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Trucks

GOOD & BAD: 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Season

Another year of NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series competition is in the books, with a familiar sight as Matt Crafton was crowned the series champion. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: Through the years, the trucks have earned the reputation of putting on the best shows of the weekend with the right race package being put together. That did not change in 2019 as there were certainly many events where they out-shined both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. 

ISM Raceway was one of those weekends, for example. The Cup Series semi-final saw great racing on the restarts with drivers all over the surface, but they seemed to spread apart once the green flag had been flying for awhile. In contrast, the truck series long green-flag runs brought forth close fights for positions, including for the lead in the late stages between Stewart Friesen and Brandon Jones.

BAD: The ideology that the traction compound can fix anything as it seemed each weekend, officials were trying to lay that sticky stuff where they felt it could improve the racing. Instead of using a manufactured substance, why don’t we get back to basics and actually fix the issue?

ISM Raceway tried to apply it in the higher groove for their event, and for the most part, drivers avoided it. Mind you, Sheldon Creed showed a bit of promise with a couple strong runs off the corner, it did not seem to make a difference in the type of battles witnessed. So why bother?

Furthermore, the substance can be tricky especially if it is not worked in properly. Both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott experienced that the hard way last week in the Cup Series, sliding it sideways and making contact with the wall. Now imagine if something like that happens to take a driver out of contention for the Championship 4 either tomorrow or Sunday. There’d be certainly tons of backlash from fans, considering we’ve proven it’s not a necessary for ISM Raceway. Do you really want to risk that? 

GOOD: Thank you for the pair of ThorSport Racing teammates not listening to what the commentators in the booth were saying.

As the ISM event neared conclusion, Matt Crafton ran behind a pair of his ThorSport teammates sitting just six points above the cutline. Both the No. 88 truck crew chief Carl Joiner and NASCAR on FOX’s analysts Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons expected both Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger to lay over and allow Crafton go by. Despite the constant complains by the booth through the final laps of the event, they did the right thing running their race.

If Crafton was sitting was in jeopardy of being above the cutline and needed those two points, then certainly it would be nice to see his teammates work with him. However, he was safe where he was racing them for position so it was not a necessity for them to give up ground in their own race for his sake. Let’s say that they let him go by and then a late race caution comes out to set-up a restart. How would they feel restarting further back than intended?

The unique factor in NASCAR is watching drivers compete every single lap against each other as hard as they can – despite being teammates. The day that team orders become a thing is the day that you ruin the utmost important rule of racing in competition.

BAD: It’s been discussed many times before, and yet nothing has been done about it. Initial green flag and restart rule procedures need to be adjusted.

As the field came to the green flag for the Lucas Oil 150 at ISM, Friesen would beat pole sitter Austin Hill to the line, enabling a penalty from NASCAR for jumping the start. However, Friesen did not get into the throttle before the leader, rather laying off to try and avoid, except Hill spun his tires causing a slower start. How is it fair for a competitor to get penalized for another driver’s mistake?

NASCAR is famously known for inconsistency with race calls, and certainly has made some highly visible mistakes through the years. However, they are always looking for ways to improve and that was shown with an adjustment to pit road and where tires can be throughout a stop, whether in arm’s length of a crew member or not.

It’s time for them to take another glance at this rule and perhaps include a judgment aspect that if the leader spins the tires, then the penalty is waved for the second-place car jumping. Sure, it adds a layer that nobody wants to be sitting and deciding, but that’s the nature of the game as proven by the yellow line rule and judging whether a driver was pushed below or not. 

GOOD: It’s Bristol Baby” is a famous tagline that has been heard through the years, due to the track’s reputation. It was nice to see the Truck Series bring back some of that old flare. Throughout the entire UNOH 200, the playoff drivers were mixing it up with not only each other, but their fellow competitors on the track. Nobody appeared to be giving each other an inch, with bumps being traded throughout the field, and some going around as a result. 

