Battling to Stay Alive … Austin Hill is in the thick of the bubble battle to extend his championship run as the opening round of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs comes to a close at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS). The driver of the No. 16 AISIN Toyota Tundra returns to “Thunder Valley” looking to be one of the eight competitors that will advance to round two and holds a five-point advantage on the cut line. Hill currently sits eighth in the standings, but is only three points out of seventh position, six points behind sixth, and only 10 points out of fifth. A relentless effort by Hill and the AISIN team on Thursday night could net them a buffer in the standings and grant them a second-round berth.
Versatile Gladiator … A look at the stat book shows Hill owns one top-10 finish on the concrete surface at the “Last Great Colosseum”, and a ninth-place finish on the red clay in BMS’ inaugural dirt event in March. While the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” has not been Hill’s most fruitful track statistically, that won’t deter him or the HRE team. Hill proved his versatility this season by winning on dirt at Knoxville Raceway on July 9th after having never scored a top-five finish on dirt and captured his first-career road course win at Watkins Glen International (WGI) in the regular season finale.
Season to Date … After 17 of 22 races, Hill has scored the second-most points of all Camping World Trucks competitors. He finished second in the regular season standings and has accrued seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10’s thus far, including aforementioned victories at Knoxville and WGI. Hill’s average finish of 9.9 is third among full-time competitors and is one of only four drivers with multiple wins. The AISIN team has been in the championship fight the entire season due in part to suffering zero DNF’s, one of only three playoff teams to be running at the finish of all 17 events this year.
Chassis Selection … Hill will have a proven bullet in the chamber when the green flag drops on Thursday night at BMS. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the No. 16 team prepared chassis No. 010 for the round one cut off race. The Winston, Ga. native most recently drove this Toyota Tundra to a fourth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in June and a third-place result at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.
Tune In … The final race of the first round goes green at 9:00 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 with coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR Raceday. Stay connected with the No. 16 AISIN team by following @Hattori_Racing on Twitter, @hattoriracing on Instagram, and Hattori Racing Enterprises on Facebook.
Austin Hill Quote:On his outlook to returning to Bristol’s traditional concrete:“It’s nice to come to the Bristol that we all know. The dirt was a bit of a guessing game for everyone earlier this year, so coming back to the concrete, we know the areas where we need to focus with our AISIN Toyota Tundra. We had a top-10 a couple years ago and got caught up in a wreck really early in the race last year, so we never got to see what we really had. Scott (Zipadelli) and the guys have done a great job at improving at the places we weren’t quite as good last year, and I think we’ve showed that at Knoxville and Watkins Glen. We need to race hard for every point on Thursday night and get everything we can in both stages. Hopefully we have a Toyota Tundra that can race for the win, but if we’re able to maximize our night, I think we’ll be in good shape to keep our playoff run going.”