Austin Hill’s debut in Southern California resulted in a 16th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) on Saturday afternoon. Hill was on pace for a career-best NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) outing until a flat tire thwarted his top-10 run less than 30 laps from the finish.
The 25-year old Georgia native posted a top-15 run in Friday’s opening practice session and turned in the 15th-quickest lap in qualifying on Saturday afternoon. At the drop of the green flag, Hill consistently hung around the top-15 all while battling an extremely loose condition in the No. 61 AISIN Group Toyota Supra. At the end of Stage 1, Hill found himself in 17th and bolted on four fresh tires under the stage break to match two chassis adjustments.
The adjustments by the AISIN Group team paid dividends in Stage 2, as Hill was able to stay more committed to the throttle on corner exit to make time down ACS’ long straightaways. That helped him inch his way up the leader board to 15th by the end of the stage on lap 70. Additional pit work and adjustments under the caution further benefited Hill and the AISIN Group Supra as he climbed as high as 12th by lap 86 and ran there until putting under a caution period on lap 93. While other lead lap competitors stayed on track during the caution, Hill took full advantage of the fresh tires and blitzed his way into the top-10 on a lap 102 restart. He advanced as high as sixth before another caution flag flew at lap 110.
Hill pitted under the lap 110 and immediately moved back into the top 10 on the lap 114 restart before trouble arose. Hill was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop under green on lap 120 for a flat right front tire that deflated his run in the top-10. He went down a lap to the leaders as a result, but regained the lap by running in the Lucky Dog position when the caution flew on lap 127. Hill restarted at the tail of the field on lap 132 and managed to take the checkered flag in 16th position in his first appearance at ACS.
Austin Hill Quote:“We worked on our AISIN Group Supra all race long and got it driving pretty good after the first stage. Once we got some security in the rear of the car, we were able to make some ground towards the top 10. We needed to be a little more free to be able to charge the corners to get much more, but we were outrunning a lot of really good cars and definitely should have finished in the top-10. It’s disappointing to work that hard for all those positions and not be able to come away with the finish I felt like we deserved based on our speed and adjustments.”