JOLIET, Ill. – Two races ago in Iowa, Austin Hill and Johnny Sauter found themselves embroiled in controversy, but Friday night at Chicagoland Speedway, they’ll lead the field to the green flag.
Hill earned the pole for the Camping World 225 at the 1.5-mile oval with a lap of 30.572 seconds (176.632 mph) in his No. 16 SiriusXM Toyota Tundra for Hattori Racing Enterprises, setting a new track record in the process.
The pole is Hill’s first in 63 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts, and the 25-year-old Georgian didn’t think his lap was going to be fast enough until he crossed the line and got the news from his crew.
“I knew our (turns) one and two was really good, but I really didn’t believe that lap would put us on the pole,” said Hill. “These guys have been working so hard in the shop; they’ve been grinding day and night. I can’t thank them enough.
“The bump in (turns) three and four is always a little bit rough, and I slipped just a little bit, and I thought that was going to be the difference in us getting the pole,” Hill added. “Here we are, though. It’s cool.”
Hill won the season opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway back in February, but is seeking his first victory on a downforce track this weekend.
“Another win would be huge. I’ve been really working hard, trying to get a win on a mile and a half or on a short track,” Hill noted. “I feel like our mile-and-a-half program is where we need it to be; we’ve had speed on those tracks all year. … I’m excited about going out there tonight and seeing what we can do.”
Sauter will join Hill on the front row after a lap of 30.596 seconds (176.494 mph) with his No. 13 Tenda Ford F-150 for ThorSport Racing.
At Iowa Speedway on June 16, Sauter intentionally wrecked Hill under caution after contact between the two during that event led to Sauter spinning out in turns three and four.
NASCAR officials later suspended Sauter for one race because of his actions, and Friday night marks Sauter’s first race back from that suspension. The irony of who’s starting next to him wasn’t lost, either.
“It’s like it’s made for TV, right?” Sauter quipped. “Our Tenda Ford struggled in the first two practices yesterday, but I think we found some stuff last night that will help in the race. … This has been a good race track for us. It puts a big emphasis on handling, which is something that I feel suits me.
“I still feel like I needed a little bit more, but I’m proud of everyone’s effort and it’s good to be back.”
Defending Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt was third-quickest (30.624/176.332), with teenager Tyler Ankrum (30.663/176.108) and point leader Grant Enfinger (30.681/176.005) completing the top five.
Anthony Alfredo lines up sixth, followed by Sheldon Creed, Harrison Burton, Dylan Lupton and Stewart Friesen.
Notables deep in the field include two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton (11th), Gateway winner Ross Chastain (16th) and NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Brandon Jones (19th).
To view the complete starting lineup, advance to the next page.