Austin Hill constructed one of his most complete efforts of the season and collected an eighth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) on Friday night. The driver of the No. 16 Ennis Steel Toyota Tundra paced the field for 34 laps in the final stage and scored the fifth-most points among all drivers. The result is Hill’s sixth top-10 finish in nine events this season, and his fourth consecutive top-10.
Hill tied his best-career qualifying effort at TMS from earlier this season and started from the fifth position. A tight handling condition at the outset relegated him to the ninth position, but Hill took full advantage of two restarts on laps 33 and 39 to score nine points and finish second in Stage 1. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli brought Hill to pit road under the lap 41 caution for four tires and rejoined the field in 17th as a variety of differing strategies played out through the field.
Hill began to patiently work his way to the front on the lap 47 restart, but was involved in an accident on lap 57. Close quarters racing in turn three resulted in Hill making minimal contact with the outside wall. The Ennis Steel team made precise repairs to Hill’s Toyota Tundra and returned him to the track still in contention for the lap 63 restart. By the end of Stage 2 on lap 80, Hill had worked his way back up to 11th, and restarted 13th after another mixed bag of pit strategies shuffled the field.
The Winston, GA driver executed a thrilling restart to perfection and climbed from 10th to fourth on lap 94, and took the lead shortly thereafter on lap 112. Once he took control of the top spot, Hill rocketed away to a straightaway lead over second place and was in firm control of the event. Hill came to pit road for a scheduled, fuel-only pit stop on lap 146, but a caution on lap 153 trapped Hill a lap down before the full cycle of pit stops was completed. Hill regained his lap by virtue of the Lucky Dog and restarted ninth with 10 laps to go. Hill picked his way through lapped traffic and was able to gain one position to take the checkered flag in eighth position.
Austin Hill Quote:
“We got a little off sequence at the start. Me and the 13 (Johnny Sauter) got together early in the race. He held me tight and I got loose up under him and we had a little bit of right front and right rear damage. But the guys did a hell of a job pulling it back out and making it salvageable. The truck was stupid fast. I have never had a truck that fast on a mile-and-a-half in my life. Once we got up through there and got to the top five, I came over the radio and said ‘Hey, we got something for these boys, I feel like we are pretty good.’ We got a good restart and got to the lead. At one point, we were a straightaway ahead, but we knew we were a little off-sequence. We knew we were going to have to pit a little earlier than everyone else. I knew there were some guys that were trying to stretch it. We came down pit road, and the guys did an awesome job. We had no issues on pit road; we just got caught a lap down due to that caution. It really hurt us. But by far, that is the best truck I have had at a mile-and-a-half.”