Austin Hill delivered another relentless effort to earn his second win of the season on Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) and automatically advanced himself and the Weins Canada team to Round 2 of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoffs. The Gander Trucks regular season champ extended his playoff run by leading the final 39 laps and held off a fierce challenge to collect his sixth career victory and back-to-back fall race wins at LVMS.
Hill started the evening from the 11th position and dealt with a tight handling Toyota Tundra during the opening segment which hindered him from gathering stage points. He ran 13th at the Stage 1 break on lap 30 and came to pit road under the caution for a round of adjustments from crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the HRE team. He restarted ninth on lap 38 in Stage 2 after quick pit work and valiantly fought to maintain position inside the top 10.
The handling condition improved but had swung to the loose side as Hill maintained a top-10 position and earned two points by running ninth at the end of Stage 2 on lap 60. Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road for a batch of significant chassis adjustments and assured his driver that the truck’s performance was headed in the right direction. With an elongated pit stop to complete the adjustments, Hill restarted 16th on lap 68, but would quickly showcase the resilient persona of the No. 16 team.
Hill reentered the top 10 on lap 73 and moved to seventh by the time a caution flag flew on lap 85. Quick work by the Weins Canada team bought Hill two spots which enabled him to pick the bottom lane at the choose cone and lined up third for the lap 90 restart. Hill make a three-wide bid for the lead and grabbed the second position before another quick yellow. The race’s final restart on lap 96 saw Hill restart on the bottom of the front row and immediately took the lead in Turn 2. Over the final 25 laps, Hill put on a masterful defensive clinic to hold the No. 2 truck at bay, who grabbed the first two stage wins earlier in the event. Hill positioned his Toyota on the racetrack to block clean air from the No. 2’s nose to secure his second win of the season and automatically transferred his team to the second round of the playoffs.
Austin Hill Quote:“The ironic thing was that right after Bristol, right after we took the checkered flag I said, ‘let’s keep our heads up, we’re going to go to Vegas and win it.’ Heck, we did it. We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means. We had to fight a lot of adversity. Stage one and two, we weren’t good at all. Scott (Zipadelli) and the guys kept working on it and got it better and better. Pit crew did a hell of a job on that last pit stop getting me in the position that I needed to get into. I just had to get out there and get it. That’s what we did. I knew clean air was huge so just had to get through the gears right and get to the lead. I knew this Weins Canada Toyota Tundra could probably hold off everybody, but Sheldon (Creed) was definitely way faster than me.”
“For starters, our truck was terrible to start with, but that just goes to show how good Scott (Zipadelli) and everybody back at the shop at HRE, how hard they work. They don’t give up and I never gave up the whole race. We were riding around 12th to 15th pretty much the first two stages. The second stage, I think we ended up ninth or something so we didn’t have very many stage points. I knew if we didn’t go get it done and get the win that we were going to have to fight a lot of adversity going to Talladega. We just kept working on it and kept telling Scott what he truck was doing. It was really weird tonight, the way the air was. I don’t know if it’s this tire or what’s going on, but it was really hard to pass in traffic. I knew there at the end, the No. 2 was definitely way faster than we were. If he would have gotten out front, he would have drove away from us. We had to play defense at that point. I knew as much as I stayed in front of him and kept the dirty air on him, I was mirror driving pretty much the whole time. I wasn’t really looking ahead of me at what was going on. They work their tails off at the shop and they’re the hardest working team in the garage area, I truly believe that. Our Weins Canada Toyota Tundra was decent tonight. We had to go out there and earn that one and we did it.”