Austin Hill delivered a monstrous points night with a seventh-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday night as he earned 46 points, the most points of any driver in the field. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra extended his hot start with his fifth consecutive top-10 finish and more than doubled his advantage in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series standings after five events.
By virtue of a staggered, random draw, Hill led the field to the green flag and paced the first 29 laps of the night. A chaotic late restart in Stage 1 shuffled the running order, but Hill managed to earn eight points by running third at the lap 30 stage caution. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road for four tires and fuel under the yellow flag, but the No. 16 lined up 11th for the ensuing restart after several competitors stayed on the racetrack.
One of Hill’s most impressive maneuvers of the season came on the lap 36 restart when he rocketed from 11th to third on the opening green-flag lap of Stage 2. He briefly grabbed the runner-up position but settled into third for the balance of Stage 2 and collected another eight points at lap 60.
After pitting during the stage break for tires and an adjustment to aid a tight balance on the bottom of the track, Hill restarted fifth on lap 67 and quickly advanced to second. He held the second spot until a caution flew at lap 105 before a round of green-flag pit stops could completely cycle.
Hill restarted fourth on lap 111 and reclaimed the runner-up position on lap 118. A race-altering caution flew on lap 122 as every truck on the lead lap pitted for the final seven-lap dash to the checkers. Zipadelli put cooler scuff tires on the No. 16 Tundra, as the team had used all their sticker set and restarted second. Several trucks with fresh tires lined up behind Hill that had stayed out during the previous cycle of green flag stops. Over the final seven circuits, Hill managed to hold position inside the top 10 to finish seventh and extended his point lead from 21 to 44 points in the championship standings.
Austin Hill Quote:“We started off the race really good. We led the first stage and there at the end we ended up losing it. Our United Rentals Tundra started off on the free side and throughout the race it started getting tighter and tighter on us. We were trying to keep up with adjustments. Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) did a great job keeping up with adjustments. It’s just that we had a more of a short run truck tonight than we had in the past. Last year, we had a really good long run truck. I think that’s what you saw Kyle (Busch) be able to stretch it out on us a little bit. He could really put down some really good lap times on the long run. Our United Rentals Toyota Tundra was fast all night. We ran really inside the top three all night long. There at the end, we came down into the pits and we thought that taking six lap old tires would be good enough to propel us and get us a top five finish. When we went back green there, the truck drove different than it had all night. It didn’t have any front or rear grip. It was just kind of in a four wheel slide those last five or so laps. I was just kind of hanging on there in the end. So we are not really sure why it flipped the switch on us and started driving that way at the end, so we are going to go back to the drawing board and see what we maybe could have done different to run those last few laps a little different. All-in-all it was a good points night for us. We had good stage points, not the finish we were wanting because we ran inside the top five all night. At the very least, we were hoping to run third. It’s a little disappointing, but I’m excited to go the next race and see if we can get this thing in victory lane.”