Hill Earns Best Career Short Track Finish at MartinsvilleOctober 31, 2021
Finish: 2nd, Start: 10th, Points Pos: 8th
Austin Hill scored his first career top-five finish at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday afternoon with a runner-up result in the United Rentals 200. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra charged through the field in the final stage, rallying from 21st to finish second in the final 60 laps. Hill’s best-career performance on a paved short track netted him the eighth spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver point standings with one race remaining.
Hill’s penultimate drive of the 2021 season began from the 10th position and consisted of a relatively uneventful opening stage. During the first 50 laps, Hill battled a severely tight handling condition under throttle on corner exit. The Winston, Ga. driver ran as high as ninth and collected one point in 10th position at the end of Stage 1 on lap 50. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the HRE team put four tires on Hill’s Tundra and complimented that with significant chassis adjustments in the right rear.
After holding the 10th position through two cautions and restart in Stage 2, a yellow flag on lap 81 presented Hill and Zipadelli a chance to employ an alternative strategy. Hill took on his second set of tires under the caution, restarted 21st on lap 87, and ended Stage 2 in 15th. While several competitors opted to pit, Hill stayed on track under the stage caution and inherited the eighth position. As the tight handling condition persisted, but to a lesser extent, Hill ran as high as seventh on lap 129, and came to pit road under a lap 130 caution to play another aggressive pit strategy.
With 60 laps remaining, Hill restarted 21st with fresher tires than virtually everyone in the field and began his relentless march through the field. As the aggression level reached a fever pitch on the 0.526-mile bullring, Hill perfectly navigated the chaos he was immersed in. He maneuvered to 13th, but vaulted himself into contention and sixth position on the lap 184 restart which saw him side-step a multi-truck incident in Turn 4. A late yellow allowed Hill to line up fifth for a frantic overtime restart on lap 203. He managed to avoid a another multi-truck accident that originated in front of him as the leaders raced three wide. Hill made a move to the inside of the race leader as the caution flag waved for the wreck behind him. The race finished under yellow with Hill earning his first career top-five finish at Martinsville Speedway.
Austin Hill Quote:
“Eventful for sure. I felt like we really had to work on it all day. Our United Rentals Toyota Tundra was really fighting us at the start of the race. I lost some track position early. Just kept coming in and working on it and got it better. Did some really big adjustments. Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) was being really aggressive with adjustments, which was really good. I felt like him and me worked really well together today on what I needed to make our Toyota Tundra better. We got it better there at the end. I didn’t think we had a shot at it in the end of the race and then all hell broke loose at the end and we were able to sneak by for a P2, which is what I needed here to build some confidence at this racetrack because in years past we haven’t been good here. First top-five for me here at Martinsville. I wanted it to stay green. I think me and the 21 (Zane Smith) could have raced down into three and four and who knows what could have happened if we had a shot at it. All-in-all, really solid effort. I really wanted to get a win for everybody at United Rentals since they were the title sponsor today, but just came up one short. We will build on it and when I come back here next year in the Xfinity Series, hopefully that gives me some confidence.”