Austin Hill extended his lead in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series point standings with a second-place finish at Pocono Raceway on Sunday morning. The driver of the No. 16 Toyota Tsusho, Toyota Mobility Parts Toyota Tundra tied his best finish of the season while setting a new record for HRE with seven consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to last season. After six of 23 races, Hill continues to lead the championship standings by a margin of 51 points.
The 60-lap event went green early Sunday morning after being postponed due to weather on Saturday afternoon and began with an instant dose of mayhem behind Hill. While Hill moved from third to second in the first corner, a multi-truck accident slowed the field on the opening lap. The race’s 15-lap Stage 1 was halted three times for caution flags but allowed Hill to maximize his track position and earn nine points in second position on lap 15.
Despite the numerous chaotic restarts on Pocono Raceway’s wide front stretch, Hill kept the Toyota Tsusho Tundra in the runner-up position through two restarts in Stage 2. Track position and fuel strategies are always paramount at Pocono, and crew chief Scott Zipadelli employed a creative pit strategy to position Hill at the front for the final run. Coming to a restart on lap 27, Zipadelli called Hill to pit road from the second position for four tires, fuel, and a slight air pressure adjustment to aid his tight handling condition. Hill returned to the track in 32nd but restarted in the top 10 on lap 34.
The Gander Trucks point leader made the most of restarting on the top lane on lap 39 and immediately advanced from eighth to third. He ran there until the race leader brought out the yellow on lap 49 and was positioned on the front row for a sprint to the checkers. The race’s final yellow flag on lap 55 set up a green-white-checkered finish. Hill made a valiant bid for the race lead coming to the white flag, but lost momentum on the inside of the speedway. He briefly relinquished the second spot, but regained it coming to the checkered flag to tie his best finish of the 2020 season.
Austin Hill Quote:“Our Toyota Tsusho Tundra was really fast today. We stayed up front all day. Clean air was really big. During that run that we finally had, we had so many caution laps that during that first pit stop I didn’t really know exactly what to tell the guys I needed. I knew I was on the tight side so I said hey if anything, let’s loosen it up some. We just didn’t free it up enough, we should have taken a big swing at it because once we had that little bit of a long run there when we were running third, it just got way too tight. Clicked off a few good laps there early in the race when I actually started catching the No. 51 and the No. 18 a little bit and then all of the sudden it was just like a light switch and it got really tight on us. That’s kind of what the difference was, that last restart, got a really good push and got through (turn) one good and was battling with the No. 51 and the No. 2 got to the middle of us. When I went through the tunnel turn, I was just way too tight. Just could not get it turning and I had to lift to stay off the No. 2 to keep from wrecking all of us. It’s frustrating finishing second, but I guess when you’re frustrated finishing second then the wins will come. It just shows that my guys are the best in the garage and they know what they’re doing and they’re really good at dialing these trucks in with no practice.”