NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Austin Hill knew he was getting into a good situation when the 2019 season began jumping in the seat for a championship winning team.
Now he’s showing everyone it was a good decision by truck owner Shigeaki Hattori.
After winning the season opening race at Daytona International Speedway, Hill has managed to remain in the top-10 all season long in the championship standings and picked up two more wins along the way.
Hill enters Martinsville as one of the hottest drivers in the series after he picked up a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last month and also finished sixth in the most recent truck race at Talladega Superspeedway.
He hopes to punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a victory in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200.
Hill made his first start at Martinsville Speedway five years ago driving for his family-owned team and he’s learned a lot on and off the track since he moved up to the NASCAR national series in 2014.
“When I first started racing in the truck series, we were doing it with a low budget team and just trying to see if it was something we wanted to do,” said Hill. “Then we decided to come up and do our own program. So, for two years we did a partial schedule with Austin Hill Racing.
“I was in the shop working on the trucks and helping my guys out, so, you know I’ve learned a lot through the years to get to this point. I feel like everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve done throughout my career working on race cars and trucks and stuff like that definitely helps going in to the playoffs.”
The race at Martinsville Speedway always seems to produce surprises and that is not lost with Hill heading into the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200.
“Obviously, anything can happen (at Martinsville Speedway),” said Hill. “It’s just such close quarters that anything can happen at that race track. You just have to execute all day, be up front there at the end, and if you get a green-white-checkered, you just got to hope that the guy behind you don’t just go down in the corner and move you away.
“In the spring race, we had really good speed in practice and in the race. We just missed the balance. I still feel like we should have had a top-10 finish. It wasn’t too bad. I feel like if we can carry over what we had in practice and figure it out in the race, I think we have a real, legitimate shot at winning.”
Hill was making reference to the spring truck race at Martinsville when late-race contact cost him a chance at a top-10 finish.
“We were running inside the top 10 all day and the next thing you know we have a green-white-checkered and we finish 16th cause we got moved up out of the groove,” said Hill. “Martinsville is just one of those tracks that if you have speed, you can run up front and have a shot at winning, but there is no telling when something could happen.”
Hill enters the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 third in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings and while he’s solidly in the top four for now, he knows there’s a still a lot of racing to go before he can compete for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
“I think getting the max stage points you can is going to be huge,” Hill said. “I think we saw that at Talladega. We didn’t get a lot of stage points in the first stage and not getting any in the second stage kind of hurt us a little bit. That dropped us to third (in points). I feel like stage points are going to be huge these next two races. We can win either race that we go to, Martinsville and Phoenix.
“That would be the easiest thing to do, but I feel like getting the most max stage points you can possibly get in Stage 1 and 2 definitely helps you going into Phoenix.”