Austin Hill scores in Vegas

LAT Images #16: Austin Hill, Hattori Racing Enterprises, Toyota Tundra Gunma Toyopet celebrates his win

Austin Hill drove from the back of the field to the lead with 12 laps to go to earn his first win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With the win, Hill advanced to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs Round of 6. He is joined by fellow Toyota driver, Tyler Ankrum, who moved inside the cutoff line with his 11th place finish. 

Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Race 19 of 23 – 201 miles, 134 laps

TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS

1st, AUSTIN HILL

2nd, Ross Chastain*

3rd, CHRISTIAN ECKES

4th, Sheldon Creed*

5th, TODD GILLILAND

6th, BRENNAN POOLE

9th, HARRISON BURTON

10th, DYLAN LUPTON

11th, TYLER ANKRUM

12th, ANTHONY ALFREDO

18th, SPENCER DAVIS

23rd, JUSTIN JOHNSON

25th, NATALIE DECKER

27th, DEREK KRAUS

*non-Toyota driver

•                Austin Hill drove his Tundra to the win for the third time this season.

•                It was Toyota’s series-leading 10th win of the season.

•                Hill and Tyler Ankrum give Toyota two drivers in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs Round of 6 for the second consecutive season.

•                Christian Eckes earned his second-career pole position in his 10th series start and earned a career-best third-place finish.

TOYOTA QUOTES

AUSTIN HILL, No. 16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra, Hattori Racing Enterprises

Finishing Position: 1st  

What does this win mean to you?

“It means the world to me. This is the hardest one I’ve had to win. We were going to stay out that last caution and we stayed out and everybody else pitted. We decided we needed to pit or we were going to be screwed. We came down pit road, restarted at the tailend of the longest line and it stayed green. I had to drive all the way through the field and this truck was unbelievable. I can’t thank Gumma Toyopet for coming on board. Toyota, TRD, the Aisin Group, United Rentals – everybody and all my partners that allow me to do this. HRE, Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and the boys gave me a heck of a piece tonight. We wouldn’t have won this race with them. We’re two-for-two with this truck so we’re going to try to go three-for-three with it. Can’t thank all the boys enough.”

Did you make a statement to the field with this win tonight?

“We for sure made that statement. When I saw the 45 (Ross Chastain) in my sights, we were running close to lap times and I started changing my line a little bit. We picked up two or three-tenths there changing my line. That was a big statement win. We drove by the 45 like he was sitting still and then just kept pulling. We were a little scared there for a little bit – our truck was cutting in and out. I don’t know if fuel pressure was messing up or what. I was crossing my fingers every lap I came by after I took the lead. I’m worn out. Coming from the back like that, it was all I took to get to the lead. We did it.”

Did you think you could make it back to the front of the field after the pit stop?

“When we first went back green, I thought it would be nice to pick off a few of these guys and have a caution. At the same time, I didn’t want the caution because every restart we had, the last three restarts we had anyways, when I would go through the gears, it kept cutting in and out. I don’t know if we were having a fuel pressure issue or what was going on. I was actually really scared of that. When I saw the 45 (Ross Chastain) when I got to second, my number one thing was just hoping we didn’t have any issues. I thought we had an issue, but luckily it all went away. As I was catching the 45, I was trying to see where his weakness was and at first, we were running about the same times and I started changing my line a little bit and picked up two-tenths there. When I got to him, traffic was just perfect timing. He got really tight behind somebody and got aero-pushed and I was able to drive up under him and just hold him out getting into one and clear him. This truck was so good. I can’t thank everyone enough. To be two-for-two with this truck is pretty special.”

What does this drive carry further into the Playoffs?

“It means a lot. Coming into tonight, our number one goal was getting stage points and we did that, we got stage points in stage one and stage two. Got through that and after the second stage and we knew that some of the Playoff drivers had some issues, my only concern was going for the win. That’s all I really cared about. I didn’t think we were going to be able to catch them under green, but we did. It’s even more of a statement win because we had a little bit of an issue during practice and lost our truck chief. I know he was up watching us in the stands, but this is so special.”

How important is this win as momentum to this championship run?

“Right when I went across the start-finish line, I was screaming and yelling and I was yelling, ‘we’re going to the Round of 6 boys, we’re going to the Round of 6.’ It was so special. Daytona was such a special win for me. Michigan was an awesome win, but to do what we did tonight. We had some miscommunication to come down pit road or not and we stayed out and the next thing you know, everyone pits. The next time around, we pitted and had to restart 20th or whatever it was. To be able to come from where we were and drive all the way through the field under green flag conditions and take the lead and drive away from them like we did, it just shows this is a huge statement win. It shows what these guys have put into this truck and the effort they put into it. It’s only been on the race track twice – Michigan and Vegas – and it’s two-for-two. I think that’s pretty good for this new truck that they just built.”

How have you matured as a race car driver since Daytona?

“Really from the time I came over to HRE, they’ve just treated me like family. It’s a really family-oriented race team. It’s awesome. They let me come in there with open arms. They weren’t mad or anything about the change. They had all the faith in the world in me. Mike Grecci, Shige (Hattori), Scott (Zipadelli), everyone had all the faith in the world going into this season. We’ve had some ups and downs. We’ve had a little bit of a roller coaster season so far with malfunctions and stuff that’s happened. We’ve shown speed, especially at these mile-and-a-half race tracks, we’ve shown a lot of speed. The finishes might not have always been there, but we’ve had the speed. We’re clicking at the right time. As soon as we started building this truck and we got it built, it’s just that much better of a truck. Every time you build a new truck and bring it to the track and have brand new equipment, it always seems to be a little better. That’s really what we’re showing right now is new equipment is a little better than our older equipment that we’ve had. To go two-for-two with  it right now is pretty special. I don’t know exactly when it will come back out and make it’s  appearance, but when it does, I think we’ll have a shot at going three-for-three with it.”

