Austin Hill capped off a remarkably consistent season with a 12th-place finish on Friday night in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra finished the season sixth in the championship standings and led all competitors in average finish (9.0), top-five (11) and top-10 finishes (17). He set career high marks in all three of those categories to accompany his two victories.
Hill started the 150-lap finale deep in the field from 17th and instantly worked his way to 13th position by lap 12. During the opening stage, Hill’s Tundra began to develop a tight condition throughout the entirety of both corners on Phoenix’s flat one-mile layout. He closed out Stage 1 in 12th on lap 45 and came to the attention of crew chief Scott Zipadelli and company for four tires and significant chassis adjustments.
Stage 2 went green on lap 54, but a similar issue continued to plague the United Rentals Tundra. After restarting 19th, Hill began to wrestle with a tight handling condition but managed to gain ground up to 13th by the stage break on lap 90. The HRE team offered Hill another set of tires and significant adjustments under the stage caution.
Hill restarted 18th on lap 99 and quickly advanced to 14th before another yellow flag flew on lap 104. Zipadelli's squad brought Hill back to pit road for another set of fresh tires and a right front chassis change and restarted 13th on lap 113. Hill ran there until a late caution on lap 148 set up an overtime restart. Like many of the leaders, the Winston, Ga. native pitted for a fresh set of Goodyear tires and lined up 14th for the overtime finish. He managed to collect two position in the chaotic two-lap dash to finish in 12th position and secure sixth place in the Gander Trucks driver point standings.
Austin Hill Quote:
“We couldn’t quite find the right balance all night. We started too tight the first couple runs and jumped the fence a little bit at the start of the last stage. Scott (Zipadelli) and the guys never quit working at it and made some ground on the balance during the night. Hopefully when we come back next year we’ll be racing for a championship with our United Rentals Tundra. We still had a strong season and were really consistent the whole year. This is a great race team and I know we’ll be even more motivated heading to Daytona next year and even hungrier to compete for the championship.”