Toyota Racing – Austin Hill
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series Quotes
CHARLOTTE (September 14, 2020) – Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill was made available to media via videoconference during the NASCAR Playoffs Media Day:
AUSTIN HILL, No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra, Hattori Racing Enterprises
You have more top-10’s than anyone in the Playoffs. How important is it to maintain that consistency?
“It’s definitely really tough. You are going into these race tracks where anything can happen. Bristol is one of those race tracks, if you put yourself in a predicament, you can end up in a wreck very easily. Then you look at a place like Talladega or Martinsville, and it’s one of those race tracks – especially Talladega – where you can be doing everything right, leading the race and end up in a wreck somehow. We just have to do our thing – what we’ve been doing all season, which is be aggressive on restarts, be aggressive throughout the race to try to get stage points and try to keep that clean air. That’s been the biggest success for us, just being up front, each and every week and not losing spots during the race and on restarts, trying to stay consistent with all of that. Just keep doing our thing. Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and everybody at HRE (Hattori Racing Enterprises) has been doing a good job at being really consistent on where the truck is when we unload, when we get to these race tracks. The setups and everything have been really close. We’ve had to work on it a few times throughout the season to make it a little bit better, but it’s been good. We’ve been strong all season, and we just have to keep it up.”
Who do you think could be a dark horse going into this?
“It’s hard to say honestly. All 10 of us – once you get into the Playoffs you just get into a different mode. Your guys get into a different mode, and everybody in the shop seems like they just dig a little harder when Playoffs get here. I’m not going to count anybody out for this Final Four. I think that Todd (Gilliland) has been doing really well these past few races. They’ve been really fast. I think that he can, could potentially be a dark horse. He’s shown some really good speed, especially at these short tracks. They are starting to hit on all cylinders a bit. There’s still some things that they have to work on and get a little bit better at, but I think they could be a dark horse, but you can’t count anybody out. Once the Playoffs start, all it takes is one bad race, and you can be out very easily. So, it’s all about consistency, staying out of wrecks and doing your own thing.”
If we look back to last year, Martinsville and Phoenix weren’t the best outings for your team, so what have you or the team worked on specifically for these races?
“With no practice or qualifying, it’s been tough for us because we’ve definitely needed to work on our short track program from last season. Actually, Gateway was the first short track that we went to that we brought a whole new package. It was something that they have never ran before at HRE (Hattori Racing Enterprises) and Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and all of the guys, they have never run the setup before. Going into Gateway, we knew that we were going to have to figure it out. We started out in left field and we had to work on it, we had to make it better. By the end of the race, we were top-three and we finished third. It just shows how hard these guys fight. Same thing at Richmond. We kind of brought that same package from Gateway and tuned on it a little bit and we were really good at Richmond and tires kind of beat us at the end. I thought we had a shot at winning, and we thought a caution might come out late in the race and it didn’t. It’s going to be the same thing at all of these other short tracks that we go to. Bristol’s going to be a brand-new setup that they have never ran there. We just have to work on it throughout the race. There’s going to be things that we’ve learned these last two short track races that I think are going to help us. Martinsville, last year, we actually – I felt like we were fairly decent. I think we were running somewhere around sixth or seventh all day. We were going to have a good points day, and it was just one of those deals. A few guys in front of us got a little antsy and wanted to go three-wide and next thing you know, we kind of ended up in somebody else’s mess. Phoenix was one of those races though where we just missed it. Phoenix was one of those races that we thought we were good in practice. We qualified on the pole, and the green flag dropped, and we just dropped like a rock and we just could not get it better throughout the day. It was just one of those race tracks where we just struggled a little bit. I think that’s one of those race tracks that we definitely have to work on, and I think the things that we have learned at Gateway, and Richmond, and so on and so forth, will help us going into Phoenix. I think that it’s going to help us out a lot. We are going to be a lot better, and there’s no telling. If we make it to Phoenix, it’s going to be interesting.
