HAMPTON — 2020 is a year where Austin Hill wants to succeed with Hattori Racing Enterprises and with the way 2019 ended and where he’s sitting in the standings entering Atlanta, he’s making a strong case for it.
In 2019, Hill had a career-defining season. Notching four wins, seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10 finishes in the Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series and compete for the series title. However, Hill wants more and 2019 was everything the 25-year-old Winston, Ga. native could want.
It’s arguable that the series title would have crowned him as the best of the series, but he was assured he belonged in the top talks with his win at Las Vegas in the 19th race of the season. It was his third win of the season at that point in the season.
“I think that most guys throughout seasons win one, maybe two races and it’s a decent year for them,” Hill said thoughtfully. “I think, once we won at Las Vegas and we had three wins under our belt, it kinda showed everybody that we mean business. Having a new driver, we could still go out and win. I felt like Las Vegas set the tone and put me on the map as a driver. HRE, as a group, they were already on the map because they’d won a championship the year before, so they knew their capability. Everyone in the industry knew their capability but they didn’t know my capability. They didn’t know if I could go out there and win races.”
Winning races is something he had to go out and prove. And Hill was prepared to make sure it all happened. The race at Las Vegas was partially defining because he went from 20th to the front and helped define his career. But how he won at Homestead probably helped solidify it even more.
“Everyone in the shop was mad and frustrated that we didn’t make it into the Final Four, so I think it lit a fire under us that much more,” Hill said. “To be able to go out there and say look, we should’ve won this championship. We’re going to go out there and dominate this race and win and show everybody who should’ve been the champions. I feel like that’s what we did. We went out there and we were class of the field the entire night and we were good and were able to win the race. That was just icing on the cake.”
The bounty on fellow NASCAR driver Kyle Busch is the huge talk this week around the series. Hill says the bounty is good and thinks it’s cool fellow Georgia driver Chase Elliott is coming down to the truck series to try for the now six-figure check.
“I think it’s cool that Chase is coming race with us,” Hill said. “If you’re wanting to be in the Cup series one day, it’s always nice to see Cup drivers come down to the truck series and run with you because you’re going to be running with them one day. You kinda see where you stack up as a driver and see what they’ve learned and what they’ve done throughout the years to be successful.”