The fans have been asking for the old Bristol to come back, and if this event is any indication, they got their wish. It’s easy to see why they wanted the bottom groove to be prime real estate as sparks flew, with drama throughout the night. Certainly the drivers who grew up running tracks of this style with a rough edge to their driving enjoy it. Just ask Ross Chastain.

“That’s what built this place,” he said. “You come through this tunnel, and there’s talk about rattling cages, there’s helmets thrown. If we’re going to fill these places up, the CarShield Chevy’s going to be the one that adds to the excitement.”

GOOD: The trucks always put on some of the craziest restrictor plate racing, and the NextEra Energy Resources 250 was no exception. Throughout the event, from the drop of the initial green flag to the end, there was side-by-side racing as drivers jockeyed for positions, sometimes even three-wide.

Over the course of Daytona Speedweeks, fans have practically begged for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers to stop running single file up against the wall as we saw in both the Advance Auto Parts Clash and the Gander RV Duels.

However, patience was the name of the game as drivers solely wanted to go to the event of the with a car, and  on the case Thursday, save their equipment for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500. There’s no time for that in the trucks as stage points are given out on two different occasions, and the race is only 100 laps total in length. Combined with a lot of youthful drivers eager to prove themselves, riding along doesn’t happen. 

BAD: There is a price to pay with what we saw happen, though, as the truck series only had nine drivers complete the race out of the 32 who took the green flag. The constant battling for position resulted in several wrecks, with 11 cautions taking happening. Oddly enough, more than half of the event was run under the yellow flag (55 laps).

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News

Austin Hill passes Ross Chastain late to win at Las Vegas, advance to NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Round of 6

LAS VEGAS – Austin Hill earned his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win of the 2019 season Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – perhaps his most important victory as it advances him to the second round of the Playoffs with big momentum and raised expectations.

Hill’s No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota finished an impressive 2.116 seconds ahead of fellow Playoff competitor Ross Chastain, whose No. 45 Chevrolet led a race-best 88-of-134 laps. Polesitter Christian Eckes finished third in the Kyle Bush Motorsports Toyota.

“This means the world to me,’’ said Hill, 25, who passed Chastain for the lead with 11 laps remaining and pulled away to the substantial victory margin.

“When I saw the 45 (Chastain) in my sights, we were running close lap times. I changed my line a little bit. And that was a big statement win.’’

Much of the drama and heartbreak in the race happened to the drivers vying for the six positions that advanced to the next round of the Playoffs. Joining Hill in the Round of 6 are Chastain, defending series champion Brett Moffitt, Stewart Friesen, Tyler Ankrum and Matt Crafton.

Moffit faced the least pressure all day because he already transferred to the Round of 6 by winning the Playoffs opener at Bristol.

Chastain wrapped up his transfer spot via points after winning Stage 2.

Friesen carefully nursed his No. 52 Chevrolet to the race finish, posting a 19th-place showing after driving a truck that was down a cylinder and spending substantial stretches of the race on pit road.

Ankrum, an 18-year-old who wasn’t old enough by NASCAR rules to compete in the March Las Vegas race, held on to finish 11th and earn the final Playoff position – by a mere two-point margin over two-time series champion Johnny Sauter.

Sauter’s teammate Matt Crafton suffered a 30th-place finish, but he had enough of a points cushion coming to Las Vegas that he will advance in the Playoffs as well.

Heading into the Round of 8 finale, Sauter, Crafton and their ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger were seemingly “sure-bets” to advance in the Playoffs. But before the halfway point of the race, they had their fates decided in unfortunate and unpredictable manners.

Grant Enfinger

It was an especially gut-wrenching early end to Enfinger’s championship hopes. Crowned the series’ regular season champion three races ago, the past Las Vegas winner retired after only seven laps when his No. 98 Ford suffered an engine failure. He took the green flag with two points to the good on making the Round of 6 and only minutes later had his championship hopes deflated with the turn of events.

