LAS VEGAS – Austin Hill was not going to be denied Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Hattori Racing Enterprises driver gave up track position to bolt on four new tires during a late pit stop, then proceeded to drive back through the field to win the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series World of Westgate 200.
A caution period on lap 81 for the expired engine in Tyler Dippel’s truck brought most of the field down pit road, but Hill’s No. 16 Toyota was not one of those to hit the pits. When Hill’s team saw the rest of the field pit, they realized they may have made a mistake.
It was at that point the team made the decision to pit the next time back around the track. While most of the field that pitted on the previous lap just took fuel, Hill’s team instead chose to pit for four tires in addition to fuel.
That decision proved to be the race winning call.
Restarting 17th on lap 87, Hill began storming through the field. By the 108th lap Hill was in third and one lap later he moved into second and began to track down race-long leader Ross Chastain.
Chastain quickly watched his lead, which was more than a second when Hill moved into the second position, disappear. With 12 laps to go Hill caught Chastain and began looking for a way around the Florida watermelon farmer.
Coming out of turn four Hill made his move, looking to the inside of Chastain. Hill beat Chastain to the start-finish line and completed the pass in turns one and two, dispatching Chastain with ease.
Once out front Hill drove off into the distance, easily beating Chastain to the checkered flag by more than two seconds to earn his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory of the season.
“This is the hardest one I’ve had to win,” Hill said, who has earned wins at Daytona Int’l Speedway and Michigan Int’l Speedway this year. “We were going to stay out that last caution and we stayed out and everybody else pitted. So we decided that we needed to pit or we were going to be screwed.
“We came down pit road, restarted at the tail end of the longest line. Man, it stayed green and I had to drive all the way through the field. This truck was unbelievable.”
Christian Eckes finished third after starting from the pole, followed by Sheldon Creed and Todd Gilliland.
Friday’s race was the final event in the first round of the Truck Series playoffs and saw two drivers eliminated from championship contention. Those drivers were ThorSport Racing competitors Grant Enfinger and Johnny Sauter, both of whom fell out of the race with engine issues.
The drivers who advanced to the second round of the Truck Series playoffs include Brett Moffitt, Hill, Chastain, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton and Tyler Ankrum.
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