BROOKLYN, Mich. – Thanks to a dramatic, late-race charge in Saturday’s Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan Int’l Speedway, Austin Hill bookended the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series regular season with victories.
Driving for last year’s championship-winning team in Hattori Racing Enterprises, Hill added to his season-opening win at Daytona Int’l Speedway with a second triumph, this one coming in the last race before the playoff reset.
Hill charged forward after an earlier pit-road speeding penalty and led 25 of the last 28 laps in the overtime-extended event, but it was a pass for the lead when Tyler Ankrum spun his tires on the penultimate restart that gave Hill command for good.
Ankrum’s misstep stacked up the field and left Matt Crafton with nowhere to go from behind. The No. 88 Ford ran square into the back of Ankrum’s No. 17 Toyota and sent Ankrum spinning into the pack.
That led to a multi-vehicle accident on the frontstretch, which caused massive damage to Ankrum’s truck and also collected playoff hopeful Todd Gilliland, Anthony Alfredo, Johnny Sauter and others.
Following cleanup, Hill raced away from the field on an overtime restart after a push to the point from fellow Toyota driver Harrison Burton and then held off Sheldon Creed on the final lap for the win.
Saturday’s victory was Hill’s second in the Truck Series in his 67th start. He led a race-high 26 laps.
“This is huge for us,” said Hill, who entered the day riding a streak of three finishes of 30th or worse. “We’ve had a struggle for the last four or five races. We’ve just kept having issues and couldn’t seem to finish races. My team has worked their tails off, day and night though. This was actually a brand-new truck; the first time it had seen the track was yesterday. We had some bugs to work out, but it was fast.
“This race was crazy; I had to come from the back a few times,” Hill added. “I had a speeding penalty at one point and thought our race was done … but we came back up through the field and did the job.”
GMS Racing’s Sheldon Creed, who ran second a week ago at Eldora Speedway on the dirt and needed to win to qualify for the postseason, came up one spot short again in his quest to reach victory lane.
The California young gun finished as the runner-up, .125 seconds back of Hill at the checkered flag.
Another driver in a must-win situation – Tyler Dippel of Young’s Motorsports – crossed the line in third ahead of Austin Wayne Self and two-time Michigan winner Brett Moffitt, who led twice for nine laps.
Bayley Currey, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Ray Ciccarelli and Matt Crafton completed the top 10.
Ross Chastain, who started from the pole, won the first stage and led the first 23 laps, was eliminated from contention when contact between Sauter and Codie Rohrbaugh on pit road sent Rohrbaugh into the side of Chastain’s truck – causing race-ending damage to the No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet.
Meanwhile, Enfinger clinched the regular-season championship just by taking the green flag on Saturday, earning 15 bonus points toward the playoffs for his efforts in the first 16 races of the season.
Enfinger will race for the Truck Series title alongside Moffitt – the No. 1 seed with 2,022 points. Stewart Friesen, Chastain, Hill, Crafton, Sauter and Ankrum also qualified for the eight-driver postseason field.