Austin Hill executed a phenomenal rally after battling a severe vibration to finish third at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night. Staying true to character, the driver of the No. 16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra stayed relentless after being scored as low as 30th to challenge for the win on an overtime restart and collected his third podium result of the season. The finish also advanced him to third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings after seven of 22 events.
The former Kansas winner began the evening from seventh and instantaneously displayed his aggression by grabbing the fifth position on the opening lap. Rising temperatures forced Hill to surrender his top five spot to clear debris off the grille of his Tundra but still managed to collect five points in sixth position at the end of Stage 1 on lap 30.
A blazing fast four tire stop under the stage caution gained Hill two spots and put him in prime position to garner extra points in Stage 2. Hill elected to restart fifth on lap 38 and immediately climbed into the top three. Just laps after the restart, Hill messaged the HRE team that he felt a vibration developing and also dealt with a lack of lateral rear grip. He still managed to carry the Gunma Toyopet Tundra to finish fourth in Stage 2 and earned seven points at lap 60.
Under the stage caution, Hill reported that the engine was missing and the vibration was intensifying. The HRE team elected the surrender their track position and attempted to diagnose the issue under the hood. Hill returned to the track to restart 24th on lap 68 and was able to climb as high as 11th despite the persistent issue which robbed raw speed from his Tundra. He ran in 13th on lap 95 when crew chief Scott Zipadelli called him to pit road under green for a four tire pit stop and cycled out to 11th on lap 120. A timely caution flew on lap 128 which allowed Hill to take on four fresh tires and lined up 11th for an overtime restart. He was able to climb to sixth in less than half a lap as a multi-truck accident ensued beside him.
Hill restarted fifth for the final overtime restart on lap 139 and made a bold three-wide move to challenge for the lead coming to the white flag. While still dealing with the significant vibration, Hill capped off his remarkable comeback to finish third for his sixth-consecutive podium result at a 1.5-mile track.
Austin Hill Quote:
“We really didn’t diagnose completely what the issue was, but we had a really good, solid Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra all night. Needed to work on it to be able to win the race. After the second stage, it started cutting in and out on me. Just wasn’t running right so we came in, checked all the plugs, checked everything, I reset the main switch and all that. We didn’t find anything and I reset the main switch and went back out. It seemed okay, but it still wasn’t that great getting through the gears. That last restart, I’m glad I got a push from whoever was behind me because it was so sluggish on the restarts and that whole last green-white-checkered, I was wide open. Just wasn’t lifting. I had Ross (Chastain) really tight on my door sucking both of us back. That’s all I had. I wish he would have went up and kind of blocked Kyle (Busch) so we could race each other, but it is what it is. Solid effort to come back and finish where we did. Just stings, I want to win.”