Austin Hill opened his first-career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoff run with a 10th-place finish on Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS). Hill muscled the No. 16 Toyota Tsusho Toyota Tundra to his best finish at “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” in four starts. After one event in the opening round of the Gander Trucks playoffs, Hill sits seventh in the standings, three points below the cut line.
Hill’s evening began from the eighth position, which was a track-best qualifying effort for him at BMS. During the opening 55-lap stage, Hill wrestled with a handling condition on the entry and exit of both corners on the high-banked half mile. Hill managed to stay inside the top 10 and ran 10th at the end of Stage 1 to earn one point.
Crew chief Scott Zipadelli called Hill to pit road for four tires under the lap 57 caution for four tires and a chassis adjustment to alleviate his handling issues. After restarting 13th on lap 67, Hill raced in and around the top 10 and finished 11th in Stage 2 on lap 110. Hill received four fresh tires from the Toyota Tsusho team under caution on lap 117 and restarted the final stage in 13th.
The final segment to the finish was littered with seven caution flags which produced as many restarts. Hill was forced to restart on the ill-preferred outside lane on numerous restarts but managed to maintain position inside the top 15. Zipadelli elected to play offense and pitted Hill under caution on lap 170 for cooler “scuffed” tires and to make an adjustment. Over the final 27 laps, Hill took full advantage of the tires and adjustments to advance from 17th to finish 10th. The result was Hill’s ninth top-10 finish of the season, and his first consecutive top-10 finishes since June.
Austin Hill Quote:“I actually told my guys in here that out of all the seven races on the Playoff schedule, this is my weakest one. It’s a 10th-place finish, I’ll take it and run. Man, we fought all night. We made a gutsy call there at the end of the race to take four tires and make a big chassis adjustment. I just fought tight all night long, but was able to get back through there and get to a top 10 and that’s kind of really all we were asking for was to get a nice top 10 out of here, especially knowing how this race goes. We knew that a few of the other Playoff guys were having a little bit of issues, so the number one goal was to finish in front of a few of them and we did. We’ll take our Toyota Tsusho Tundra to the Canadian Tire road course and go have some fun there.”