Austin Hill recorded his first top-five finish of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs on Sunday afternoon with a fifth-place run at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Hill was the highest finishing Toyota playoff driver and piloted the No. 16 Don Valley North Toyota Tundra to his best Gander Trucks road course finish. With one race remaining in the first round, Hill resides in fifth position in the driver championship standings, four points above the cut line.
The Winston, Ga. native began his weekend with a solid showings in Saturday’s practice sessions, posting the fifth and second-fastest lap in the two practices, and followed that with a sixth-place qualifying effort on Sunday. Hill and crew chief Scott Zipadelli constructed their race strategy around garnering as many stage points as possible and worked that to near perfection at the beginning of the event. Zipadelli kept Hill on track during the opening 20-lap stage and allowed his driver to hustle the Don Valley North Toyota Tundra up to third and collect eight critical points.
Hill came to the attention of the No. 16 HRE team under the lap 21 caution for four tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustments to help his Tundra turn better and improve the forward bite for Stage 2. While several trucks elected to stay out under the caution, Hill restarted seventh on lap 25. Zipadelli kept Hill on track under a caution on lap 30 and inherited the second position for the final seven laps of the stage. Hill kept pace with the race leader to earn nine crucial points by finishing second in Stage 2.
After pitting for four tires, fuel, and another round of air pressure changes, Hill restarted 10th on the race’s final restart at lap 45. While races at CTMP have a reputation for chaotic endings, Hill took advantage of the clean 20-lap green flag stint to the finish and began picking off positions in the waning laps. The two-time Gander Trucks winner’s fierce climb up the leader board continued into the final circuit as he completed a pass to move into the top-five coming to the checkered flag. The fifth-place result is Hill’s first-career top-five in the playoffs and his fifth top-five finish of the 2019 season.
Austin Hill Quote:“We had to go for the stage points there at the end of stage two. I don’t know if we could have run with the 24 (Brett Moffitt), but I knew we had a top-three truck. We went for the stage points in stage one and stage two. We had to come back from the back, and to drive back up to the front, so to be able to get to fifth-place and to come home with a top-five with our Don Valley North Toyota Tundra was really good. We just fought a little bit center-turn, couldn’t get it to rotate enough for me to be able to put the throttle down straight. I’d spin the tires because I had a lot of wheel into it. All-in-all everybody at HRE (Hattori Racing Enterprises) are working their tails off. I’m excited to get to Las Vegas. I felt like we were really good there earlier in the spring and we had some issues, so hopefully we don’t have any issues this time and we can come out with another top-five there.”