By; Ashley McCubbin
The NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series have seen certain stars emerge as championship favorites. Though the Truck Series, it seems the field is wide open with several possible contenders rising.
“It seems like anybody can win that’s in the top-12 or so at any given moment,” Austin Hill said. “If you have a truck that’s handling good and you like that race track, you can go out and win. I feel like we’re doing a really good job as a team. I feel like we’re right where we want to be. We don’t have that win like you said and we wish we had that win under our belt, but looking at the year as a whole, we’ve been getting the job done and been really consistent.”
Hill could easily be considered a possible contender, as he leads the regular season standings heading into this weekend’s double header at Kansas Speedway. Consistency has been the name of the game, with just one finish outside of the top-nine all year – the engine failure at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend.
Ultimately, there’s only one box they have left unchecked this year -scoring a race win.
“That’s what we got to do,” Hill’s crew chief Scott Zippidelli told POPULAR SPEED. “We’ve worked on a lot of different aspects of the race, but what we need to work on as a group is leading the last lap, and I think everybody will sleep better. Then we can focus on the chase, once the chase format comes out and what tracks we’re at, we can work on each individual track to get better for that.”
The performance has been there, as noted with Hill’s consistency and leading laps in four of the races this season. Currently he boasts an average finish of eighth, compared to 12.8 after the same amount of events in 2019 – all thanks to improvements made by the Hattori Racing Enterprises team.
“Overall, we looked at our weaknesses and polished our strengths over the winter,” Zippidelli explained. “Our weakness last year was at the beginning of the race, early in the run, early stage runs from the first lap to halfway through a stage. So we worked on our set-up stuff and Austin and I worked together to get our truck better sooner in a run to be more competitive. We’ve worked on our restarts, and all kinds of stuff from Austin’s technique to set-up stuff so I think we’re on course with that.
“We need to continue to grow on that so we stay ahead of the other guys. If we continue to stay complacent then the other teams that should be championship contending teams pick it up or figure out what they’re missing, they’ll be right on us. So we have to pick it up, win some races, win some stages, and focus towards the chase.”
The lack of checkered flags has been getting to Hill, as he admitted beating himself up about that over the past couple of weeks. There was also the visible frustration in watching him lead late at Atlanta Motor Speedway, only to give it up on a late-race restart to Grant Enfinger.
However, knowing the speed they have currently has him confident a win is just around the corner.
“I had to settle myself down, refocus, and get back to just racing, and not being so driven or adamant about getting a win,” he stated. “I think if keep doing that, you may overthink and start doing some things on the track that you wouldn’t normally do, and that can put you in a bad spot during the race. That’s something that I’ve had to settle down the past week or two, and tell myself that it will be alright.
“As long as we keep running in the top-five and be consistent, the wins will come; you don’t need to force it.”