Austin Hill hustled his way to a sixth-place finish on Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway after starting 20th. Hill’s fifth top-10 result of the season is his best finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and marks the first time in his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career that he has tallied three consecutive top-10 finishes.
Beginning with both practice sessions on Friday morning, Hill and the United Rentals team faced a challenge with an excessively tight handling condition. That handling characteristic carried over into the race as Hill soldiered his way to 14th position by the Stage 1 caution at lap 31. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli gave Hill four fresh tires and a wedge adjustment to combat the ill-handling balance on the United Rentals Tundra.
Hill restarted 13th on lap 37, but his tight condition still lingered until the Stage 2 conclusion on lap 60 while running 12th. Zipadelli offered Hill a track bar adjustment to match four fresh tires on their second pit stop during the stage break caution and returned the Winston, GA native to the track in 11th spot. A caution on lap 78 allowed the No. 16 team to employ an off-sequence strategy as Hill pitted for his final set of fresh tires and restarted 11th at lap 83. A subsequent caution shortly thereafter on lap 86 allowed Hill to inherit track position and the third spot as most of the lead lap trucks came to pit road.
On the lap 91 restart, Hill made a bold three-wide bid for the lead, but had his momentum halted in the tight confines at the front of the field and slipped outside the top five. As the race ran under green-flag conditions for 37 laps, Hill’s tight balance reemerged and relegated him to the 11th position as late as lap 124. However, a caution on lap 128 allowed Hill to bolt on cooler, used tires and restarted 11th on lap 132. A frantic charge against the outside wall with three laps to go immediately shot Hill to eighth and picked off two more spots to take the checkered flag in sixth position. The gritty sixth-place effort marks the third-consecutive race in which Hill has finished seventh or better.
Austin Hill Quote:
“It was a struggle from start to finish. We shouldn’t have finished sixth, honestly. We should have been about 11th or 12th really. But the guys just kept working on it all night. Right there at the end with three or four (laps) to go, we decided to come down pit road, because we weren’t going to gain anything. We figured we could get back to where we were running, which was 11th at the time. Scott (Zipadelli) just made a good call to come down pit road and take four tires. I should have finished third where the 52 (truck) ended up. I just, I didn’t pick my lane at the right time, and he got a huge run by me and got to third. But, all in all, it was a decent effort. Especially for us to be struggling as bad as we were.”