“It’s just frustrating,’’ Enfinger said. “These guys work their tails off all year. We had a good truck, just wasn’t meant to be.”

Only 33 laps later, Sauter and Crafton suffered their simultaneous race-ending problems. Crafton’s No. 88 Ford had to pull off track and he climbed out as the safety crew arrived.

Sauter was able to drive his truck back to pit road where crew members had to extinguish flames under the hood. The team took it to the garage and although he tried to return to the race for the final stage, his truck’s engine gave out on the first lap of the restart.

Crafton, meanwhile, had to pull his No. 88 ThorSport truck off the track immediately for the safety crew to work on.

“The 13 (Sauter), I saw him hit something and whatever it was it hit our truck too,’’ Crafton said. “I said the 13’s on fire and they told me I was on fire.’’

“I really thought we had something tonight, but we’ll rebound.’’

The next race is set for Oct. 12 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

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News

Austin Hill’s win at Michigan helps Matt Crafton clinch Playoff spot

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Austin Hill’s victory in Saturday’s Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway provided sweet relief for two-time NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Matt Crafton.

With Hill’s second victory of the season, Crafton has a chance to run for a third title, having cliched the final spot in the series Playoffs on points.

The outcome—and Crafton’s fate—weren’t decided until the final moments of a race that went five laps beyond its scheduled distance of 100 laps. For two nail-biting laps of overtime, Sheldon Creed chased Hill, edging ever closer over the last two miles.

But Hill had the advantage off the final corner and beat Creed to the finish line by .125 seconds, denying Creed the Playoff spot that went to Crafton. A victory by Creed would have knocked the two-time champion out of the postseason.

“It’s huge,” said Hill, who rebounded from a last-place finish in the previous race at Eldora Speedway. “We’ve had a struggle these last four of five races. We just keep having issues and just can’t finish these races.”

Hill’s winning No. 16 Toyota was brand new, unveiled for this race—appropriately since Hill was racing at Michigan for the first time in the series.

“When we unloaded, we had to work out some bugs in it, but we got it driving really good,” said Hill, who also won the season opener at Daytona. “I was really happy with the speed of it. Man, this race was crazy.”

A nine-car wreck moments after a restart with four laps left in regulation set up the overtime. Tyler Ankrum, the leader at the time, spun his tires, and a well-intentioned push Crafton turned him around and started the melee. The wreck collected Playoff hopeful Todd Gilliland, who had driven up to eighth after pitting for tires on Lap 88.

Needing a victory to qualify for the postseason, Gilliland had led 14 laps to that point, but the wreck ended his hopes.

Similarly, Ben Rhodes saw his Playoff chances fall apart when he had to pit under green with a cut tire with 21 laps left. Rhodes had led 15 laps before his ill fortune. He and Gilliland finished 23rd and 24th respectively.

Crafton had some nervous moments before he clinched his Playoff berth. After a restart on Lap 70, three-drivers on win-or-bust missions—Gilliland, Rhodes and Harrison Burton—were running first through third.

“When all three, the 18 (Burton), the 4 (Gilliland) and the 99 (Rhodes)… when all those guys are 1-2-3 at one point, I’m like, ‘I better get up on the saddle and dig,’” Crafton said. “I was definitely doing everything I could to shuffle them out.”

Tyler Dippel finished a career-best third, followed by Brett Moffit and Austin Wayne Self. Bayley Currey, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Ray Ciccarelli and Crafton completed the top 10.

Enfinger clinched a spot in the Playoffs when he took the green flag. By the end of the first stage, he had locked up the regular-season title—and accompanying 15 Playoff points—with a sixth-place finish.

Crafton, the only driver with a remote chance to catch Enfinger for the regular-season championship, had to start from the rear of the field because of an engine change. The driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford climbed to 10th by the end of the first stage, but by then, his chances of unseating his teammate were gone.

