Hill’s Daytona win solidifies Hattori Racing as Toyota powerhouse

When 2018 Gander Outdoor Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt was released from Hattori Racing Enterprises following his title win only to be replaced by underdog Austin Hill for the 2019 season, there were questions, of course. Moffitt was a proven winner, Hill was not. Moffitt could contend on any race track, Hill only had a few strong runs. Moffitt was a champion, Hill wasn’t.

Yet there was little doubt that the move to HRE could end up making a winner out of Hill, which is exactly what happened Friday night when he won the NextEra 250 at Daytona. Hill, who led the most laps (39), managed to stay out of trouble the most during the caution-filled event and nab the first Truck Series win of his career. Hill is the sixth driver to score his first truck series win at Daytona International Speedway.

Regardless of Hill’s current employer, the fact that he won so soon out of the gate is still surprising. He came into the 2019 season with only a top-five and eight top-10s under his belt, with a career-best finish of fifth at Texas last fall. All of of which occurred over a span of 51 starts since 2014 while driving for a spate of owners, from Ricky Benton’s No. 92 team to his own family team’s No. 20 to Young’s Motorsports last season. In short, he hadn’t accomplished much during his time in the Truck Series. To be fair, though, his first full campaign in the series was 2018, where he managed to grab the bulk of his top-10 finishes.

Meanwhile, by proving themselves an organization that can produce multiple winners, HRE has also shown themselves to be an adequate foil to the Toyota dominance of Kyle Busch Motorsports, an organization long thought to be the gold standard for Toyota in the Truck Series. However, while KBM fields multiple entries for both title pursuit and driver development, HRE has the luxury of a competitive single-car team to pursue victories and championships with.

This is the way the sport should be. A team which started out as a solid mid-pack/occasional contender has grown enough and established itself enough that it is now a contender for wins and championships, and right now it holds seven wins with two drivers and a championship – all since the beginning of the 2018 season. They are setting a great pace for themselves in terms of success, and although Daytona is known to be a wild card – emphasis on “wild” – Shigeaki Hattori and Crew Chief Scott Zippadelli know now how to build a team around a driver. Ryan Truex was a consistent finisher with them, Moffitt was a champion with them, and now underdog-turned-winner Hill is bringing home the trophy from Daytona for them.

It wasn’t too long before the 2018 season started that Moffitt was on a job hunt, with only a win at Michigan in 2016 to his credit. Imagine what Hill can accomplish this season with such an established team. If he can win at Daytona, then it isn’t a matter of if he can win again in the No. 16, but when.

Here’s a hint: Soon.

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