Austin Hill scored his ninth podium finish in 21 races with a runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) on Sunday afternoon. The driver of the No. 16 AISIN Group Toyota Tundra scored the second-most points of any driver in the field to give himself a 27-point cushion on the cut line in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series standings heading into the Round 2 finale at Martinsville Speedway. Hill put on a resilient charge over the final 50 laps to come from outside the top-20 to post his third podium result in the playoffs.
The afternoon started smoothly for Hill after taking the green flag in third position. He immediately moved to second and challenged for the lead during Stage 1 and collected nine points in the runner-up spot on lap 45. Despite contesting the race lead, Hill fought a tire chatter and tight condition in both corners and pitted for four tires and air pressure adjustments during the stage caution on lap 36.
The lap 41 restart featured frantic racing as the leaders fought for position in the traction compound and shuffled Hill to sixth on lap 49. Hill’s tight condition was compounded in traffic, but the Winston, Ga. native managed to stay inside the top 10 and collected three points in eighth position at the end of Stage 2 on lap 70.
The event’s final stage went green on lap 78 as the intensity began to ratchet up. Hill’s tight balance persisted until a caution on lap 92 allowed him to pit for four tires and adjustments. After pitting a second time under the yellow for an extra splash of fuel, Hill restarted 23rd on lap 97 with 51 laps to go. With the help of an improved balance, Hill cranked up the aggression on numerous restarts to enter the top 10 by lap 113 and rejoined the top five on lap 123. A late restart on lap 136 allowed Hill to grab the second position and make a formidable charge at the lead. Coming to the white flag, Hill was in the process of taking the lead as the caution flew, negating his bid for the victory. He managed to hang on to second on the overtime restart to secure his best Gander Trucks finish at TMS and his third podium finish in the playoffs.
Austin Hill Quote:“Once it got to the end of the race and I was battling with the No. 2 trying to get the lead, all the points and everything else kind of went out the window. I was just focused on one thing and that was getting the win. I was going to do everything I could to try to get it done. I felt like I put a really good move on him, I faked low and I went to the high side. He drove to the bottom and got tight off of four and had to get out of it and then I kind of used the lapped truck as a pick and split them. The caution just came out at the wrong time for me. I knew it was going to be tough restarting on the outside lane. It seemed like a lot of guys on the outside lane were having trouble getting going. I thought I got through the gears good. Got down on his door really good and had a good run down the backstretch. There again, it just goes back to he had a teammate behind him that was able to push him and clear me. It was kind of all said and done after that. It was really hard to pass today with all the aero and everything else. Our AISIN Toyota Tundra was still really good. I thought we had a truck that could win. It just didn’t work out for us.”