Austin Hill earned his best-career finish at Talladega Superspeedway with a sixth-place result on Saturday afternoon. Hill opened the Round of 6 with his fourth-consecutive top-10 of the playoffs and sits third in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series playoff standings, 12 points above the cut line.
Hill and the No. 16 United Rentals team paced the field in Friday’s opening practice session and took the green flag from the 13th position on Saturday afternoon. During the race’s opening 20-lap stage, Hill exercised a great deal of patience navigating his way through the chaotic lead draft and entered the top-10 on a lap 15 restart. A series of thrifty maneuvers in the draft netted him the seventh position and four points at the end of Stage 1 on lap 20.
Crew chief Scott Zipadelli elected to take fuel only under the lap 21 caution to maintain as much track position as possible. Hill immediately climbed his way into contention, despite limited green-flag laps in Stage 2, and took the lead on lap 36. Hill held the lead briefly before a lack of drafting help shuffled him outside the top 10 at the stage break.
Zipadelli bolted on two tires and added fuel under the lap 41 caution for Hill to continue to run in contention during the race’s second half. The three-time race winner ran inside the top-10 before making his last pit stop for fuel only on lap 67. He cycled out to run in seventh place in a small, controlled lead draft of nine trucks that were positioned to settle the win among themselves. However, a caution on lap 83 of 94 bunched the field together to set up a chaotic finish.
While running seventh on lap 88, a multi-truck crash erupted in front of Hill, which he miraculously escaped without incident. The final caution on lap 93 sent the race into overtime where Hill restarted eighth and made a strong bid for a top-five position but took the checkered flag seventh. Following the race, the leader was black flagged for forcing a competitor below the out-of-bounds yellow line and gave Hill a sixth-place finish in the official results.
Austin Hill Quote:
“To get a sixth-place finish is pretty crazy to me, because any time I would pick a different lane, or go somewhere else, nobody really seemed to want to work with me or push me – a select few. We’ll go back and talk about it, look at it. We’re not really happy with that. We felt like we should have had a shot at winning the race. We were leading Stage 2 with two to go and the Chevy train on the outside was coming really hard. I thought about going to block and try to get up there. But I figured I’d get wrecked. I had two Toyotas stacked up behind me anyways, so I stayed down low…Just a really frustrating day. I’ve just been frustrated ever since lap 1 really. We’ll go back and talk about it, look it over, but I wasn’t really happy with how it ended.”