Austin Hill equaled his career-best finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) on Saturday afternoon with a ninth-place result in his debut at Darlington Raceway. The driver of the No. 61 Toyota Tsusho Toyota Supra delivered yet another relentless effort after starting 26th and battling an extremely tight handling condition to post his first top-10 finish of the season in five NXS starts.
Before the green flag on Saturday afternoon, Hill had never turned a lap at the track “Too Tough to Tame” or visited NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway. The current point leader in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series started 26th per the rulebook and faced adversity from the outset. While driving a new Toyota Tsusho Supra from the HRE stable without any practice, Hill dealt with an extremely tight handling condition and ran 26th at the end of Stage 1 on lap 45.
Crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the Toyota Tsusho team immediately went to work under the caution and gave Hill major chassis adjustments along with four tires and fuel to improve the balance. The changes were a step in the right direction as Hill advanced from 21st on the lap 52 restart up to 16th by the end of Stage 2 on lap 90. Zipadelli continued to wave his proverbial magic wand over the No. 61 Toyota Supra with another round of bold adjustments and helped Hill vault into the top 10 on the lap 107 restart. When a caution on lap 110 presented a chance to employ an alternate tire strategy, Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road for his last set of Goodyear tires under the caution. A restart with 32 laps to go on lap 116 allowed Hill to display some courageous moves on the restart to blitz his way through the field.
In two laps, Hill advanced from 20th to 10th as chaos erupted in the middle of the pack when several of the leaders fell back on older tires. The event’s last restart on lap 127 allowed Hill another opportunity to gain positions, and the Winston, Ga. native took advantage. He climbed to ninth and held serve over the final 21 circuits to match his best-career NXS finish of ninth in his first visit to “The Lady in Black”.
Austin Hill Quote:“Well it started off, I didn’t really like the place just because this was our first official race with all of my truck guys coming over to the Xfinity side and working on our Toyota Tsusho Supras. It’s just a little bit of a learning curve for the first two stages, just trying to figure the car out. We made some really good adjustments throughout, we started out really tight. I felt like I was on the splitter really hard and it would not turn whatsoever. That’s one thing that I love about working with all of my truck guys is, me, Scott (Zipadelli) and everybody from HRE we work really well together and the things I say on the radio and the way I relay it and the way we talk about things under caution, we just make the right adjustments throughout the day to make us better there at the end. It just showed that we didn’t give up, we just kept fighting, we kept making those right adjustments. There at the end I started liking the race track a little bit better when we got a little bit closer. A place like this, when you’re really, really tight like we were, just sliding front end around and stuff like that it’s a very challenging racetrack.”