to spend time in the winner’s circle with Matt and his Vance & Hines team. Andrew won the race making it the seventh race in a row that their team has won. To say they know how to win, is an understatement.  They never get used to winning and never tire of it.

Since I was hanging out in the winner’s circle, I got to see some of my former teammates there since Jeff Arend won with his Kalitta Motorpsorts DHL funny car team.  I remember being at Route 66 when Scott Kalitta went to the finals in that funny car. Fast forward four years and Scott’s son, Colin, was standing up on the funny car hoisting the Wally. I loved seeing that and was happy for the team.

One of my favorite parts about the whole weekend was that my team won the Full Throttle Hard Working Crew Award. They so deserved it. I’m very thankful for all the hard work from my team: Doug, Glenn, Tad Heflick, Brandon Hazelton, Justin Sturgill, Charlie Zellman, Steve Moore, and Chris Cycak.  The Dotes give us everything we need, and my team puts it to good use.
I’m excited for the race this weekend. Qualifying starts in a few hours. Hopefully we will do some more winning on Sunday!


Good times on and off the trackThursday, June 21, 2012
Posted by: Hillary Will, Dote Family Racing

Hello Dote Racing Blog Fans! I’m writing to you from our shop in Monroe, Ohio. We are preparing for our next race which is in Joliet, Chicago June 29th – July 1st. (I took a picture of Tad Hefleck and Brandon Hazelton working in our shop today.)

Last weekend we raced at the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in Tennessee. It was great to be back there. I really like that track and the area where it’s located.

For the night session, on Friday evening, we went thundering down the track in 3.837 seconds, which is our team’s quickest run this season. It was really exciting for our team after all the hard work they have put in. The best part was that we were number one qualifier for most of the session. When we returned to our pit from the run, we turned on the radio so we could listen to Bob Frey announcing the race. We liked hearing that we were number one. It put a lot of smiles on the faces of my teammates.

Camie Dote and Joanna Dote were also there for the first time this season. It was great that they got to be there to experience the excitement. They are the daughters of our team owners, Mike and Connie. Camie and Joanna are around my age and remind me of my sisters. I look forward to having them at more races.

Unfortunately a few other teams ended up bettering our run, but we did maintain the number five qualifying position. That is the first time this season we have qualified in the top half of the field. I think that’s really important going into race day. Hopefully next time it will translate to a win. We ran Bruce Litton and smoked the tires. I pedaled the car but could not get it to recover.

A few weeks before Bristol, I went to the race in Englishtown. We did not race there because we are running a limited schedule. I rode there with Matt because he and his team raced there. He and his Vance and Hines team won the race with Eddie Krawiec riding. It was cool to see Eddie win at his home track. That’s what every rider/driver likes to do. Their team has won every race they have gone to this year. That’s awesome. They must have a really good crew chief ?

My sister, Jessica, flew into New York that weekend from California so I went into the city to pick her up. We did the tourist thing for a couple of days. We went to the Freedom Towers site and toured the new park they are constructing. It was really neat to see. I look forward to seeing the park, the buildings, and the new museum when it’s all finished.

All in all, I think New York is a great city but pretty overwhelming. We tried driving our rental car downtown, but I do not have the patience for that. I don’t know why anyone would want to drive in that city. We walked everywhere and took the subway after the driving attempt didn’t work out so well. We went to Times Square and I really liked walking around in Central Park. Coincidentally, my brother, Austin, happened to be in New York at the same time with his high school travel squad. Jessica and I made a point to run into him. We didn’t get to spend much time with him, but it was good to see Austin. It was awesome that I got to spend time with Jessica. We enjoyed New York and I hope she enjoyed spending time at the races with me.

I don’t really get to see my four siblings, Kim, Jessica, Kevin, and Austin, a whole lot for occupational and geographical reasons. I live in Indiana and they live in Northern California. My brothers’ high school graduation was last weekend. They were walking across the stage right about the time we were making our 3.83 qualifying run. I’m really proud of them and was cheering for them from the cockpit of my dragster 2,840 miles away in Bristol.

I’ll be here at the shop for the rest of the week. The guys are working hard, as always. We have our first back-to-back race coming up. We go to Joliet, which is near Chicago, Illinois, and then we go to Norwalk, Ohio, the next weekend. I know it’s a lot of extra work for the teams to do two races in two weeks, but as a driver, I prefer that. The more driving I do, the better.

Actually we will be racing for three weekends in a row since we are participating in an event on July 14th at the home track of our team owners, the Dote family, Barton, New York. We will be racing in honor of Chad Wilcox. It’s going to be a really fun event. I hope a lot of people come out and see us run there. We will have more info coming soon about it.

That’s all I have for now. Thank you for reading, and I will update again soon!

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