By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
The momentum from winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season-opener continued for Austin Hill with a top-10 finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hill ran inside the top-10 throughout the entire Ultimate Tailgating 200.
Hill’s No. 16 AM Ortega / United Rentals Toyota Tundra was ahead of the carnage on a restart with 13 laps to go. He lined up sixth on the final restart of the night, with six laps to go, after a brief delay for rain. In the final six laps, the Hattori Racing Enterprises driver battled with fellow Toyota Racing drivers Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton, as well as Ross Chastain.
The four drivers traded positions back and forth. Chastain was the first to break away, taking sixth, leaving the Toyota trio to battle for seventh. Hill slowly pulled ahead of the two Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers. When the checkered flag waved, he was seventh.
“It didn’t hurt as bad,” Hill explained. “We only lost one position there on the restart. It just seemed like we needed to be on the bottom on the restart. That’s where our Tundra liked to be. That’s where it handled really good. When we restart on the top, it didn’t really help us out any. When we went back green, I mean yeah, it was misty and it was a little damp out, but the handling and everything really wasn’t that bad.
“I just think short run speed was really our Achilles heel. It paid dividends to us, we really had a long run truck. Restarts I just got to pick the right lane for the right turn. I kept going low when I should’ve went high and I kept going high when I should’ve went low. It just really hurt us.”
After qualifying was rained out, Hill started on the pole for the first time in his career because of HRE winning the Owner’s Championship last season. On the start, defending Truck Series Champion Brett Moffitt attempted to assist Hill with a push. The impact lifted his rear-tires and nearly spun him out in front of the field. Although Hill recovered, he quickly dropped outside of the top-five before doing so.
This is just the second time in Hill’s career that he has earned back-to-back top-10 finishes. The seventh-place finish is his 10thcareer top-10 finish.
Hill slips from the championship points lead to second. He is now one point behind Grant Enfinger. However, Hill is still the only driver locked into the Truck Series Playoffs with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch winning at Atlanta.