Austin Hill got his 2020 campaign off on the right foot with a strong sixth-place finish in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) on Friday night. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra led 11 laps and was in serious contention for a second DIS victory in the late stages.
Hill’s fourth-career Gander Trucks appearance at the “World Center” of racing began with a 15th-place qualifying effort and promptly moved into the top 10 at the drop of the green flag. The opening segment went off without incident for Hill and the No. 16 Tundra as he collected four points in the seventh position at the end of Stage 1 on lap 20.
Under the stage caution, crew chief Scott Zipadelli gave Hill four tires and fuel on pit road and returned him to the track in 12th for the lap 26 restart. Only 15 laps of green flag racing comprised Stage 2, but Hill made the most of it. He methodically worked both lanes of the lead draft to climb back into the top 10 with less than five laps remaining in the stage. On lap 40, Hill made two cunning moves in the draft to pick up a pair of positions and collect seven points by running fourth at the stage break.
A fuel-only stop under the yellow gave Hill a front row starting spot for the lap 46 restart. Hill took advantage of the track position and took the lead while enveloped a fierce, teeter-totter battle for the top spot. He paced the field for the following 10 circuits and ran comfortably in the top five until a caution on lap 67. Hill made his final visit to the United Rentals team on pit lane during the caution and restarted eighth on lap 79. On the ensuing run, Hill navigated his way into the top five of the draft in the waning laps. On lap 96, a multi-truck accident broke out in front of Hill, but the 25-year old sliced his way through the mayhem to stay in contention for the overtime restart.
Hill restarted second on lap 105 but lacked sufficient drafting help to mount a serious charge for the win. He regained enough positions on the final lap while utilizing the bottom lane to finish sixth and earn his fourth-career top-10 finish on a superspeedway. The 11 stage points and top-10 finish have Hill second in the Gander Trucks championship standings.
Austin Hill Quote:“It was good. It was a fun race. I felt like we had a truck that could win, we just couldn’t get clear enough. The 98 was really strong all night. He could side draft really good. He’s truck was really stable. I felt like a lot of the changes that were made in the offseason for the superspeedway side made the trucks move around a little more, so it made the race a little better. You could really get down on somebody’s door and suck them back. It just made the two-wide racing really good. It was a handful all night. I feel like all of us drivers were white-knuckling it. We were coming off the bottom and it really wasn’t our choice to do that. It was just the way the trucks were moving around and the air disturbance was pretty high tonight. All in all it was a good night. It was fun. We’ll go on to Las Vegas, a place where we won at, and try to get it done.”