By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Hattori Racing Enterprises will return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona International Speedway with Austin Hill.
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series regular will attempt his Xfinity Series debut in the organization’s No. 61 AISIN Group Toyota Supra in the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. Hill will have to qualify the No. 61 Supra on time since the team does not compete full-time in Xfinity competition.
HRE last competed in the Xfinity Series in 2015 with Ross Kenseth. In nine series starts, the team has one top-10 finish with Ross Chastain at Kentucky Speedway in 2014.
“We’re very excited to return to the Xfinity Series,” Hattori said. “The Toyota Supra is extremely important to our partners and very popular in Japan and we want to be part of the Supra program in NASCAR.
“It’s exciting for our team to compete in the Xfinity Series at Daytona, especially after winning there earlier this year. Austin has done a good job in the truck so far and this will be good to get him more experience.”
Hill earned his first career Truck Series victory with HRE in the season opener at Daytona. So far this season, he has earned two top-five and six top-10 finishes. Hill is currently seventh in the championship standings and one of three locked into the playoffs via a victory.
On superspeedways Hill’s worst finish is 11th in the 2018 season opener at ‘The World Center of Speed.’ He also earned a top-10 finish at Talladega Superspeedway last season.
“You always want to move up the ladder, and I can’t wait to get in the car,” Hill said. “I honestly never thought I’d have this opportunity. All thanks goes to Shige and AISIN Group. They’ve been working on this for a while and it’s a big deal for all of us to put a program together to race the Supra.”
Hill’s Truck Series crew chief, Scott Zipadelli will call the shots on top of the pit box for the 250-mile race. He has three victories as a crew chief in Xfinity competition. Zipadelli’s most recent came with Kyle Larson at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2014.
In 2015, Zipadelli moved to the Truck Series. Last season he led Brett Moffitt’s championship effort at HRE.
Hill expects the transition to be smooth with Zipadelli at the helm.
“We have a great team here, and it’s going to make the transition a lot smoother working with Scott (Zipadelli) and entire truck series team. We set the bar pretty high for ourselves at Daytona, so hopefully we can have the same success as we did in February.”
HRE also plans to attempt to compete in select Xfinity Series events throughout the remainder of the season.