Polesitter Ross Chastain won Stage 1 wire-to-wire, but a three-truck accident on pit road cost him dearly. While exiting his stall under caution on Lap 23, Johnny Sauter collided with the No. 9 Chevrolet of Codie Rohrbaugh, knocking Rohrbaugh into the right side of Chastain’s Chevrolet.

Chastain, Sauter and Rohrbaugh all spent extra time on pit road dealing with the damage, but Chastain was the primary victim, his race over.

“It was gut-wrenching, for sure,” Chastain said after leaving the infield care center. “It was a shame, but that’s part of racing. They can’t all be great days… It’s tough to lose a race with a truck like we had today.”

Eight drivers—Chastain, Hill, Ankrum, Sauter, Enfinger, Moffitt, Friesen and Crafton—will start their potential title runs on Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

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Trucks

Where does NASCAR draw the line with hard racing?

Over the last two weeks, there has been no shortage in drama between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In both the NAPA Auto Parts 150 and the M&M’s 200, viewers were treated to a wide range of hard racing and it’s end results, which begs the question– where does NASCAR draw the line? 

Hard racing is by no stretch a bad thing for the sport. It provides viewers with excitement and has the ability to boost ratings for NASCAR . Some of the sport’s brightest stars have even made a name for themselves with aggressive racing styles. While this type of competition, is generally a positive thing for the sport, drivers will understandable get upset, and those reactions can lead to boundaries being crossed. 

During the closing laps at Colorado National Speedway on June 9, Bill McAnally Racing teammates Hailie Deegan and Derek Kraus made headlines after Deegan spun Kraus entering Turn 4, coming to the white flag.

Was the move Deegan made on Kraus warranted? It depends how you look at what happened prior to the final contact made.

Kraus, who had been battling adversity since Lap 50 with a broken sway-bar, managed to keep himself in contention for the win in the NAPA Auto Parts 150, restarting third and directly behind Deegan. When the green flag waved on the final restart, the past series champion opted to make the most of his opportunity and took Deegan and Jagger Jones three-wide entering Turn 1, ultimately getting into the left rear of Deegan’s No. 19 Toyota Camry. Deegan, justifiably upset with the move made by her teammate, spun Kraus and his No. 16 Toyota Camry entering Turn 4 to lock down her second win of the 2019 season.

“I think it’s just short track racing,” Kraus told POPULAR SPEED. “She (Deegan) drove it pretty deep on the last restart and drifted up the hill. I saw a hole and I took it of course — like any driver would. I got into her a little bit and coming to the white flag I got loose, then she got into me and everyone saw the end results.” 

Kraus was able to salvage an eighth-place finish and maintain his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West points lead after the move made by Deegan. Following the madness at Colorado, Deegan and Kraus were treated to a team meeting the smooth things over and clear the air.

“Everything went alright in the meeting and we’re back on good terms,” Kraus said. “I don’t have any hard feelings, we’ve both moved on and we’re both ready for a clean race at Sonoma.”

The events which took place in Colorado are an example of hard racing done right. Although unfortunate and controversial as this occurred between teammates, this brought tons of exposure to not only NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West, but the young up and coming drivers of Deegan and Kraus. In a time where it can argued that NASCAR’s upper divisions are lacking personality, the pair offered fans a possible glimpse into the future.

Exactly one week following the incident between Deegan and Kraus, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series had it’s own share of conflict and drama in the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

Early in the final stage, Johnny Sauter moved the No. 16 Toyota Tundra of Austin Hill out of the way to advance his position. Hill would go on to retaliate on Lap 136, sending Sauter’s No. 13 Ford F-150 into the outside wall. Sauter then took things one step further running down Hill under caution and sending both trucks hard into the wall through Turns 3 and 4.

Sauter would go on to be parked for the remainder of the race. NASCAR then suspended the past series champion for this weekend’s upcoming event at WWT Speedway.

“We were racing hard going into Turn 1,” Hill said. “He (Sauter) got into me a bit and I returned the favor. I don’t race like that, so if you’re going to race me like that, I’m not going to put up with it and I think you saw that.”

