Austin Hill continued Hattori Racing Enterprises’ record streak of top-10 finishes with a fifth-place effort in the rain-shorted Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday evening. The top-five run marks the team’s eighth consecutive top-10 finish and is his fourth top-five result of the season. After seven events, Hill remains atop the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship standings by 46 points.
The driver of the No. 16 AISIN Group Toyota Tundra took the green flag from the fifth position, courtesy of a staggered random draw. Two quick caution flags slowed the opening laps and forced Hill to navigate multiple restarts on the ill-fated bottom lane. After running 12th as late as lap 26, Hill managed to muscle his way back into the top 10 and snagged two points at the end of Stage 1 on lap 35 while running ninth.
Hill radioed crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the AISIN Group team that he liked the balance on his Toyota Tundra and pitted for four tires and fuel under the stage caution. As several trucks stayed on track, the Gander Trucks point leader lined up 12th on the lap 41 restart and began his march up the leader board. The Winston, Ga. product only need two laps to advance to seventh and would restart in that position on the evening’s final restart on lap 52. The final 19 laps of Stage 2 would decide the race and saw Hill duel in a fierce five-truck battle for the fourth position during much of the run. Hill utilized the outside lane to make crucial maneuvers to pick off two positions and took the fifth position on lap 69. He held on to the position to complete Stage 2 on lap 70 and banked six points.
Inclement weather moved over Kentucky Speedway at the conclusion of Stage 2 and prematurely ended the event after 71 of 150 scheduled laps. Hill finished the night in fifth position to extend his streak as the only Gander Trucks driver with top-10 finishes in every event this season.
Austin Hill Quote:“Frustrating way to end the night. I thought we had a really good truck. Our AISIN Group Toyota Tundra was really fast all night. The inside lane on the restarts were really tough and if you didn’t get up early enough it would just bite you. Throughout the run it was really hard to pass. Everybody was kind of single-filed out there. I thought on the long run though, we had a really good truck. We could actually turn under people, get beside of them and clear them before the next corner. Everybody at HRE is working really hard. We brought a brand-new package to the racetrack and it just showed that they’re doing their work. They’re doing their job inside the shop and they’re bringing me fast Toyota Tundras each and every week. Our time is coming. We just got to keep digging, keep fighting hard, keep plugging away at these top-five’s and we’ll get a win shortly.”