By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A week removed from one of Austin Hill’s biggest heartbreaks of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career, his mind shifted towards capturing his first win of 2020 at a track he scored his latest win which was Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It’s always really fun to go back to a track you won at. It gives you a lot of confidence going in,” said Hill during Thursday’s video conference. “We were really good last year. It’s going to be different with it being a little hotter when we’re racing.”
With much warmer conditions in mid-June compared to November and the 39-truck field running shortly after the Xfinity Series, Hill found some excitement to the challenge that lies ahead.
“It’s probably going to be more slick, but it’s going to be nice having the Xfinity cars to go out first to get some rubber down at the track,” said Hill. “I’m excited to get going. Hopefully, we can close out a win and get into these playoffs.”
Since the series resumed at Charlotte, where he moved up from the fifth starting spot to the race lead on the opening lap, Hill knew his Toyota Tundra has been fast despite not having any single practice or qualifying sessions.
This is all thanks in large part of his entire No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises crew providing him competitive trucks as seen in last Saturday’s Vet Tix/Camping World 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Hill led 36 laps but lost after Grant Enfinger passed him in overtime.
“I have a ton of confidence in Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and everybody at HRE to give me a really fast truck right off the trailer. I think that’s why you’re seeing so much confidence out of me because I have so much confidence at my guys,” Hill commented.
“I think they’re one of the best when it comes to coming off the hauler and being good, having your splitter heights closed, and just everything that goes into what you would do in practice.”
Hill added that his always confident and prepared race team will start off Saturday’s Baptist Health 200 differently due to the warm conditions.
“Hopefully, when we start the race be pretty close in a setup, but with it being a little bit hotter this year, we’re going to go a little bit different to start the race,” said Hill.
“Just to be a little bit more on the tighter side because the grip isn’t going to be as good. There’s some few changes we’re going to make from last year. I have all the confidence in the world for my guys. It’s actually been really nice to go out there going into Turn 1 and get after it.”
As it pertains to why HRE have been good at Homestead over the years, Hill said that the Shige Hattori owned team have found tremendous long run speed and have successfully adapted into running the bottom and painting the white line. Something they’ve been able to adapt at older surfaced tracks and should Hill win Saturday, it’ll be his second straight triumph at Homestead and HRE’s third in a row.
“From the time they went there, they unloaded with a really good setup and they just kind of worked on it from there. I don’t know what all differences they do at Homestead than what other guys do, but for whatever reason we’ve had really good long run speed. You saw that back when Brett (Moffitt) and (Ryan) Truex was there. They’ve just always been really good there,” Moffitt on HRE’s success at the 1.5-mile circuit.
“I think it’s just because our truck is been able to wrap the bottom so well and we’re able to run right on the bottom and paint that white line. Some of the things they’ve learned at Homestead, we started implementing at other tracks where you fight grip.
“I think you saw that at Atlanta this past weekend where I can really run the bottom really well and paint that white line. We’re just able to really implement some things on tracks that are little more worn out. They’ve just been able to get that thing cutting on the bottom and turning really good, and still have that forward drive off.”
Live Truck Series coverage of the 134-lap race will begin after the Hooters 250 at approximately 7:30 pm EST on FS1.