If Sauter and Hill ended their back and forth feuds in the closing laps following the caution on Lap 136, this incident would have been perfectly fine. The problem resided in Sauter’s retaliation to Hill under caution. When NASCAR officials throw out the yellow flag, drivers are expected to comply with the sanctioning body’s rules of speed and safety.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to give one another a bump during caution periods to voice their displeasure after the way they’ve been raced on the track. But what Sauter did was unforgivable and punishable, plain and simple. Sauter essentially used his truck as a weapon by intentionally wrecking Hill under caution at high speeds and put not only himself and Hill in danger, but his fellow competitors and safety officials as well.

The argument can be made that Hill was just as much at fault for sparking the initial dust up between the two drivers; after all, his product of hard racing and retaliation is what triggered Sauter. However, this was all done under the green flag and within reason.

NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller said that officials considered handing down penalties to Hill, but they ultimately just opted to punish Sauter for his actions.

“Him (Sauter) driving half a track with a smoking truck, winding through traffic to get to the No. 16 and running over him, then bouncing off the wall and running to into his door was pretty aggressive,” Miller said. “It was definitely not anything that could in any way, shape or form be defended as a racing incident.”

While suspended for this weekend, this will not effect Sauter’s opportunity to compete for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship with a  playoff waiver issued.

“In this case, we felt like his actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship, so we think we landed on what we feel is fair and a deterrent,” Miller concluded.

While Sauter was the only driver suspended for the incident on Lap 137, Miller stated that NASCAR officials would be keeping Hill “under a microscope” throughout the remainder of the season.

Two of NASCAR’s lower series divisions rose to the occasion when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series had a scheduled off-week and all in all brought more exposure when the sport needed it most. There is a broad spectrum for what can be deemed acceptable and what is punishable when it comes to hard racing and fans got just that with the races at Colorado and Iowa.

While hard racing will almost always provide viewers with piqued interest and excitement, it should be done within reason and this should be recognized– not only by the fans– but from the sport’s athletes as well.

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: https://twitter.com/Cole_Cusumano_

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

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Trucks

Johnny Sauter Suspended One Race for Contact with Austin Hill

It seems as though Johnny Sauter will not be taking part in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series trip to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway as a result of being suspended.

Following contact on-track during the event at Iowa Speedway, the ThorSport Racing driver made contact with Austin Hill under caution. Although Sauter will sit out this weekend’s event, he will still be playoff post-season eligible per the sanctioning body with a waiver issued.

“We look back at the history of everything we’ve done and try to react with the precedents that we’ve set and then obviously tailoring those to the situation that we have at hand,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “In this case, we felt like his actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship, so we think we landed on what we feel is fair and a deterrent.”

Previously, NASCAR has parked drivers for similar incidents. Matt Kenseth sat out two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races wrecking Joey Logano under green flag conditions at Martinsville Speedway. Kyle Busch missed a NASCAR XFINITY Series and Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway after wrecking Ron Hornaday, Jr. under caution in the truck series event.

“We tend to look at incidents under caution as more of a retaliatory thing,” Miller said. “Obviously, him driving half a track with a smoking truck and winding through a few cars to get to the 16 and then running over him, then bouncing off the wall and running into his door, it was pretty aggressive. It was definitely not anything that could in any way, shape or form be defended as a racing incident.”

Miller went on to state that NASCAR will also have Sauter and Hill sit down together to talk out their differences prior to Sauter’s return. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway

A brand new era began in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series as it marked the first race with the new brand, hence the hashtag #ReadySetGo that has been trending across social media leading up to the event. While you always want things to start off well, you could say it was a “bang-up” opening event.

The trucks always put on some of the craziest restrictor plate racing, and the NextEra Energy Resources 250 was no exception. Throughout the event, from the drop of the initial green flag to the end, there was side-by-side racing as drivers jockeyed for positions, sometimes even three-wide.

