Austin Hill executed a phenomenal rally after battling a strong vibration to finish third at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night. True to character, No.16 driver Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra remained relentless after being scored as low as 30th to fight for victory in an overtime restart and collected his third podium of the season. The finish also took him to third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings after seven of 22 events.
The former Kansas winner started the night from seventh place and instantly flaunted his aggressiveness as he took fifth place in the first round. Rising temperatures forced Hill to relinquish fifth place to clear debris from the grid of his Tundra, but still managed to collect five points in sixth at the end of the first stage on lap 30.
A lightning-fast four-tire stoppage on stage bail helped Hill gain two places and put him in first position for extra points in Stage 2. Hill chose to start fifth on lap 38 and immediately climbed into the top three. A few laps after the restart, Hill let the HRE team know that he felt a vibration build up and he also faced a lack of lateral grip in the rear. He still managed to wear the Gunma Toyopet Tundra to finish fourth in Stage 2 and got seven points in the 60th round.
Under the stage warning, Hill reported that the engine was missing and the vibrations were intensifying. The HRE team chose to surrender their track position and attempted to diagnose the problem under the hood. Hill returned to the track to restart 24e on lap 68 and was able to climb to 11e despite the persistent problem that stole the raw speed of his Tundra. He ran in 13e on lap 95 when team manager Scott Zipadelli called him to pit under the green for a four tire pit stop and started at 11e on lap 120. A timely warning flew on lap 128 which allowed Hill to take four new tires and line up 11e for an overtime restart. He managed to climb to sixth place in less than a U-turn due to an accident involving several trucks next to him.
Hill restarted fifth for the final overtime restart on round 139 and made a daring move of three wide to challenge the white flag header. While continuing to cope with the big vibrations, Hill capped his remarkable comeback to finish third for his sixth consecutive podium on a 1.5 mile track.
Quote from Austin Hill:
“We really didn’t fully diagnose the problem, but we had a really good, solid Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra all night. You had to work on it to be able to win the race. After the second step, it started to interrupt me. It just wasn’t working properly, so we walked in, checked all the outlets, checked everything, reset the main switch and all that. We couldn’t find anything and I reset the main switch and got out. It seemed okay, but it still wasn’t great to shift the gears. This last reboot I’m glad I got a push from whoever was behind me because it was so slow on reboots and all that last green-white checkerboard, I was wide open. Just didn’t lift. I had Ross (Chastain) really tight on my door sucking on both of us. That’s all I had. I wish he had ridden and somehow blocked Kyle (Busch) so we could race against each other, but that’s what it is. Solid effort to come back and finish where we did. Just spades, I want to win.