Toyota Racing – Austin Hill
NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (NGOTS)
Atlanta Motor Speedway – February 22, 2018
Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill was made available to the media in Atlanta:
AUSTIN HILL, No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra, Hattori Racing Enterprises
Talk about qualifying at Atlanta in a truck.
“It’s intense for sure. You want to go wide open in qualifying, but one little mishap or one little mistake if your truck’s not perfect, it can cause disaster for you. Qualifying is probably one of the most – Atlanta is probably one of the most intense tracks you come to qualify a truck at.”
Do you still have the same kind of motivation you had coming into Atlanta even after you won at Daytona?
“Daytona was definitely a huge win for us and it was a huge win for just the whole organization – my first race for Hattori (Racing Enterprises). 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. We’re going to go for wins and get as many stage points as we can and rack them up as much as we can going throughout the season.”
What’s been the feedback on social media after Daytona?
“It’s been really good. 90 percent has been very good. A lot of people were like only nine or 10 trucks finished the race and this, that and the other. What a lot of people don’t understand – 32 trucks started the race and we were the ones that came out on top. We had to throw some really good blocks there at the end. My spotter (Mike) Herman, he did an awesome job. He kind of called the moves that were being made before they were actually made, so that was the biggest reason I feel like we were in victory lane that night. We knew where the runs were coming and we knew when to block them.”
How do you get emotions in check after Daytona coming into really the regular season here at Atlanta?
“The weekend was awesome. I spent it with family and friends at Disney World, so that was really cool. Monday it started sitting 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.”
Being from Georgia, do you have a lot of friends and family coming this weekend?
“Oh yeah. We’ve got a ton of people coming – uncles, aunts, friends that I grew up with ever since I was five years old and in elementary school. I have a lot of friends and family coming this weekend. It’s going to be really fun and it’ll make it that much more special to go out there and run up front and try to compete with these guys.”
So it wasn’t just a saying you were going to Disney World, you actually went there?
“Yeah, it actually happened. We were going there win, lose or draw. It didn’t matter. We were going to Disney World either way. It made it that much sweeter going into the weekend.:
It had to feel fun walking into Disney World after winning Daytona.
“It was really cool to go there. It makes it that much more fun at Disney to be able to just celebrate it with my whole family. 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.”
Your expression of celebration after the race may not be what you typically hear. Did anybody say anything to you after that one flew over the radio?
“No, Mike Greci, the manager over at Hattori, he called me Sunday and was asking if I went to church or not because of what flew on the radio. When something happens like that in your career, especially at Daytona, you’re full of so much emotion and you’re just so excited that stuff just happens that you don’t even realize it happened until after the fact. The next day, Saturday, I was thinking about it and I was like man, that probably wasn’t the best thing to say on the radio, but you’re so excited about winning Daytona, that was the last thing that was on my mind was what was being said on the radio. I was just overwhelmed. I never would’ve thought that Daytona would be a place that we’d win at, especially a restrictor plate race.”
You didn’t think you could win at Daytona even with the championship-winning team?
“Last year, they actually struggled on the restrictor-plate tracks. I want to say they qualified 20th or something at Daytona last year. 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. We showed we had speed and we were just one of the lucky ones to miss all the mayhem that happened.”
How do you react to people saying you bought your ride at Hattori, especially the recent news article that said as much?
“A lot of people don’t know my background. Like (Mike) Greci said, he was on SiriusXM the other day. He said Austin’s a very quiet guy. He doesn’t really post a lot on social media. I don’t really go out of my way to try to meet people and I probably should do a better job of that. A lot of people don’t know who I am and seeing the article, it kind of pisses you off a little bit. It kind of makes you mad, but at the same time it gives you more motivation going into the season to prove all the guys wrong that keep saying bad things about you. We were really lucky at the end of the season to have really good partners with United Rentals to kind of step up their program from the 2018 season going into ’19. That’s really what kind of closed the deal for us. Without their help and their sponsoring behind us, we wouldn’t be sitting here after a Daytona win talking to you guys about running with Hattori and all that. It’s really humbling to me that I was able to put this whole deal together. I hate it for Brett (Moffitt), but I feel like it kind of – when you look back at it, he’s got a great ride with GMS (Racing) and I have a great ride with Hattori, so I feel like really everybody won in the whole situation.”
Do you ever wish people would look at your stats and see that you’ve performed well with mid-level teams?
“We’ve always had success in anything we’ve raced. A lot of people, again, if you don’t look back at my resume and what we’ve done with family-owned teams, you wouldn’t think that Austin Hill is a very great driver honestly. If you just look at what I’ve done in the Truck Series, you wouldn’t say that he’s a top-tier driver. I’m the type of guy that I want finishes to speak for themselves and I felt like last year we kind of did that with Young’s Motorsports having mediocre equipment – being able to go out there run top 10 and be competitive each week. We had a lot of things happen last year whether it was pit road incidents or whatever happened on the race track that kind of set us back to where we should have had a lot more top 10s than we did last year and then we were able to come home with a fifth-place finish there at the end at Texas. I like for the finishes to speak for themselves. I’m not the type of person that’s going to say hey, I’m Austin Hill and I’m a good driver. I’d rather other people find that out for themselves.”
You ran good at Talladega last year too…
“We led the race a lot and had a pit stop where we came out I think third and on a restart we got pushed down below the line and NASCAR deemed it that we were passing below the line. That’s one of those – it’s a hard decision to make. They’re doing the best they can. I didn’t really agree with the decision that was made. I felt like it kind of hurt us on being able to get the win at Talladega. I felt like we had a really good shot at winning, but they make the rules. We’re just playing in their sandbox.”
How important is it to have speed on these intermediate tracks and how big is it that this team won this race a year ago from a notebook standpoint?
“It means a lot going into this weekend that they had success here last year. I went back and watched the race. I’ve watched it probably three or four times now and they were really good. They were a really fast truck. They look like they probably had a second or third place truck all weekend long. There at the end Kyle Busch had an issue on pit road that definitely helped them, but they definitely had a top three truck all day. Hopefully, the package that we bring this weekend is from last year, but they also incorporated a little bit more into it to make it that much better so maybe we can go compete with Kyle Busch and beat him this weekend. That would be cool to be able to have a maybe a 10-lap restart and me and Kyle Busch be able to duke it out at the end. That’s probably a dream come true for me if we can race with “Rowdy” this weekend.”
Is there some type of process that led you to race with Hattori that you wish people would understand from a business aspect in racing?
“I really felt like if I didn’t come in and get the No. 16 ride, somebody else would have. That’s the way I see it. Throughout the end of the year, I was in talks with Mike Greci, the manager over there. It really was like the last four or five races, we were kind of talking a little bit. He passed me on pit road and asked me what I was doing next season and the game plan was to go with Young’s Motorsports again. I never would’ve thought in a million years, we would be able to run with a team as successful as Hattori racing is. Whenever he approached me and we kind of looked at the numbers and stuff and me and my dad we pitched the sell to United Rentals and somehow it all came through. I don’t think – if I wasn’t the one sitting in the No. 16 Tundra, I feel like another driver would be whether it was some other younger driver coming in or whoever, I don’t think Moffitt would be sitting in it either way.”
Do you feel like the win last week proves that you deserve to be in the No. 16 or do you have more to prove?
“I feel like it’s a good start for sure, but I definitely feel like I still need to go prove myself. 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 felt like I proved that I belong, but I still need to go prove that on these 1.5-mile and short tracks and try to get a win at a place like this where the driver part of it shows a little more at a place like a 1.5-mile than it does on a superspeedway.”