How different of a driver are you this year knowing what to expect after having success last year?
“The biggest thing that I’ve done this season that I felt like I didn’t do a great job at last season was just be a lot more aggressive on restarts. If you look back at all of the races this season, there’s been numerous times that I’ve went three-wide on restarts and just trying to make anything happen that I can make happen. I try to be patiently aggressive, but at the same time you’ve got to be aggressive on these restarts because I feel like clean air is huge in the Truck Series. That’s something I’ve learned from last season to apply to this season is you can get inside the top five and your truck starts driving a lot different and then once you get in the top three your truck starts driving even a little bit better. And, if you’re leading the race then the truck normally drives really well. That’s been the biggest key for me that I’ve worked on all season long is just being really aggressive. You’re going to see that in the Playoffs. I’m not going to let up just because the Playoffs starts, I’m not going to do anything different. I’m not going to approach it to where I do a little more give and take and stuff, it’s going to be as much take as I can get. I think that’s the way you’ve got to approach it. You have to be aggressive because every position matters and every stage point matters. That’s one thing this season that I’ve really focused on is just trying to be a lot more aggressive.”
Who do you think is the biggest threat in your eyes in the Playoffs this year?
“I’m going to probably say Sheldon (Creed) right now. Sheldon has been really good all season long. He’s been really fast. It seems like from last year to this year he’s taken what he learned last year on being fast and making it throughout the whole race and finishing races. I think that he’s going to be really good. You really can’t count out any of the GMS trucks. I feel like they’ve been really good all season long. Even though Brett (Moffitt) hasn’t won a race I think that he’s going to be hard to beat. He won the championship in 2018 so he’s been there before, and he’s done it. He knows how to get it done and he made the Final Four last season. I think he has a shot of making it there again. There again it goes back to, all of these races coming up you have to be perfect. You can’t have any bad days. You’ve got to get all you can get and the only way you’re going to make it to the next round is to be consistent or win a race. Being consistent is a little bit easier than winning races because winning races is tough. I felt like we should’ve won more races than we’ve won this year. It just hasn’t fallen our way. I’m sure that a lot of other guys feel the same way. Once the Playoffs start, it’s going to be tough, but I think the GMS trucks are going to be tough to beat.”
How much does your experience being in the Playoffs last year matter for this season?
“I think it matters some for sure. Just because you’ve been there, and it seems like when you get to the race track everything is a little bit more hyped up especially around you and all of the Playoff guys. You have to get in a different mode almost and you have to really just focus in on racing and not listening to the outside noise or anything else. Just focus on what you’ve been doing all season that got you here and trying not to change anything that you’ve done. Which is hard to do. You get into the Playoffs and you know that you’re racing a lot more points wise and more so that than just trying to win races. You’ve got to focus on stage points, and you’ve got to focus on everything else. It’s very easy to kind of change what you’ve been doing all season that’s worked for you, but that’s something I feel like we’re going to be really good at this Playoffs is just keep doing what we’re doing, don’t change anything. Like I said, we’ve changed some setup stuff throughout the season that I think is going to help us on the short tracks. I think if we’re good at Bristol, I think it’s almost one of those things that if we’re good at Bristol we should make Phoenix unless something crazy happens. Say we wreck at Talladega and we’re close in points or something. Or we go to Martinsville and we get in a wreck or something crazy. I think something crazy has to happen for us not to make the Final Four because of how good we’ve been all season long. I feel like we’ve been one of the best teams and it shows in being the regular season champion. It just shows that our consistency has been there all season long, and like you said we’ve only been outside of the top-10 twice and that’s because of having an engine issue one race and the other race we were going for the win and got wrecked. That’s the only reason we’ve finished outside the top-10 this season and other than that we’ve finished inside the top-10 and got a lot of top five’s and wins. I just think that we’re going to be the guy to beat this year.”
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