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NASCAR Truck: Austin Hill ends round one of playoffs with Vegas win

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 13: Austin Hill, driver of the #16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series World of Westgate Las Vegas 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 13, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Austin Hill claimed his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win of 2019 Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the World of Westgate 200, the elimination race of the first round of the playoffs. With the win he secured his advancement to round two and snapped a four-playoff-race winning streak by Brett Moffitt that dated back to the final two races of the 2018 season.

“It means a lot,” Hill said. “Coming into tonight, our number one goal was getting stage points, and we did that. “We got stage points in stage one and stage two. Got through that, and after the second stage and we knew that some of the playoff drivers had some issues, my only concern was going for the win. That’s all I really cared about. I didn’t think we were going to be able to catch them under green, but we did. It’s even more of a statement win, because we had a little bit of an issue during practice and lost our truck chief. I know he was up watching us in the stands, but this is so special.”

Ross Chastain finished second after leading 88 of the 134 laps that made up the race. Christian Eckes finished third, Sheldon Creed fourth, and Todd Gilliland was fifth.

“There were some mistakes here-and-there that cost us a shot at better track position,” Eckes said. “Lots to be learned. We had a pretty fast Tundra, overall. Now we can move on to Martinsville and Homestead with a little momentum with a pole and a third. Overall, a good night, but definitely something to improve on.”

The playoff field was cut from eight to six drivers Friday night. ThorSport teammates Johnny Sauter and Grant Enfinger were eliminated, while Hill, Moffitt, Chastain, Tyler Ankrum, Stewart Friesen and ThorSport driver Matt Crafton advanced.

Three of four ThorSport drivers suffered engine problems at Vegas. Enfinger dropped out of the race after only six laps. Sauter and Crafton experienced engine issues simultaneously on lap 40. Sauter was abel to continue awhile longer, finally retiring from the race after lap 68. As a result of their early retirements, they wound up 29th through 31st in the finishing order.

The only ThorSport driver to make it to the end of the race was non-playoff driver Ben Rhodes, who finished eighth.

The ThorSport trio of Sauter, Crafton and Enfinger weren’t the only playoff drivers to battle mechanical demons. Friesen made several extra pit stops throughout the race as his team attempted to battle an issue with one of its cylinders. Friesen wound up 19th at the finish.

The eventual race winner took the lead from Chastain on lap 123 after restarting the race 17th after a lap-81 caution for a Tyler Dippel blown engine. Hill fell to the back of the top-20 for the restart, because he failed to pit when the other frontrunners did and, instead, pitted the next time the field passed by pit road.

“It means the world to me,” Hill said. “This is the hardest one I’ve had to win. We were going to stay out that last caution, and we stayed out and everybody else pitted. We decided we needed to pit or we were going to be screwed. We came down pit road, restarted at the tail-end of the longest line, and it stayed green. I had to drive all the way through the field, and this truck was unbelievable. I can’t thank Gumma Toyopet for coming on board. Toyota, TRD, the Aisin Group, United Rentals – everybody and all my partners that allow me to do this. HRE, Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and the boys gave me a heck of a piece tonight. We wouldn’t have won this race without them. We’re two-for-two with this truck, so we’re going to try to go three-for-three with it. Can’t thank all the boys enough.”

Chastain won the stages that ended at laps 30 and 60, taking his first lead from pole sitter Eckes on lap four. Hill first got by Chastain for the lead on lap 16, but three laps later, Chastain resumed the position.

Hill took the lead, again, by getting off pit road first during the caution at the end of the first stage. He and Chastain traded the lead back-and-forth for several laps before Chastain retook command of the position on lap 52.

Moffitt led early in the 74-lap third stage after being first out of the pits, but Chastain was back up front after the restart following the caution that led to Sauter’s retirement from the race.

Brennan Poole finished sixth. Moffitt wound up seventh after starting in the back for a changed tire after qualifying. Other top-10 finishers included Harrison Burton and Dylon Lupton, who finished ninth and 10th, respectively.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

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Posted by on September 14, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR,NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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