Austin Hill closed out his double duty weekend at Darlington Raceway with a consistent third-place run on Sunday afternoon and lengthened his advantage in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series point standings to 38 points. The driver of the No. 16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra scored 51 points, second most of any driver in the field, and captured his sixth podium finish of the season. His effort at “The Lady in Black” also tied an HRE team record for 13 top-10 finishes in a single season after 15 events.
The Gander Trucks point leader started from the third position, thanks to his strong effort at World Wide Technology Raceway a week ago, and never completed a green-flag lap outside the top five all afternoon. Hill settled into fifth on the opening lap but moved into the top three by lap 13. His tire management skill proved critical towards the end of Stage 1 and took the second spot on lap 42. A bid for the stage win came up just shy in Turn 4 on lap 45 as he collected nine points in second position at the end of the opening stage.
Crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the Gunma Toyopet team gave Hill four tires and a slight air pressure adjustment and set him up to restart fourth on lap 52. Once again, Hill maintained his Goodyear tires on Darlington’s abrasive surface to collect eight points in Stage 2 while running third at lap 90. Zipadelli and the HRE squad called for the same pit stop under the Stage 2 caution and Hill was able to restart on the bottom of the front row on lap 98.
After a caution on lap 103, Hill chose the outside lane and restarted fourth and maintained position inside the top five. A caution at lap 123 allowed Hill to pit for four tires and restarted third on lap 130. Hill made a bold, three-wide bid for the lead on the restart, and managed to grab the second position and ran there until a caution with two laps to go, on lap 146, changed the race’s complexion. The top three trucks, including Hill, and others on the lead lap, pitted for precious fresh tires for the overtime restart. Hill lined up 11th for the green-white-checkered finish and blitzed his way to sixth in a half lap. He took full advantage of the fresh rubber to pick off additional spots on the last lap to secure his second consecutive third-place finish.
Austin Hill Quote:“Our Gunma Toyopet Tundra was really good on the long runs. The No. 2 and the No. 23 were a little bit better than us on short runs for a good 15 or so laps and then we’d start reeling them in a little it. All in all, it was a good effort for us today. We did what we had to do. We just wanted to keep this points lead and keep stacking up points. We also wanted this win really bad. We thought we would drag more people down knowing that the No. 2, me and Moffitt, we were the top-three guys and we came down pit road. We thought we would have drug more people. Restarting 11th like we did and coming back to third was good, but it’s frustrating. Especially when we felt like we had a really good truck. We felt like we were just as good as the No. 2 and the No. 23. Felt like one of us three should have won the race today. I thought we had a shot at it, we made a call and we stuck with it. It didn’t pan out, but you can’t say that all these guys at HRE) aren’t trying to win these races and trying to do some different strategy from other guys to get the job done. It just shows how good we are and we were good all day. We just didn’t close it out.”