Austin Hill Gambles with Four Tires to Win at Vegas As Playoff Drivers Struggle

Las Vegas, NV — In the closing laps, Austin Hill fights his way through the field and passed Ross Chastain to win the World of Westgate 200 in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“That was a big statement win,” Hill declared in Victory Lane. “It means the world to me. This was the hardest one. We were going to stay out last caution, and everyone else pitted, so we needed to pit or we were screwed. So we came down pit road and restarted at the tail end of the longest line. Man, it stayed green, I had to drive all the way through the field and this truck was unbelievable.

“We’re two for two with this truck, so we’re going for three.”

Hill won the first race of the season at Daytona International Speedway, as well as the last race of the regular season at Michigan International Speedway, but he knew that wins, strong runs and no mistakes were evermore important during the Playoffs. He felt Friday night’s win was that strong run they needed to be a serious title contender.

“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,” Hill said later. “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.”

It was a solid day for Chastain, but with old tires, he came up just a dozen laps short. After leading the most laps (88), the Niece Motorsports driver still finished second.

“Just (no) front tires,” Chastain shared on pit road after the finish. “They thought they got enough fuel in it on the final stop. Just all tires unfortunately.”

But the race was anything less than eventful. Three-wide action, including competitors making a five-wide pass on the front stretch early in the race, proved how each driver understood the value of every position. Unfortunately for some, mechanical issues began to unfold early throughout the race. Grant Enfinger won the regular season, but only raced for six laps, as he lost his engine and Playoff hopes. He became the first of many drivers with engine issues.

ThorSport teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter both lost their engines on Lap 38, and it started to concern the eventual race winner. He shared his concerns both at that time, and later in the race where the engine seemed to lack power at various moments on restarts and while racing competitors.

“Yeah, we had to keep pulling tape each time,” Chastian continued when asked about his concern with competitors losing engines. “The first run, I had to let Austin (Hill) get in front of me to get some trash off the grill, and then the bugs were just terrible. Just a freak deal.”

Pole sitter Christian Eckes, Sheldon Creed and Todd Gilliland completed the top five. Brennan Poole, Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes, Harrison Burton and Dylan Lupton rounded out the top 10 positions.

Green flag flew for Christian Eckes, who won his second career pole in just his tenth career start in the Truck series. Ross Chastain quickly took over the lead and led the majority of the laps in the first stage, and went on to win Stage 1. Moffitt started the race in the rear of the field, but climbed his way up to ninth by the end of the stage.

The biggest news happened on Lap 6 when Grant Enfinger, who was the regular season champion, lost his motor on the front stretch. The team diagnosed the issue, attempted to repair the truck, but were unable to get back out on track. After starting the race just two points above the cutoff line, he would not collect enough points to make it into the next round of the Playoffs.

More Playoff drama unfolded during Stage 2. On the front stretch on Lap 38, teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton both lost their engines at the same time. Crafton later shared that his truck appeared to lose power after running over debris that came from Sauter’s truck. That incident locked Enfinger out of the next round, and Sauter was left to the mercies of where Friesen and Ankrum finished.

More drivers began reporting engine issues, including Friesen. Natalie Decker began to come in and out of the garage, and a few other drivers retired from the race from mechanical issues. In the end, Chastain claimed the Stage 2 victory and set the pace throughout the first half of the race.

The field took the green flag to start the final stage on Lap 68, but quickly went back under yellow as Johnny Sauter eventually lost the entire motor. The troubled Playoff driver was looking to make up a couple more spots for the points required to make it into the next round, competing against Ankrum and Friesen for the final transfer position.

On Lap 82, Tyler Dippel lost his engine to bring out the caution. Teams had various strategies when they came to pit road. Chastain elected for fuel only, while Hill took four fresh tires. A mishap on pit road required him to come back down under yellow, forcing his team to restart toward the back of the lead lap trucks in the 16th position. The race was restarted on Lap 87, but many other trucks declared engine issues. Jennifer Jo Cobb and Natalie Decker went behind the wall with various engine issues

Hill fought his way through the field to catch Chastain in the closing laps, passing him on Lap 123. He led the final 12 laps to claim his third win of the season, winning by 2.116 seconds. Enfinger and Sauter were officially eliminated from the Playoffs when Ankrum and Friesen finished 11th and 19th respectively.