Over the course of Daytona Speedweeks, fans have practically begged for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers to stop running single file up against the wall as we saw in both the Advance Auto Parts Clash and the Gander RV Duels.

However, patience was the name of the game as drivers solely wanted to go to the event of the with a car, and  on the case Thursday, save their equipment for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500. There’s no time for that in the trucks as stage points are given out on two different occasions, and the race is only 100 laps total in length. Combined with a lot of youthful drivers eager to prove themselves, riding along doesn’t happen. 

There is a price to pay with what we saw happen on Friday, though, as the truck series only had nine drivers complete the race out of the 32 who took the green flag. The constant battling for position resulted in several wrecks, with 11 cautions taking happening. Oddly enough, more than half of the event was run under the yellow flag (55 laps).

Between the Clash, the ARCA race and now the trucks, there have been 55 cars wrecked. Now do you understand why the Cup Series drivers have been riding along?

The Daytona 500 will probably feature more of the riding that we’ve seen in the past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events, just like we saw at Talladega Superspeedway last fall. However, as we close in on the end of stage and the race as a whole, expect the pressure to rise with battles for position happening. When that occurs, though, don’t say we didn’t warn you of what could happen.

While the truck series event was mired with wrecks, you can’t deny being happy for the winner as Austin Hill scored his first career series victory. After working hard to prove himself in lesser equipment the past couple of years, he made the jump to Hattori Racing Enterprises for 2019; this is the team that won the championship in 2018 with Brett Moffitt.

After being excited and welcoming to the opportunity, he’s already proved that he was worthy of the chance with a championship-worthy team. Now locked into the playoffs virtue of the victory, he and Scott Zippidelli can focus on improving their chemistry and keeping the level of performance the same as what Moffitt did last year, hopefully increasing their chances at a run for the title.

There were also other drivers who will leave Daytona with smiles on their faces, like Josh Reaume who scored his first career top-five, and Angela Ruch as she proved that she’s not just another pretty face. Daytona offers a chance for the small fries to shine in a special way. So hopefully the happiness that those two drivers have to offer makes seeing the disappointment on others easier to handle.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…… Austin Hill

With six top-10’s throughout 2018 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Austin Hill ended his first full campaign ranked 11th in the year-end standings. As the 24-year-old prepares for his second season, he reflected back on this past year for POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: How would you rate your season?

AUSTIN HILL: It was good for Young’s Motorsports as a whole. There were definitely times we felt we could’ve ran top-five a lot more times than we did. That’s one thing that we look back on and a few races we picked out we should’ve ran top-five but just circumstances, whether a bad stop on pit road or are on the race track, caused us not to come away with those better finishes. Young’s Motorsports as a whole, I felt, showed speed throughout the whole year.

When they changed the splitter rules after the second or third mile-and-a-half, it threw us for a loop a little bit. We were kind of behind. The bigger teams can react quicker than the smaller teams can. We made the change and started struggling for four or five races. We kind of got it back going and finished the year real strong. I was excited how it ended. I just wish Homestead could’ve ended a bit better. We just had stuff happen that there again shouldn’t happen and if that didn’t, we could’ve finished top-10. All in all, a good season for us.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

PS: Going back to Texas, what did it mean for you and your team to get the top-five finish?

AUSTIN: It meant everything and it felt like a win for us because like I said, there were so many races we should’ve finished fifth to eighth place range and we just kept on stepping on our foot, whether errors on pit road or tire issue, that we should’ve been able to clean up over the year. I felt like pit road hurt us more than anything. Not trying to knock our guys, but pit road was a place we struggled. Anytime we came down pit road and had a good stop, you could really tell; that’s where our finishes would be top-10. Anytime we had one bad pit stop, and it always seemed like it was the last stop, it’s just so hard to come back from that. I feel if we didn’t struggle with all that, you would’ve seen Young’s Motorsports have more than one top-five.

