Austin Hill continued his hot streak to start the 2020 season with his best home track result with a runner-up finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra dominated the second half of Saturday’s race leading 36 laps and extended his points lead in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
Hill started the afternoon from the fourth position and was in the thick of a fierce battle for position inside the top five in the opening laps. The Winston, GA product navigated a pair of caution flags and a loose handling condition to earn six points by running fifth at the Stage 1 caution on lap 30. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment under the yellow flag to improve the balance on the United Rentals Tundra for Stage 2.
Despite restarting ninth on lap 38, Hill consistently worked the extreme bottom lane of the speedway and advanced into the top five in the abbreviated stage. Zipadelli elected to keep Hill on track under caution at lap 52 to save a set of fresh tires for the following segment. Hill lined up third for a four-lap dash on lap 57 with worn tires to close out Stage 2 while the majority of the field had vastly fresher tires in his mirror. He managed to hold on to the 10th position at lap 60 to earn a point for the seventh time in eight stages this season.
Under the stage caution, Hill took his turn to bolt on four fresh tires and restarted 21st on lap 67 and gained a tire advantage on most of the field. Zipadelli’s pit strategy would pay off in full over the following run as Hill began to rip through the field. Hill advanced to 15th by lap 75, passing trucks that had similar tires, and his march to the front accelerated from there. As he caught trucks that had additional laps on their tires, Hill stormed into the top 10 by lap 82 and reentered the top five less than five laps later. Hill took the third position on lap 94 as a round of green flag pit stops began.
The United Rentals pit crew delivered a flawless pit stop under green as Hill hit his marks on pit road and assumed the race lead on lap 99. As the race inched towards the scheduled conclusion on lap 130, Hill exhibited his dominance by stretching his advantage to over five seconds before a caution flew on lap 129. The yellow forced the field to pit road to put on fresh tires for the overtime restart. Hill restarted on the front row and waged a fierce war for the victory and finished second for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish to start the season.
Austin Hill Quote:“All day on the restarts it took our truck about five to seven laps to get going. We would be on the splitter a little bit but as the tire wear came in and as the pace fell off, our splitter heights and everything were really good. There at the end on that white flag lap, I went into Turn 1 beside the No. 98. I drove in there deeper than I had all day. It got on the splitter a little bit and when it did, I just got tight and I had to lift a little bit. But, I’ll take the blame on that for not getting the win. We had a dominating truck. There at the end, we were just as good as the No. 51 and stuff before he had his issues. I can’t thank everyone at United Rentals and HRE enough for bringing a fast truck and unloading off the truck and going racing like we do. We’re going to be good at Homestead.”