Austin Hill’s career-best run at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) was cut short 12 laps shy of the finish on Thursday night after being involved in a late race accident. The driver of the No. 16 AISIN Toyota Tundra was credited with a 24th-place finish as his playoff run in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver championship came to an end. However, his 30 points scored were tied for the 10th-most of all drivers in the field and allowed the No. 16 team to advance into the Round of Eight in the Camping World Trucks owners’ championship playoff.
With a five-point cushion on the cut line entering the “World’s Fastest Half Mile”, Hill needed to capitalize with strong stage points in the first 110 laps, and the Winston, Ga. native did exactly that. Hill immediately charged from the 10th starting position to enter the top-five on lap 18 and took advantage of a restart on lap 34 to take the third position. The third caution of the race set up a one-lap dash to the stage 1 finish and Hill executed a textbook restart to score nine points by running second on lap 55.
Due to the number of cautions and limited green flag laps upcoming in stage 2, crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the AISIN team kept Hill on track during the stage break to conserve track position. Hill managed to maintain position inside the top five while dealing with a slightly tight condition just past the center of BMS’ high-banked concrete corners. Another perfectly executed restart on lap 80 allowed Hill to keep the runner up position until the waning laps of stage 2 as lapped traffic halted Hill’s momentum. Hill still collected eight points on lap 110 in third position to expand his buffer in the standings.
He pitted for four tires, fuel, and a mi
ute air pressure adjustment under the stage caution but was nabbed for a speeding penalty and relegated him back to 21st position for the restart on lap 122. The two-time race winner in 2021 put on a show slicing through the field and taking advantage of the outside lane on restarts to pull himself up to 11th by lap 178. The event’s 10th caution on lap 181 bunched the field up and chaos ensued shortly after the lap 187 restart as Hill made contact with the No. 25 truck exiting Turn 4. The severe damage forced Hill to retire prematurely and finish 24th. Hill will continue the quest for HRE’s second owners championship next Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Austin Hill Quote:“This was the best we’ve ever been at Bristol and it’s not the way we wanted to end the night. This whole AISIN team deserves better than the end result. Our Toyota Tundra was a lot better than we’ve ever had a Bristol before, and we still have a lot to accomplish this season. There’s four more trophies to chase and hopefully compete for an owners’ championship when we get to Phoenix.”