Austin Hill wins Kansas Truck race
Austin Hill drove his Toyota Tundra to the win in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway on Friday evening. Hill, the series points leader, earned the fifth Truck Series win of his career, and it was the Truck Series-leading fifth victory this season for the Toyota Tundra.
After swapping the top spot with Brett Moffitt following the final restart on Lap 88, Hill grabbed the lead for good on Lap 96 of 134 and held it the rest of the way. All told, Hill led four times for a race-high 65 laps.
Hill’s best finish of the season followed his worst, a 30th-place result at Texas that stemmed from engine issues. Prior to the Fort Worth race, Hill had reeled off seven straight top 10s to open the season.
“Oh, man, it’s awesome,” said Hill, who increased his series lead to 40 points over second-place Ben Rhodes. “We’ve been working so hard this season. We’ve been really consistent. Last week was a bummer, having engine troubles.
“I told the guys before coming here, ‘You know we finished fourth here last year—let’s finish three spots better.’ And I’ll be danged if we didn’t.”
Thanks to the pit road snafu, Hill’s No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota will need some work before Saturday’s second race of a weekend doubleheader.
“Now we’ve got to go replace the bumper and get it ready to go tomorrow,” said Hill, who won for the first time in three Kansas starts and the fifth time in his career.
Moffitt and Grant Enfinger battled for the second position during the final green-flag run, with Moffitt prevailing. Hill pulled away as the two drivers fought for position behind him and crossed the finish line with a comfortable 2.928-second lead.
“Really, those last 20 laps felt like they went on forever,” Hill said. “I started thinking, ‘What am I going to do when a caution comes out?’ Am I going to choose the outside or inside lane and how hard do I drive it into the corner on old tires—just a lot of things were going through my head.
“I’m glad we didn’t have to do a green-white-checkered finish, and it just ended like it did. The United Rentals Toyota Tundra was really fast tonight. We do have some work for tomorrow. It felt like on the long run we were just way too free. I had to really pedal it through the corner, but we were good enough tonight.”
Enfinger held third, followed by reigning and three-time series champion Matt Crafton. Sunoco rookies Derek Kraus and Zane Smith were fifth and sixth, respectively, with Rhodes, Sheldon Creed, Johnny Sauter and Todd Gilliland completing the top 10.
Crafton gained one spot in the standings to ninth and now holds an 11-point cushion over Tyler Ankrum, the first driver currently out of a Playoff-eligible position. Stewart Friesen, a Playoff qualifier last year, suffered the most serious damage in the points after an unscheduled pit stop for a flat left rear tire and a 27th-place finish.
With three races left in the regular season, Friesen is 44 points behind Kraus, who holds the 10th and final Playoff position.
The Gander Truck drivers will line up again at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday for the second race of the doubleheader, the e.p.t. 200 at the 1.5-mile track (FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
AUSTIN HILL, No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra, Hattori Racing Enterprises
Finishing Position: 1st
What does this win mean for you tonight?
“This is awesome and we’ve been working so hard for this. Last week was a bummer having engine troubles and I told the guys before coming here, let’s go finish three spots better and I’ll be dang if we didn’t do it. Can’t thank everybody enough at HRE, Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and the guys, they work their tails off week in and week out. First win with the United Rentals paint scheme and that’s awesome, they’ve been a tremendous partner for me throughout my career. I’ve been wanting to get a win with these colors on and I’m so glad I was able to do it. That last pit stop, I tried to brake check a little bit and got out in fourth because I wanted to be in the high lane. I got tagged from behind, that was my fault and I apologize to Brett (Moffitt) when he hit me. I had it for Scott and the guys, they now have to replace the bumper to get ready for tomorrow. But I think the win was worth it.”
Were you concerned a late-race caution could come out?
“Really, those last 20 laps felt like they went on forever. I started thinking, what am I going to do when a caution comes out. Am I going to choose the outside or inside lane and how hard do I drive it into the corner on old tires, just a lot of things were going through my head. I’m glad we didn’t have to do a green-white-checkered finish and it just ended like it did. The United Rentals Toyota Tundra was really fast tonight. We do have some work for tomorrow. It felt like on the long run we were just way too free. I had to really pedal it through the corner, but we were good enough tonight.”
What was the difference once you got out front tonight?
“Just really awesome adjustments from Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and all the guys. We started off way too loose during the first run, got looser and looser as the run went on and we were just trying to keep up with it throughout the night. That last restart battle with Brett (Moffitt) was pretty awesome. I was tight enough to stay on the bottom and clear him and finally clear him enough to drive away from him and keep him in my mirror. I wouldn’t say I’m the best at running the top. That’s probably the first time I’ve actually run the top all the way around the top and that many laps consecutively. It just gave me a ton of confidence going into tomorrow being able to get up against the wall and having the confidence to run up there. I’ve always been a bottom feeder. It just boosts my confidence a little going into tomorrow being able to run the top.”
What made you go to the top of the track?
“We were free all night, but we weren’t free until the center of the corner and off so I was really able to chaarge entry and have a lot of center roll speed. I think that was the biggest difference maker is that I was able to drive in really deep, get it hard on the right-front and get it heated up enough to where it wouldn’t get free until the center-off and by that point, I was just modulating the throttle center-off. This Toyota Tundra was just good tonight. There’s nothing else can say, it was just really good.”
What happened to the left-rear of the Tundra?
