Austin Hill Survives wild Daytona race/gets first career Truck Series win

by Briar Starr On Sat, Feb. 16, 2019

Austin Hill, driver of the #16 CHIBA Toyopet Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images.

The action never disappoints at Daytona International Speedway and never disappoints for the Truck Series either. After a record high 11 caution flags, two overtimes, the longest Truck Series race ever at Daytona and several big ones, Austin Hill comes out on top with his first career win in the series after 52 starts.

“We got a little separation from us (Matt Crafton and Grant Enfinger) and my spotter Mike Herman Jr. did an awesome job, just telling me when and where the run was coming, what lines to chose,” Hill told MRN Radio. “The 98 (Enfinger) got to me in the center of 3 and 4, and kind of jacked me up pretty good. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold on to that, but man, we were saving fuel there at the end, so coming off of (Turn) 4, I was pretty scared. I didn’t think we were going to make it to the finish. “

Christian Eckes and David Gilliland sat on the front row as the race began with the stages set for 20/20/60 laps.

The first few laps of Stage 1 set the mood for the night and it all started when Gilliland had a flat left front tire. After that, teammate Natalie Decker received damage as well from debris and cut a left front. She suffered more damage than Gilliland and the truck actually caught on fire. Decker was pulled out of the truck and was alert.

ARCA race winner, Harrison Burton fell a lap down during the stage. Sheldon Creed, with his new GMS Racing team, took the win in Stage 1.

Stage 2 began on Lap 26 and was a bit more tame but with a wild finish.

At Lap 27, a three-truck incident took place in Turn 3, which involved Chris Fontaine, Ray Ciccarelli, and Tyler Dippel. Eckes also received some damage as well.

With six to go in Stage 2, Brett Moffitt and Creed were black flagged for tandem drafting which is not allowed.

Coming to the checkered, Todd Gilliland took the lead in Turn 3 and 4, but Johnny Sauter made a move on the outside and Gilliland got shuffled back, while Sauter and Stewart Friesen battled side-by-side at the finish line. But it was Sauter who came out on top with the Stage 2 victory.

During the caution, Hill had to go to the rear as he was caught speeding. The 24 of Moffitt was also busted for a crew member being over the wall too soon.

With 54 to go, the field went back to green for the final stage of the race and quite possibly, the wildest stage in Truck Series history.

The first incident came with 46 to go when Jordan Anderson got turned from the back and set off a multi-vehicle accident. Sauter, Gus Dean, Myatt Snider, Grant Enfinger, Moffitt, Eckes, Austin Wayne Self, Creed, Brennan Poole, Friesen, and Todd Gilliland were all involved.

Burton and David Gilliland were hit with a one lap penalty for passing the pace truck while coming down for stops.

One lap after the restart, Christian Eckes machine caught on fire and brought out another caution.

After the restart with 31 to go, Sauter’s race was over as he came down to the garage area for a motormount problem.

Rookie Cory Roper went spinning off of Turn 4 and hit the inside wall. Roper’s night was done. Another issue came about when Todd Gilliland came in to the pits under caution as he thought he had rear end issues.

Five laps after the restart with 17 to go, a wreck on the backstretch occurred when Burton got clipped to the outside and came back down collecting Todd Gilliland and Gus Dean.

For Angela Ruch, a possible upset of the night, things got a little tougher for the Joe Nemecheck driver, as she had engine issues.

On the restart with seven to go, another caution came out as Timothy Peters and Clay Greenfield made contact with each other.

With this incident, it set up a three lap finish to the checkered. Well, sort of. Another big wreck broke out as Dean moved up in front of Creed and collected many others. The 52, 2, 99, 12, 88, 87, 16, 17, 45, and 68 were all involved. This would set up NASCAR overtime, meaning once the leader takes the white flag, the next one ends it.

You know the term, cautions breed cautions and that came into effect tonight, as Bobby Gerheart, Self, and Friesen wrecked.

Another overtime was set up, but this time they were able to finish the race. Hill threw a big block on Enfinger on the final lap and it was all Hill needed, as he went on to score his first ever Truck Series career win.

“I had a big run on the 99 (Ben Rhodes), went to get under him and he came to block, when he did we touched and we both got it back together, but we lost our momentum, the outside lane got a big run and I turned while it clipped the 99,” Hill told MRN Radio in victory lane.

“Luckily, I don’t know how, but we made it through. That was really the key moment for us. Getting that lead and just being able to protect it. That whole last lap, my heart was pounding and I thought they were going to get to my outside, and it was going to be a drag race. The fuel situation was really big. I was just glad to make it to the start finish line.”

There was a record high of 11 caution flags for 55 laps and 15 lead changes.

Austin Hill became the sixth driver to get his first win at Daytona.

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