But yes, getting that top-five at Texas was definitely a relief. We had a race where the truck was handling good, no issues on pit road, no issues on the track – just one of those clean races nothing bad or crazy happened. Our performance showed, and we had speed all day; it wasn’t like we gambled and got there. We ran top-five all day long and were able to capitalize with a top-five finish.

PS: What is one thing that you feel you and your team could have done even better to run stronger?

AUSTIN: I feel like I’d say the number one thing is getting our pit road pit stops down pat. It just seemed like we had whether slow stop or loose wheel, we had something that would happen. I don’t know how many times I heard uncontrolled tire. Those types of things happening – we could’ve definitely cleaned those up. That would’ve showed our team was capable of coming away with possibly – we were on the verge of making the Elite 8 in the playoffs. We would’ve been right there on the bubble. With all the issues we had, we were still 10th-place for the longest time in points. So I feel like that’s the number one thing.

Other than that, sponsorship money to do the wind tunnel time and seven-post time, all the things the big teams do that make your program that much better. You don’t understand how much going to the wind tunnel for three or four hours helps. We were able to do that a little bit, and honestly the last truck body we ran at Texas and Homestead, it didn’t even see the wind tunnel and it was good; it was one of our better trucks throughout the year. So yeah I mean there’s always places you can be better, but as far as the pit crew, we needed to tidy that up and our finishes would’ve definitely came.

PS: How are things looking for 2019 for you?

AUSTIN: I am actually going to be running the full season next year, but unfortunately will not be without Young’s Motorsports as we’re going a slightly different route in 2019. As far as details go, I am not supposed to be saying it for at least another week or so. But once the team I’m committed with and signed with comes out with their press release and talks about it and makes it public, then I’ll be able to talk about it. But as far as right now, they want me to keep it hush-hush. It’s definitely looking really good going full season in the truck season and I’m very excited about it.

PS: Look forward to hearing the news once released. How did you get started in racing?

Russell Labounty | NKP

AUSTIN: It was actually a funny story. Nobody in my family ever raced. I’m the first one that really started racing and got the family racing. When I was really young, three or four years old, I had only sat on the couch and watched the NASCAR races. My dad was into it and he watched it; he didn’t every single Sunday but he watched it. So when I was very young and watched it with my dad, I thought it was the coolest thing, so it was actually a tradition every Sunday to sit down and watch the NASCAR race. From the time I was three to six, I didn’t miss a race unless we weren’t home for some reason. I was always sitting on the couch simply amazed by the racecars.

So when I was five years old, I started telling my parents over and over I wanted to race. So for my sixth birthday, they got me a quarter midget. So we started practicing down in Georgia and it went from there. My dad thought it was going to be a hobby together; he thought it’d be cool to do and it turned out to be something we both loved and enjoyed. We worked our way through the ranks and have gotten to the truck series. We definitely want to go past the truck series, but the way sponsorship has worked out, we haven’t been able to yet. We’re hoping after the 2019 season we’re able to get on the map a little more and get sponsors interested to move up even more.

PS: What would it mean to get up to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series one day?

AUSTIN: That’s always been the dream since I was three years old and saw racecars for the first time. I always wanted to be like Jeff Gordon and those guys. To reach the Cup level is a dream of mine and something I’d like to fulfill one day as long as we can get everything in line and be with a pretty good team. I’m just one of those drivers that wants to be in pretty good equipment that can run top-15, top-10, and eventually equipment that can run top-five and win races.

If the opportunity presented itself just to get experience, man, I’d love to run some Cup stuff, even if just five to eight races in 2019 or 2020. I’d love to just get my feet wet and see what it’s like to run a whole 500 mile race; I think that’s something I’d cherish. It’s definitely my goal to go Cup racing someday; we just have to make it happen.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

AUSTIN: Jeff Gordon. He’s always been my idol since I was three years old. My dad always liked him so I guess that was trend – he liked him so I liked him. Growing up, I thought he was amazing and one of the best to this day. It was also cool when I got to the K&N Series and at the track, I was able to speak to him numerous times and he has so much knowledge about racing that’ll help down the road. He is down to earth and he will answer any question you have and he’s definitely one to look up to.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

JGR and Young’s Motorsports Sustain Suspensions Following Michigan and Gateway

Following Denny Hamlin‘s victory in the Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing received a L1-level penalty from NASCAR.