SCOTT ZIPADELLI, crew chief, No. 16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra, Hattori Racing Enterprises

Did you know you had clinched to the next round of the Playoffs during the race?

“It wasn’t until late in the race that NASCAR had told us we had been locked in. Our strategy was pretty much race hard, try to gain as many stage points as we could through stage one and two then see where we ended up. With some of the other guys having mechanical issues, that kind of changed the strategy a little bit. We were commited to try to gain as many points, but race the race track and not get into a dog fight with one individual truck for one position or so. We were just trying to be careful.”

Were you concerned when you saw the motors expire on some other trucks?

“I was concerned. I thought it was a bit ironic that three of the engines that ThorSport had all had issue. I didn’t know if it was tied to that individual team and something they had done. Then I heard they may have run something over, but at one point you’re obviously a little concerned. There was a lot of on-throttle time here and the temperatures were warm. There was a ton of debris flying around. We had to wipe debris off the grill two or three times throughout the race. You just never know.”

How has Austin Hill matured as a race car driver since Daytona?

“I think if you look at what he did in Michigan as far as his race craft and then we executed very well at Toronto. Then how we showed up here today, we’ve been working very hard on simulator stuff and communications and watching videos and studying the sport itself. Michigan was a big boost for his confidence and I think it speaks for itself.I think he’s very underrated and was at the beginning of the year. Nobody really knew how we were all going to work together or how he was going to slide into this team and what the performance was going to be like. I think if you look at the results, it’s pretty clear that the kid can drive a race car and he’s got a big heart. He’s a great, great individual and great father, great husband – very nice people to be around. We’re glad to have him here as a part of HRE.”

SHIGE HATTORI, team owner, No. 16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra, Hattori Racing Enterprises

What does this win mean to you?

“All the team members did a really good job. We won the race here and we definitely have momentum to the next stage. It’s good for the team.”

TYLER ANKRUM, No. 17 B/X Custom Designs Toyota Tundra, DGR-Crosley

Finishing Position: 11th

Tell me two things – how much did you know about the point position in the last few laps, and what were you thinking as you started dropping in the last few laps?

“Well, to be honest, I didn’t know all night. Bono (Kevin Manion, crew chief) told me that we had to finish. I figured that was somewhere inside the top-10. On that last restart, the motor just fell on its face. I thought I just messed up on the restart and that was why I fell back so fast. About five laps later, going down the backstretch it sounded like an old ’69 Malibu. My heart sank. I thought we were blowing up. I was going to be mad; that was going to be the first thing that happened. It cut back on, so I think it was just electrical. We got lucky. Thanks to B/X Custom Designs for coming on, Rusty Wallace, Toyota, DGR-Crosley. They gave me a pretty fast piece. I thought that we were going to have a top-five run until that electrical happened. We made it to the Round of 6, so that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter how you got there, just that you get there. I think we will ready these next few races, but we have some tough ones coming up.”

CHRISTIAN ECKES, No. 51 SiriusXM Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports

Finishing Position: 3rd

How was your race?

“It went pretty well. There were some mistakes here-and-there that cost us a shot at better track position. Lots to be learned. We had a pretty fast Tundra overall. Now we can move on to Martinsville and Homestead with a little momentum with a pole and a third. Overall, a good night, but definitely something to improve on.”

TODD GILLILAND, No. 4 JBL Fest Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports

Finishing Position: 5th

Talk about your finish.

“It was an up-and-down night. We qualified third, which was better than I expected. Ran decent in the first stage, finished fifth. Just on every restart, we were on the splitter a little bit and it just plowed for 15 laps till the air pressure came up, and after that, it would just take off. It shouldn’t be like that, so something was definitely up. But that’s up to me to relay to the team. I didn’t do a very good job of that.

BRENNAN POOLE, No. 30 Toyota Tundra, On Point Motorsports

Finishing Position: 6th

Solid day today here in Vegas; talk about the run.

“We’ve been trying a lot of stuff with our team, and I think after practice, we were a little nervous about what we had. But in the race, it was really solid. It drove well, it was great in traffic, it was good on the long run. We really had a pretty solid truck. We were missing a little bit on balance to really get up there and mix it up for the win and maybe a strategy call at the end of the race. The 16 (Austin Hill) took four tires, the 4 (Todd Gilliland) took two tires, and they were just a lot faster. I think if we could have been on that same strategy, we would have had a better shot too.”

HARRISON BURTON, No. 18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports

Finishing Position: 9th

Talk about the run here in Vegas.

“Just a bummer man. It’s just not to the point that you want to be. We finished ninth. It’s not good enough. I want to win races and perform and contend for wins, and we just struggled with the balance. I don’t know why. It was weird. Right when we got it good, we would make an adjustment that I thought would tie it all together and it would completely fall apart. Just got go back to the drawing board I guess, and come back to win.”

DYLAN LUPTON, No. 5 DGR-Crosley Toyota Tundra, DGR-Crosley

Finishing Position: 10th

Another solid top-10 in your limited schedule.

“The mile-and-a-halves have been pretty good to us. We’ve been running top-10 every race. We haven’t made it easy on ourselves. I lost a few positions on pit road just coming into the box. We battled back from the penalty, but we had speed, we just needed track postion. We have to figure out how to fire off a little better. We will take these notes with this truck and move on to Homestead, but before that we will be going to Phoenix. I’ve raced there eight-to-10 times, so I’m excited to go there.”

Toyota Racing PR

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