Austin Hill cashed in at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) on Friday night with a third-place finish, his first top-five of the year, and continued his strong start to the 2020 campaign. The result earned Hill the lead in the points standings after two events, and marks the second time in his career that the driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra has led the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship standings.
Hill’s evening began from the sixth position after a strong performance in qualifying and climbed as high as third in the opening stage. Despite having cleaner air, Hill dealt with a tight handling condition which contributed to concerns about tire wear in the first stint. In the closing laps of Stage 1, Hill was forced to conserve his tires as excessive wear on the left front tire burned through the tread and down to the cords. As a result, Hill ran fifth at the lap 30 stage caution and collected six points.
Crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the United Rentals team gave Hill four tires under the stage caution as well as fuel and air pressure adjustments to improve the handling and tire wear. Despite quick work on pit road, Hill was tagged with a pit road penalty and restarted the race in 27th on lap 39. The balance of Stage 2 ran under green and allowed Hill to advance through the pack and into 12th by lap 60.
Zipadelli and company dialed up the same plan and adjustments on pit road, as a lightning quick pit stop allowed Hill to restart seventh on lap 68. Hill stayed committed to the bottom side of the speedway on the restarts and allowed him to advance inside the top five by the race’s final caution on lap 91. The Winston, Ga wheelman had to navigate a chaotic restart with three-wide racing on lap 96 after restarting sixth and immediately jumped back into the top five. Hill took over the third position on lap 102 and held off a strong challenge from the No. 88 truck in the waning laps to finish in a podium position. The third-place result is Hill’s third top-10 finish at LVMS in five starts and earned him the lead in the championship standings by nine points.
Austin Hill Quote:“If you look at our left front (tire), it’s all corded. This tire that we brought just wasn’t what we needed. I’ve always went by the philosophy that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They came with a different tire compound and we just struggled all night finding grip. I could only run the bottom, I couldn’t run up the racetrack any, and if I did it was just a four-wheel slide. I felt like we were on top of the racetrack. Can’t thank United Rentals enough for coming on board. Our Tundra was okay early in the run, but then once the tire wear came in and the left front started cording, there’s really nothing else you can do. I have to thank my guys Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and all the guys at the shop. Eddie (D’Hondt) up in the spotter’s stand, he gave me a lot of tips and tricks in the race that seemed to help me get back up to the front. It was an okay day for us. I wanted to race against Kyle (Busch), but we weren’t good enough.”