Austin Hill closed out his tenure in the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra with a 10th-place result in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Friday night. The winningest driver in HRE team history posted his 15th top-10 finish of the season, the second-most of his career, and finished ninth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings.
Hill started the 22nd and final event of the season from the inside of row six after posting the 11th-fastest lap in pole qualifying. One caution slowed the pace in the opening 45-lap stage, in which Hill held position inside the top-10 for a majority of the duration despite a lack of rear grip on corner exit. After the lap 19 restart, the lack of forward drive on the exit of Phoenix’s flat, sweeping corners halted his progress forward. Hill finished Stage 1 in 12th position and hit pit road under the caution flag for fresh tires and adjustments.
During the pit stop, Hill noted that the throttle was sticking and revving to a higher idling RPM. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli brought Hill back to pit road under the caution to service the throttle linkage to rectify the issue. As a result, Hill would restart 26th on lap 54 and put on a relentless charge through the field. During the 38-lap run in Stage 2, he marched up 13 positions to 13th on a notoriously difficult track to pass and back into contention by the end of the stage on lap 90.
Hill came back to pit road under the stage caution for fuel, fresh tires, and another round of air pressure changes by the United Rentals team. The rapid pit work by the HRE squad netted Hill three spots as he chose to line up ninth on the bottom lane. Over the final 45 laps, a tight condition held Hill back from advancing farther up the leaderboard but ran consistent lap times to secure his 15th top-10 finish of the season. Hill’s season of two wins, eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes helped secure a second straight manufacturer title for Toyota Racing.
Austin Hill Quote:
“We threw everything we had at it tonight for sure. We were a little bit on both sides of the fence at different times tonight with our United Rentals Toyota Tundra. We were a little too free to start, had a pretty good balance during the second stage, but just got a little on the tight side to make much ground at the end. It’s nice to finish off the year with a top-10 with these guys. The past three years have been so much fun at HRE, Toyota, and to work with all of our partners. We’ve able to do so many good things together, win some races and make the playoffs every year. It’s been so fun to work with all these guys and just thankful for everyone’s hard work the last few years.”