Back for Redemption … Austin Hill returns to the Lone Star State looking for redemption while flying the black and orange colors of Texas-based Ennis Steel. The driver of the No. 16 Toyota Tundra has circled Friday night’s event at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) since an overheating issue took him out of contention with one of the fastest trucks in March at TMS. Hill brings a string of three straight top-10 finishes to the second stop at TMS and looks to become the first two-time winner among NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series regulars in 2019.
Month of Money … Hill has a knack for coming up clutch when big money is on the line. The Winston, GA native took the single-biggest purse of the year in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway and looks to do more of the same during the “Triple Truck Challenge” in June. Gander Outdoors has an extra $50,000 bonus on the line during each of the next three races at TMS, Iowa Speedway, and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. If Hill or any other driver wins two of the three races, there’s a $150,000 bonus, and a staggering $500,000 payday to sweep all three races.
HRE Salutes … During the NASCAR Salutes campaign, HRE will honor military members close to the team members by placing their names on the right side door of Hill’s No. 16 Toyota Tundra.
Edwin R. Rice, grandfather of truck chief Tim Rice, served in the U.S. Army from 1943-1945 during World War II. Originally from Higgins Port, Ohio, Rice was in Service Company 86th Mountain Infantry and was in active duty beginning in December 1944. Rice operated a 1 ½ ton truck carrying ammunition to the front lines on the battlefields in Italy as well as casualties from the front lines to burial. Near the end of the war, Rice drove his transport truck up Brenner Pass where he was met by German soldiers who displayed white surrender flags to him before war’s official end. Rice was honorably discharged following WWII in September 1945.
Texas Track Record … Friday’s event marks Hill’s 60th-career Gander Trucks start and his seventh overall at TMS. Last season, Hill scored his first-career top-five finish at TMS in November and that has him eager to return to the recently repaved 1.5-mile quad oval. Four of his five TMS starts prior to 2019 resulted in top-15 finishes, and posted his best qualifying effort of 2019 at TMS back in March (fifth).
Season to Date … The race to the Gander Trucks playoffs reaches the halfway mark on Friday night. The SpeedyCash.com 400 is the ninth of 17 races in the regular season, and Hill is one of only two drivers with a guaranteed slot on the playoff grid. Hill resides seventh in the overall championship standings with one victory, two top-five, and five top-10 finishes thus far.
Chassis Selection … Crew chief Scott Zipadelli has brought chassis No. 007 to the track for the second race in a row, and third overall in ’19. This is the most successful Toyota Tundra in HRE’s history, with three wins in 2018, and was most recently driven to a sixth-place finish by Hill at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Tune In … FOX Sports 1’s coverage from TMS kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday night with NASCAR Raceday followed by the green flag of the SpeedyCash.com 400 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Stay updated with Hill and the No. 16 team by following @Hattori_Racing on Twitter, @hattoriracing on Instagram, and Hattori Racing Enterprises on Facebook.
Austin Hill Quote:
On returning to Texas:
“Texas was one of the places we had some trouble at earlier in the year and we had a really fast that night. I feel like we have some unfinished business there and it’s a place I’ve always felt comfortable. We’ve had a couple weeks off to get our Tundras refreshed a little bit, and Scott (Zipadelli) and the guys have been working really hard to get our stuff as good as it can be. You had to have track position and get good restarts in the race earlier this year, and it’ll probably be that way again on Friday. I’d love to get these guys back in victory lane, and Ennis Steel since this is their home race. That’d be really cool to do and there's a ton of money on the line the next three weeks. It's awesome that Gander Outdoors is putting up that type of cash, and we're definitely going to go after it.”