Austin Hill captured his second victory for the No. 16 Hino, AISIN Group Toyota team with a masterful drive to the checkered flag on Saturday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). Hill endured a series of frantic restarts and held off all challengers in overtime to collect his second-career NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series win in the regular season finale. The win is HRE’s second-consecutive at MIS and allows Hill to start the Gander Trucks playoffs tied for fourth in the standings.
Hill qualified sixth in the brand-new Toyota Tundra prepared by crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the No. 16 team. Early in stage 1, Hill flexed his muscle by immediately advancing into the top five and ran seventh at the end of the stage on lap 20. Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road under caution on lap 23 for two tires but returned to the pits for left side tires after the HRE team encountered an issue with removing the right front tire out of the wheel well.
Hill restarted 19th on lap 28 and wasted no time charging back towards the front. He was back inside the top 10 by lap 30 and finished second in Stage 2 to collect nine points. Zipadelli brought Hill down pit road under the lap 41 caution for fresh right side tires and fuel and returned him to the track in 13th, which was due to a wide variety of strategies by their competitors. A caution flew on lap 58 and allowed Zipadelli to employ a strategy to gain future track position. Hill pitted twice for fuel under the yellow and began his march through the field from 24th on the lap 62 restart.
Hill furiously sliced his way to 10th by lap 70 and inherited four positions by staying out under a lap 67 caution. The door was open for Hill to take advantage of the preferred outside line by restarting sixth on lap 71, and he did just that. He blitzed his way into the top three on the restart and took the lead on lap 78. Hill paced the field until lap 92 and regained the point position on the lap 97 restart after a multi-truck pileup occurred behind him. Hill sealed the deal and held off a fierce challenge on the final overtime restart to earn his first win at MIS.
Austin Hill Quote:“It’s huge. We have had a struggle these last few races. We just keep having issues and just can’t finish these races. These guys just worked their tails off, day and night, just trying to put these trucks together. This is actually a brand-new truck. First time it had seen the race track was yesterday. When we unloaded, we had to work out some bugs. We got it driving really good. I was really happy with the speed of it. Man, this race was crazy. I had to come from the back a few times. I had a speeding penalty one time, and I kind of thought our race was done, buy man we came back through the field. This Toyota Tundra was really good today. I need to thank Hino, AISIN for coming on board, TRD, just everyone that makes it happen.”
“Man, I definitely did not want to do a green-white-checkered. I was cutting it kind of close on fuel. I got a really good push out back by the 18 (Harrison Burton) that kind of propelled us and cleared us out front. I just had to start throwing blocks. Luckily, they started racing two and three-wide out the back. They gave us a gap out front and we were able to keep that gap. I thought the 2 (Sheldon Creed) was going to have a shot at it going into three, he had a really big run, but I was able to protect the bottom. Our Toyota Tundra was really fast today.”