Austin Hill begins his playoff quest for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) a week removed from securing his first career regular season title. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra enters the playoff opener as one of the odds-on favorites thanks to his remarkably productive 16-race regular season along with the championship pedigree of crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the HRE team. Hill begins his second-career playoff appearance with momentum on his side after leading 65 laps at Richmond Raceway and on the strength of five consecutive top-10 finishes.
Team to Beat … Consistency is one of the necessary elements to win any points title, and that’s exactly what Hill, Zipadelli, and company have displayed thus far in 2020. The Winston, Ga. has laid claim to the highest average finish (6.9), average running position (6.6), and most laps led (284) of any Gander Truck series regular over the first 16 races. Hill has constructed two streaks of five consecutive top-10 finishes or more during the regular season, which included his first win of the season at Kansas Speedway in July. His average finish of 5.4 in the last five races of the regular season and leading laps in six of the last eight races illustrate that the No. 16 team is entering the most crucial time of year firing on all cylinders.
Bristol History … Thursday night’s playoff opener at “Thunder Valley” marks Hill’s fifth career start at BMS. He has four previous Gander Trucks starts at “The Last Great Colosseum” and tallied his best finish of 10th last season in his playoff debut. Hill and the No. 16 United Rentals team are primed to improve on last year’s BMS effort after elevating their performance on flat and short tracks this season with a third-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway in August and an eighth-place finish with 65 laps led at Richmond last Thursday.
Chassis Selection … Zipadelli and the HRE squad have elected to employ chassis No. 010 at BMS. Hill most recently drove this chassis to a stage win and an eighth-place finish at Dover International Speedway in August and a fifth-place result at Kentucky Speedway in July. This Toyota Tundra has a season-best finish of third which came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in February.
Tune In … FOX Sports 1’s coverage of the Gander Trucks playoff kickoff begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with NASCAR Raceday followed by the green flag at 7:30 p.m. ET. Stay updated with Hill and the No. 16 United Rentals team by following @Hattori_Racing on Twitter, Hattori Racing Enterprises on Facebook, and @hattoriracing on Instagram.
Austin Hill Quote:On beginning the playoffs at Bristol:“I’m ready to get going. We’ve put together a strong regular season and this is a great opportunity for our entire United Rentals team. We’ve been able to string solid finishes together the entire season so far and I think you’re going to have to be consistent to advance through each round. The longer we put ourselves in position, the wins are going to come. We definitely would like to have more than one win this year, and feel like we deserved it, but this team is really good at focusing on ourselves and on what we need to do to run well. Scott (Zipadelli) and all the guys at HRE have done a great job improving our short track program this year, and I think we’ll keep that up at Bristol this week. Our team has done a great job of being aggressive in every area this year and we just have to stick to the things that have gotten us to this point.”