Austin Hill broke through for his first-career NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series (NGOTS) victory in electrifying fashion at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) on Friday night in his first start with Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE). Hill, who raced feverishly to keep track position at the front of the field, held off frantic challenges for the lead, narrowly escaped a multi-truck wreck, and survived two overtime restarts to tally the biggest victory of his racing career.
The No. 16 Chiba Toyopet team led by Scott Zipadelli earned the third-consecutive victory for HRE, dating back to last season at ISM Raceway, and the first for team owner Shige Hattori at “The World Center of Racing”.
Hill’s debut with HRE began with a 10th-place qualifying effort, which allowed him to race near the front of the lead draft for the opening stage. The Winston, GA native was patient and precise in the draft, and maintained a top-five position in the lead group during Stage 1. Coming to the stage break on lap 20, Hill made a bold, three-wide move to take second spot and collected nine points. Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road under the caution for two tires and fuel. Despite quick pit work, Hill lost track position due to varying strategies by his competitors and finished 13th at the end of stage two on lap 40.
Zipadelli played the strategy card at the beginning of the final stage by giving Hill left side tires and fuel under the lap 41 caution, which netted him the second position. Hill fought for the race lead while a multi-truck accident ensued in his rear-view mirror on lap 54. Hill pitted for the final time under the caution for fuel only and immediately began to conserve fuel.
From the lap 63 restart, Hill managed the lead and worked the side draft to near perfection at the front of the pack to stay in the top three positions while conserving fuel. After narrowly escaping another multi-truck wreck on lap 100, Hill regained the lead and controlled the final two restarts in overtime. Hill turned away two furious bids for the lead on the last restart to capture his first-career win, and the first win of 2019 for the defending series champions.
Austin Hill Quote:
“I never would have thought in a million years I’d win at Daytona. We’ve had some success at Daytona before, but just didn’t have the finishes we were looking for there at the end. We’d have something happen and to be able to come on board with Hattori Racing and start off the season like this, I think there’s going to be a lot of good things to come for us.”
“I didn’t have any confidence (in saving fuel) to be honest with you. We pitted really early and we already knew it was going to be close and then when we went overtime, I was so scared. I just knew I was going to run out coming off of four and not make it to the line. So much stuff was going through my head, but hey, we’re here in victory lane.”