“We got lucky,” Ankrum stated after the race explaining his truck cutting in and out in the middle of the final stage. “On that last restart, the motor just fell on its face and I thought I just messed up on the restart, and that’s why I fell back so fast. About five laps later, it sounded like an old ‘69 Malibu. My heart sank, I thought we were blowing up. I was going to be mad, that was the first thing that was going to happen. But it cut back on, so I think it was just electrical.

It doesn’t matter how you get there (to the Round of 6), it’s just that you get there.”

The Round of 6 Playoff drivers have been set with Moffitt, Chastain, Hill, Friesen, Crafton and Ankrum. The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series will compete next on October 12 in the Sugarlands Shine 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

FinSt#DriverSponsor / OwnerTruckLapsStatusLedPtsPPts
1716   Austin HillGunma Toyopet   (Shigeaki Hattori)Toyota134running29575
2245   Ross ChastainCarShield   (Al Niece)Chevrolet134running88552
3151   Christian EckesSiriusXM   (Kyle Busch)Toyota134running4390
462   Sheldon CreedChevrolet Accessories   (Maury Gallagher)Chevrolet134running0420
534   Todd GillilandJBL Fest   (Kyle Busch)Toyota134running0410
61830   Brennan PooleOn Point Motorsports   (Steven Lane)Toyota134running0410
7424   Brett MoffittCMR Construction & Roofing   (Maury Gallagher)Chevrolet134running12400
81399   Ben RhodesHavoline   (Duke Thorson)Ford134running0360
9918   Harrison BurtonSafelite Auto Glass   (Kyle Busch)Toyota134running0310
10175   Dylan LuptonDGR-Crosley   (David Gilliland)Toyota134running0270
111617   Tyler AnkrumB/X Custom Designs   (David Gilliland)Toyota134running0290
121515   Anthony AlfredoSim Seats   (David Gilliland)Toyota134running0250
131287   Tony MrakovichStreet Stores Hardware   (Joe Nemechek)Chevrolet134running0240
14143   Jordan /   (Jordan Anderson)Chevrolet134running0230
152312   Gus DeanLG Air Conditioning Technologies   (Randy Young)Chevrolet133running0230
16279   Codie RohrbaughGrant County Mulch   (Codie Rohrbaugh)Chevrolet133running0210
172622   Austin Wayne SelfGo Texan   (Tim Self)Chevrolet133running0200
182011   Spencer DavisAll Pro   (Mark Rette)Ford133running0190
191952   Stewart FriesenHalmar International   (Chris Larsen)Chevrolet132running0180
202920   Spencer   (Randy Young)Chevrolet132running1170
212538   Colin GarrettWide Open Entrepreneurs   (Al Niece)Chevrolet131running000
223044   Angela RuchThe Ruch Life   (Al Niece)Chevrolet131running0150
233234   Justin JohnsonRedList   (Josh Reaume)Chevrolet127running0140
243110   Jennifer Jo CobbWaldo’s Painting   (Jennifer Jo Cobb)Chevrolet90running0130
252154   Natalie DeckerRuedebusch Development   (David Gilliland)Toyota87electrical0120
262202   Tyler DippelLobas Productions   (Randy Young)Chevrolet80engine0110
272419   Derek KrausEneos / NAPA Filters   (Bill McAnally)Toyota77transmission0100
282833   Mason MasseyAnderson Power Services   (Josh Reaume)Chevrolet63engine090
291013   Johnny SauterTenda Heal   (Duke Thorson)Ford45engine0150
30588   Matt CraftonFisher Nuts / Menards   (Duke Thorson)Ford39engine0160
31898   Grant EnfingerThorSport Racing / Curb Records   (Mike Curb)Ford6engine060
32118   John Hunter NemechekBerry’s Bullets   (Joe Nemechek)Chevrolet0fuel pressure000

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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