Austin Hill punched his ticket to the Round of 6 in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs with a statement victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) on Friday night. Hill slashed his way through the field from 18th position over the final 48 laps to earn his third win of the season and advanced to Round 2 of the Gander Trucks playoffs.
Hill began the evening from the seventh position and with a slim two-point cushion above the cut line. From the outset, Hill showed his muscle by working the Gunma Toyopet Tundra up to fifth by lap four and briefly took the lead on lap 17. Hill earned eight priceless championship points at Stage 1 on lap 30 and came to the attention of crew chief Scott Zipadelli and company under the yellow flag. Zipadelli and the No. 16 team gave Hill two tires to preserve track position and restarted as the race leader on lap 37.
Stage 2 saw more of the same from Hill as he was part of a fierce three-way battle for the lead during the last 16 laps of segment. Hill’s pursuit of the race lead served notice that his Gunma Toyopet Tundra was a force to be reckoned with and collected nine valuable points at the end of Stage 2 on lap 60. Hill took four tires and adjustments to help a slightly tight handling condition under the yellow flag and restarted third on lap 68.
On the restart for the final stage, Hill dealt with an issue that caused the motor to intermittently skip and dragged him back as far as ninth on lap 73.
One of the key moments of the evening came under the lap 81 caution when Hill was forced to pit a lap after the other lead lap trucks and was positioned 17th for the final restart on lap 87. Once again, Hill’s issue held him back on the restart and relegated him to 18th. Despite the issue, the strength of Hill and the No. 16 team couldn’t be stopped as he began his rampage up the leader board.
In six laps Hill had moved up to 11th on lap 92 and moved to eighth three laps later. While carving his way through traffic Hill was consistently the fastest truck on the racetrack and broke into the top-five by lap 102. Less than 20 laps later, he caught the race leader and made quick work to regain the top spot for the final time on lap 123. The 25-year old paced the field for the final 12 circuits and cruised to the checkered flag, 2.1 seconds ahead of second place, to continue his breakout season and capture his third win of 2019.
Austin Hill Quote:“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.”
“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.”