HAMPTON, Ga. – Austin Hill took the famed “I’m going to Disney World!” advertising slogan and made it a reality for his family after winning last week’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Hill took his wife Ashlyn and daughter Lynnlee, along with other family members and friends, and invaded The Most Magical Place on Earth after his own dreams came true in Florida last Friday.
The 24-year-old dominated the NextEra Energy Resources 250 en route to the win in his debut appearance for Hattori Racing Enterprises, his first victory in one of NASCAR’s three national series.
After spraying the champagne, it was off to celebrate with some of Walt Disney’s famed characters.
“The weekend was awesome,” Hill told reporters on Friday afternoon. “I spent it with family and friends at Disney World, so that was really cool. Monday it started sinking in that we won the race, and Tuesday it was back to game face and getting ready for Atlanta.
“I started going over film Tuesday, watched film Wednesday. Just trying to do as much as I can outside of our Tundra so when I get here it just makes it that much easier going into practice.”
Though the Disney World plans were made well in advance of Hill’s Daytona victory, winning the race made the trip all the more special.
“We were going there win, lose or draw. It didn’t matter,” noted Hill. “We were going to Disney World either way. It made it that much sweeter going into the weekend, though.
“It was really cool to go there. It made it that much more fun at Disney to be able to just celebrate it with my whole family,” he continued. “My brothers were there … my wife, kids, parents, grandparents, everyone was there and they went to Disney World with us, so that was really fun.”
Hill admitted that even he was surprised that Hattori Racing Enterprises walked into Daytona and walked out with the trophy, considering how the team struggled on superspeedways last year.
“Last year, HRE actually struggled on the restrictor-plate tracks. I want to say they qualified 20th or something at Daytona last year,” noted Hill. “They did a lot of work in the off season to make their trucks that much better at the superspeedways, so going into the weekend we knew we had a shot. We knew we had a chance. Everybody at a superspeedway has a chance to win, you just have to be there at the end.
“We showed speed all throughout the race. We were up front for 80 or 85 percent of the race,” Hill added.” We showed we had speed and we were just one of the lucky ones to miss all the mayhem that happened.”
That sense of luck also means that Hill still feels like he has a lot to prove to the rest of the field.
“I feel like winning Daytona is a good start for sure, but I definitely feel like I still need to go prove myself,” he said. “There was a lot of people saying well, it’s Daytona. Yeah, it’s Daytona, but we still had to do all the right things. We were competitive all race long. We led the most laps. I think we led 39 laps. We led the most laps of the race, so we definitely proved that we belong.
“Obviously, Hattori proved that they belonged last year … but I still need to go prove that I belong on these 1.5-mile and short tracks and try to get a win at a place like that, where the driver part of it shows a little more at a place like a 1.5-mile than it does on a superspeedway.”
All in all, both Hill and the Hattori team are as motivated as ever to keep their fast start to the season going and open the season with back-to-back victories, especially coming into Hill’s home race track.
The Winston, Ga., native grew up an hour northwest of the 1.54-mile quad-oval and has a host of friends and family who will be cheering him on this weekend as he chases a second trophy in two weeks’ time.
“Daytona was definitely a huge win for us and it was a huge win for the whole organization, being my first race for Hattori (Racing Enterprises),” Hill noted. “It makes that much easier coming into this weekend and having a little bit of momentum on our side for sure.
“Each race we’re going to look at it the same way,” continued Hill. “We’re going to go for wins and get as many stage points as we can and rack them up as throughout the season. That’s our goal now, and it’d be just as special as Daytona was to take home a win in front of my hometown crowd.”