“That was all my fault, I apologize to Brett (Moffitt), I think he was the one behind me coming off pit road. I was told we were third coming out of the pits and I wanted to be in the outside lane so I started checking up and I checked up too fast and didn’t realize Brett was that close to me and he got into the back of me. 100 percent my fault. I apologize for that. I hate that my guys have to go and replace the rear bumper now, but I think it was worth it getting this win.”
What does it mean to finally get a win this season?
“It’s just a lot of weight off my shoulders honestly. I’ve been kind of beating myself up by not getting the win in Atlanta and felt like there were some other race tracks we should have won at or at least had a better shot at. It’s just a big relief to be locked into the Playoffs and to just have that momentum going forward. We’ve been really consistent all year. Everybody at HRE and all the guys have been doing a fantastic job bringing really fast United Rentals Toyota Tundras to the race track. Everybody at TRD, they help out tremendously with sim and everything else that goes into this with no practice. It’s just a really special feeling to be able to get the win, get the job done and the best thing about it, we get to do it all over again tomorrow and try to go for number two.”
Were you aware there was a situation with five laps to go that nearly brought out a caution?
“No, the only thing that I had heard or that I had seen was somebody going down the backstretch and they looked like they had a right-front tire down or something down. I looked over and glanced over, my spotter told me he was going to make it back and that it was okay. Those last 20 laps, they felt like the longest race of my life just because you’re thinking of what’s going to happen next. When is that caution going to come out? How late is the caution going to come out? What kind of restart are we going to get? All those things started going through my head. Did I save enough tires? Just a lot of things that were kind of going through my head. I knew we had a really good truck all night, but I just didn’t know how much tire I had saved if we did have a late-race restart. Like I said, I’m just so glad that it just stayed green. It made my life a lot easier just being able to finish it off.”
Do you tell your crew chief not to change anything or do you think you’ll change a lot?
“I wouldn’t say we need to change a lot, but we do need to change some things. We just fired off way too loose at the start of the race and as the run went on, it just got looser and looser and we tried to keep up with that as best we could all night. Even there at the end, it fired off okay racing with Brett (Moffitt) and (Grant) Enfinger there at the end on that last restart to where I could be a little more aggressive than I had been all night. Once I got the lead and I started driving away, I started losing a lot of speed from the center off the corner just being able to put that throttle down. We were really good entry to center. I could carry a ton of speed and a lot of roll speed through the center, but it was just over-rotating a little bit and I think with it being during the daytime, I kind of just need to be a little bit on the tighter side to start the race to be better during that long run.”
Now that you have a win, do you want another late-race restart to be able to put Atlanta behind you?
“If that’s what it takes. If it comes down to it tomorrow or down the road where we do have a late-race restart, I’m fine with that. Looking back at history, I remember Michigan, winning that race with a green-white-checkered or something like that where we were able to get the job done there with the right push and everything else. I’m not saying that I can’t get it done, it would feel a little bit more rewarding to go toe-to-toe on a green-white-checkered and still get the job done. I’ll win them however I can with them, I don’t care if I have a straightaway lead or I win by a nose, I just want to win races. However, we have to get it done, we’ll get it done.”
Do you feel you’re the best team in the series at the halfway point in the season?
“I think we’re very strong. We’re definitely one of the top contenders. There’s some really good guys out there. Some really good teams and you never know when they’re going to hit it. All it takes is them coming to the race track with a really good setup and us missing it a little bit and they can go out there and win races just like we did today. I think there’s some other big players that they can be a factor throughout the season. I feel like once we get to the first short track of the season, that’s going to kind of been the tell tale for us, especially with Phoenix being maybe the last race of the season. We don’t know what the season is going to look like down the road. If Phoenix is going to be the last race of the season, we do have to be better on short tracks. The things we’ve done in the off-season for our short track program, I think we’re going to be better and it’s just all going to come down to the short track to see where we stack up.”
Is there pride in winning a truck race as a single truck team against multi-truck teams?
“I think it just goes to show how hard all the guys at HRE work. Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and just everyone in the race shop. They just put their heart and soul into this. They really dig deep. I honestly and truly feel like they are the hardest workers in the garage. There’s been so many times that I’ve heard they’ve been staying really, really late at night – 11 or 12 o’clock at night to get trucks ready and get ahead and be ready to go and be as prepared as we can. Especially with no practice or qualifying. They live, sleep and breath racing and that’s the type of guys you have to have in this sport are guys that want to go out there and win races and put their heart and soul into this. Just trying to balance that and family and everything else is a tough task, but they do a fantastic job at it.”
What are the doubleheader weekend’s like?
“I’m a fan of them. I think it’s really cool because you get to line-up and do it all over again. If you were to not be that good today, that gives you the chance to work on it overnight and make it better for tomorrow and see the things as a driver and crew chief, engineer and everybody comes together as a whole to see what kind of plan you can kind of come up with to make your truck that much better for the next day. I think it’s really cool. It gives you a second chance to go out there and redeem yourself if you did have a bad night and if you didn’t win, you can go out there and try to do what Austin Cindric did and go two-for-two. That’s our plan is to try to go get a win again tomorrow. The track is going to be a little bit different with when we race, but we’ve already been talking right after the race was over and I crossed the start-finish line down the backstretch, we started talking about what we’re going to need to be a little bit better for tomorrow as far as it being during the hot, slick day. I think we have a good game plan. I can’t thank everybody at HRE enough, Toyota, TRD, just everybody and all of our partners. That was the first win I was able to get with United Rentals colors so that was really cool. They’ve been a really awesome sponsor for me so I’m so glad to finally get a win with their colors on board.”
Official Race Results
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article