Austin Hill’s title hopes came to a close on Friday night at Martinsville Speedway after suffering engine woes just one step away from the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship finale. The driver of the No. 16 AISIN Group Toyota Tundra was dealt a 35th-place finish when the engine expired after completing 117 of 200 circuits. Hill led the Gander Trucks point standings for 16 of the first 17 races, captured the regular season championship and entered the Round 2 finale with the best average finish in the series.
Hill started the Gander Trucks’ first night race at “The Paperclip” from the third position and began showing the strength of his AISIN Group Tundra. After being scored fifth on lap four, Hill pulled the trigger and began marching his way towards the lead and claimed the third position by lap nine. When the event restarted on lap 22 after the race’s first caution, Hill began to wrestle with an exorbitantly loose condition during the balance of Stage 1. Hill and crew chief Scott Zipadelli conjectured that a rear tire might have been going down and aimed to rebound in Stage 2 after falling outside the top-20.
As relentless as the No. 16 team has been throughout the season, a sour powerplant disrupted their quest back towards contention. On lap 74, Hill radioed the team that he thought he had developed an engine issue. As the laps wore on, he and the HRE team confirmed the issue and were forced to retire from the event 83 laps before the finish.
Hill will looks to close out the 2020 campaign the same as he did last year, with a walk-off win next Friday night at Phoenix Raceway.
Austin Hill Quote:
"We fired off pretty decent at the start of the night, but ultimately the engine went south. The truck just started cutting off and I was doing everything I could to keep it running. Just frustrating to have it end on a mechanical failure. These guys deserve better than this, and all of our partners, AISIN Group, Toyota, TRD. We've been a really good team all year and should be in the final four."