By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – Austin Hill gave his fellow NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series competitors a run for their money Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway, but ultimately didn’t see the race fall his way in the closing stages and had to settle for an eighth-place result when the checkered flag flew.
“By far, that is the best truck I have had ever on a mile-and-a-half, Hill said. “Can’t thank Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and these guys enough. They worked their asses off in the shop and it just shows that we were the ones to beat. We just didn’t come out with it tonight.”
Starting the night in fifth, Hill held his own in his Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota, moving up to second place by the end of the first stage before running into issues in the second stage when he and Johnny Sauter got together and Hill wound up making contact with the Turn 4 wall on lap 58.
Despite the contact, Hill’s pit crew went to work and got the truck back in racing shape, allowing him to slice right back through the field and challenge for the lead later in the race.
“Me and the 13 got together early in the race,” Hill said of the contact. “He kind of held me a little tight and I got loose up under him. 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’ve 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 ‘We’ve got something for these boys. I feel like we’re pretty good.’”
While under caution at lap 109, the decision was made to stay out on track when several of the other leaders came down pit road as they weren’t yet in their fuel window and those that pitted would be pushing it to make it to the end of the race.
With the lead in sight, Hill was able to take over the top spot for good on lap 112 and stayed out front for the next 34 laps.
“We got a good restart, got to the lead, and just slowly started creeping away from them. Heck, 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 bit earlier than everyone else. I knew there were some guys that were trying to stretch it even though they were possibly four or five laps short.”
Making his final stop for fuel on lap 146, Hill noted that they were banking on the race staying green to the finish to see how things would have cycled out, but when the caution flag flew for the stalled truck of Austin Wayne Self, they were dead in the water.
Though he was able to get the free pass and get back on the lead lap, Hill was only able climb back to eighth by the end of the race.
“We came down pit road, and the guys did an awesome job,” said Hill. “We had no issues on pit road; we just got caught a lap down due to that caution. It really hurt us. I would have liked to have seen it go green the rest of the way to see if those guys would have made it to the end and where we would have cycled back out.”