By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor
In his first full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, 27-year-old Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Hill has already turned some heads, first by winning the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway for his first Xfinity Series victory, then by earning two consecutive second-place runs at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Circuit of the Americas this past weekend.
Heading into Saturday’s race at the 3.426-mile course, Hill’s name wasn’t necessarily on the list of drivers to watch. Though he does have a win at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Hill has had less flashy results in the Xfinity Series on road courses, and was overshadowed by the likes of AJ Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, and the long list of Cup Series regular and road course specialists who would be in the race.
Turns out maybe more attention should have been paid to the No. 21 Chevrolet after all.
Though Hill was never able to make it out front to lead a lap, he was able to avoid many of the late-race penalties and contact that befell other competitors, along with showing speed not far off from eventual race winner Allmendinger.
Finishing in the runner-up position, Hill earned his third top-five finish in six races this year, finishing ahead of Cup Series regular Cole Custer and series points leader Noah Gragson in the process.
Prior to 2022, Hill had made 15 Xfinity Series starts and earned only one top-five finish.
“All in all, it was a solid effort for our Global Chevy Camaro. Andy (Street, crew chief) and all the guys at the shop did a heck of a job building this piece and bringing it here,” said Hill post-race. “I’ve always felt like I can get around road courses. I felt like I proved it last year in the trucks, winning at Watkins Glen and it just kind of built the confidence and momentum going forward to this year when we come to road courses that we can get the job done.
“I guess AJ was just a little bit better than I was, ’cause I felt like we had a really good car,” Hill continued. “There were certain spots that I thought he was a little better than us. It just shows that we can run with AJ, maybe make the car just a little bit better. I think personally as a driver I need to work on a few things. I think he was just doing some things a little bit better than I was inside the cockpit, so we’ll go back, debrief and look it over and just see where I can be better as a driver on these road courses.”
Hill’s runner-up spot qualified him for the Dash 4 Cash sweepstakes next weekend at Richmond Raceway. He will compete with Allmendinger, Gragson, and Mayer for the $100,000 bonus that will be earned by the highest finisher among the four.
The ToyotaCare 250 will take place on Saturday, April 2nd at 1:30PM ET with coverage on FS1 and MRN.
Photo Credit: Rachel Schuoler