Crew chief Chris Gabehart was suspended from the next two NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship Points Events due to the splitter not being flat post-race. The No. 20 XFINITY car was also docked 25 owner points, and the win is now encumbered, meaning they cannot use the victory to qualify for an automatic playoff spot in the Owner’s Chase. Secondly, if they qualify for the Chase, they will not receive the five playoff points that come with a victory. 

Joe Gibbs Racing announced they would not appeal the penalty, with engineer Jacob Canter serving as the interim crew chief.

There was also a suspension issued in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, with Young Motorsports crew chief Bruce Cook fined $5,000 and suspended from the next championship points event. The team, which had Austin Hill behind the wheel, was assessed with the loss of 10 driver points and 10 owner points. The penalty comes as a result of not meeting minimum post-race height requirements. Hill’s 14th-place finish is also now encumbered.

NASCAR also issued a $5,000 fine to Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Jeff Meendering as a result of a missing lug nut on the No. 00 XFINITY Series Ford driven by Cole Custer.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Austin Hill Reunites with Young’s

After a successful outing last year, Austin Hill will once again be behind the wheel of the No.  02 Young’s Motorsports truck this season on a limited basis, beginning with this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“We’re happy to have Austin Hill apart of the Young’s Motorsports platform,” said Tyler Young. “Austin has the potential and the credentials to help elevate our team to the next level. He is a profound short track race with a niche for intermediate racing too.

“The addition of Austin doesn’t take away from the stuff we’re working on around the clock with our K&N Pro Series East team and the hopeful expansion of Young’s Motorsports in NASCAR. There’s a lot of good things going on that we’re proud of.”

A two-time K&N Pro Series East winner, Hill hopes to score his second career top-10 finish after posting a 12th place finish last year on the 1.54-mile oval.

“I am really excited to kick off our 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” offered the Winston, Georgia native. “As long back as I can remember, my family was going to Atlanta, first as fans, then to race in the Legends Series.

“I’m also really excited about teaming up with Tyler Young and Young’s Motorsports. None of this would be possible without our great partners, who make all of this possible, Alien Gear Holsters, Lawless Jerky, The Lone Survivor Foundation, KYSEK Ice Chests and Veterans Coffee Company.”

The team could use a good run as Daytona ended in disappointment, with Young finishing 23rd after being caught in one of the big wrecks.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Hill Captures First Top-10 in Martinsville

A driver’s first top-10 is a major accomplishment regardless of who they drive for, but when that driver is driving for the team is underfunded, it makes for an even bigger accomplishment. That was the case for Austin Hill, who finished 10th in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville in a truck with very limited sponsorship help.

Hill started the day 15th after a strong effort in qualifying. The NASCAR Next Alumni then proceed to carry that same strength throughout the 200-lap race, as he would keep himself positioned inside the top-20. Despite battling a loose truck and suffering minor damage during the event, it seemed like nothing would slow down the 22-year-old in his purist of a solid performance.

As the finish neared, he continued to show the skill that he had shown all day. Continuously picking up spots and making his way around competitive trucks, in route to his eventual career-best finish.

The past couple of weeks were already big for Hill’s team, Austin Hill Racing, as they signed two associate sponsors (Alien Gear Holsters and Lawless Jerky) for the final races of the 2016 season during that time. The top-10 will serve as even more help in the advancement of not only his driving career, but also with his young race team as the continue to look for sponsors for the rest of the season and beyond.

As he and his team continue to grow one thing is for certain; Saturday will prove to be a day Hill won’t soon forget.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.