Austin Hill earned his third stage win of the season to pocket a valuable playoff point en route to a 19th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday afternoon. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra flexed his muscle by leading 11 laps, captured the Stage 1 victory, and was tied for the sixth-most points scored of any driver in the field.
Hill took the green flag from the outside of the front row after last week’s victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS). The Winston, Ga. native immediately challenged for the top spot and took the lead on lap two and led nine laps before being shuffled as far back as sixth in the opening a stage. A two-lap dash to the Stage 1 checkers saw Hill blitz his way to the lead to capture an extra playoff point and his third stage win of the season.
A two-tire stop by the United Rentals team allowed Hill to restart ninth in Stage 2 on lap 26 and continued to be a threat for another stage win. He took the fourth position just before a caution on lap 37, three laps short of the Stage 2 break, negated his opportunity to challenge for an additional playoff point. After collecting seven points under caution on lap 40, Hill came to the attention of crew chief Scott Zipadelli and team for another set of tires and fuel.
He restarted the final stage in eighth on lap 54 and instantaneously went to the front. He took the runner-up spot on lap 57 and settled in to position himself for the final scheduled pit stop. While pitting on lap 64, Hill sped on pit road and incurred a pass-through penalty under green which relegated him as low as 26th. A late caution on lap 88 allowed Hill to rejoin the leaders and restarted in 18th for a two-lap sprint. Hill challenged for a top-10 position at the while flag, but was swept up in a multi-truck accident on the final lap and handed him a 19th-place result. Despite the finish, Hill added to his playoff point total and positioned himself to start the second round of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoffs tied for the point lead at Kansas Speedway.
Austin Hill Quote:“Just hard racing. Everybody is trying to win the race. You stay formed up until the white flag and then all hell breaks loose. If you’re able to put your truck somewhere, you do it. That kind of looks like what had happened. Some guys were putting their trucks in places that they probably shouldn’t and that ultimately is what caused the wreck. We shouldn’t have ever been in that predicament. I was just trying to get all I could get coming to pit road. I knew we had nothing to lose. I was trying to get everything I could and not slide the tires and just came in too hot and sped on pit road. I kind of got us behind there. We still had somewhat of a shot at it getting back on the lead lap and having that green-white-checkered, if the caution could have come out with like 10 (laps) to go or something, we could have had something for them just because our United Rentals Toyota Tundra was so fast. Just going for it and trying to get all I can on pit road and over-stepped that boundary.”