Austin Hill matched his best finish at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway on Saturday night with an 11th-place result in his third appearance at the 1.25-mile oval. The driver of the No. 16 ARCO National Construction Toyota remains seventh in the championship standings after 11 of 23 races.
For the second-consecutive week, weather forced the cancellation of qualifying and awarded Hill the ninth starting position before a single abbreviated practice session on Saturday afternoon. From the initial green flag, Hill had a battle on his hands trying to corral his Toyota Tundra with a loose handling condition. Hill radioed crew chief Scott Zipadelli during the opening 35-lap stage and informed the team that he was severely lacking lateral grip on the exit of Turn 4. Hill stayed in contention for a top-10 position and ran 13th at the stage caution on lap 35.
Hill’s balance of the ARCO National Construction Toyota remained on the loose side in stage 2 after a two-tire stop and a track bar adjustment. He maintained his 10th position for the duration of the stage 2 until the caution on lap 70. Zipadelli and company serviced Hill for four tires with a quick stop that gave him the ninth position for the restart on lap 78.
Despite a wedge change on the pit stop, and adjusting the brake bias in the cockpit, Hill continued to fight the balance as the loose condition persisted. Hill ran on the fringe of the top-10 until green flag pit stops began to cycle on lap 122. Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road for a fuel only stop on lap 139 and picked up one position to 11th during the exchange. A late caution on lap 147 allowed Hill to pit for his last set of tires under the caution and restarted 12th on lap 154. He managed to pick up one position during the final seven lap run to take the checkered flag in 11th position.
Austin Hill Quote:“That was a really difficult race. It was really hard to pass tonight. The pace never really fell off and you really fought dirty air back in traffic. Track position meant a lot and we fought real hard to get the balance right all night but never could get it where we wanted. We were just way too loose on the short run and just took way too long to come in. After about 25-30 laps our truck was really good. We’ll go back and see what we can do to find a little short run speed and be a little better firing off. We’ll go back, work on it, and see what we can do next week at Chicago.”