ANDY HILLENBURG, ERIC RANKINE JOIN RESTRUCTURED USAC STAFF
Andy Hillenburg of Rockingham, N.C. and Eric Rankine of Brownsburg, Ind. are the latest members of USAC’s restructured organizational team for 2014 and beyond. Their addition begins USAC’s move to re-focus on its core racing series and create expansion of its marketing and merchandising efforts.
Hillenburg’s new post is Director of Competition for the Silver Crown Championship Series, while Rankine becomes Director of Competition for the developmental HPD Series and will oversee technical aspects of the .25 Midget series.
Continuing to lead USAC racing series in addition to Hillenburg and Rankine will be Jason McCord (AMSOIL National Sprints and Honda National Midgets), Chris Kearns (Western Operations) and Kyle McCain (Honda .25 Midgets).
Jason Smith will spearhead USAC’s newly restructured “sanctioned services,” including a variety of motorsports disciplines and venues, encompassing the following: TORC (The Off-Road Championship), Robby Gordon Stadium Super Trucks, Red Bull Frozen Rush, Ultra4 Racing, Rally America, the America Adventure, IMS sanctions and USAC testing.
The 50-year-old Hillenburg is a former series competitor who, despite the lack of a victory, enjoyed a measure of success as a Silver Crown driver. Between 1985 and 1991 he scored 23 “top-10s” in 40 starts, topped by third-place finishes at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in 1987 and the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 1989. His best point finish was fifth in 1988. In 1988 he was leading six laps from the finish of the “Tony Bettenhausen 100” at Springfield, Ill. when his fuel supply ran short. Two years later he suffered a heartbreaking flat right-rear tire after leading the first 96 laps of the “Hoosier 100” in Indianapolis.
“I look forward to the task at hand,” says Hillenburg, “that of preserving the rich heritage of this truly American motorsports treasure, while expanding and enhancing the product. I feel the 2014 series schedule released this week begins that process and I am excited about this unique opportunity. In the coming months I will continue to foster the relationships I feel will solidify the foundation which will allow this series to succeed.”
Born in Indianapolis, Ind., he won Indiana quarter-midget championships from 1975-1979. In 1995 he won the ARCA Super Car Championship. That same year, and also in 1997, he won the series’ premier event, the Daytona ARCA 200. He served as a test driver for the IROC series and in 2000 competed in the Indianapolis 500, finishing 28th. He has 16 NASCAR Cup starts, nine NASCAR Nationwide starts and four in the NASCAR Truck Series. In 1999 he posted a third-place finish in the NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway, driving for Joe Gibbs.
In 1981 Andy was granted, by USAC’s Roger McCluskey, the first legal drivers license under the age of 18.
He also operates the Fast Track High Performance Driving School and has appeared in the movies, most notably The Dale Earnhardt Story, Herbie: Fully Loaded and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. In 2007 he purchased North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. and is credited with resurrecting the track.
Rankine, whose son Ross owns four championships in the highly-competitive developmental Midwest Midget arena, presided over Rankin Manufacturing, a Structural Steel company in New London, Ohio for a quarter-century and actually competed in Sprint races in the 1980s and 1990s, winning the 1995 and 2000 Fremont (Ohio) Speedway track championship. In 2005 his son Ross began in quarter-midgets, then graduated to USAC’s Focus series in 2009.
Instrumental in the origination of USAC’s highly-successful Honda .25 Midget racing program and a fixture in the years since, Rankine has spent considerable recent time helping develop the Honda K-24 engine which debuted with Gage Walker driving in 2013. The basic 2012 Honda Civic crate motor is now available for use in the USAC HPD Midget Series.
“I basically live 24 hours a day and seven days a week for auto racing,” says Rankine. “I have some ideas to improve the sport and will work diligently to do just that. I want to give back to the sport and I can think of no better way to support grass roots racing than working under the USAC banner.”