For rookie Austin Hill, there is no place like home after the 28-year-old native from Winston, Georgia, earned a dominant victory in the Alsco Uniforms 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his home track, on Saturday, July 9.
Hill, who led four times for a race-high 73 of 163 and overcame radio issues prior to the start, overtook Ryan Truex for the lead with 62 laps remaining. From there, he maintained the lead in front of a steaming pack of competitors running toward the front, including moves from the outside to inside lane to stall late runs from Josh Berry and Daniel, to claim his second NASCAR Xfinity Series career victory and second of this season in front of his home crowd.
With on-track qualifying initially scheduled for Saturday canceled due to rain, the starting lineup was determined by a metric formula used to make the qualifying order in reverse, with the winner of last weekend’s event at Road America having the lowest number. As a result, Ty Gibbs, who won last weekend at Road America and won at Atlanta earlier in March, was awarded the pole position. Joining him on the front row was Josh Berry.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Gibbs and Berry dueled for the lead in front of the field fanning out and racing in a tight pack. Once the field returned to the start/finish line, Berry utilized the inside lane to his advantage as he led the first lap. Behind, AJ Allmendinger and Gibbs dueled for the runner-up spot in front of Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, rookie Austin Hill and Sam Mayer.
Shortly after, the first caution of the event flew when Jesse Iwuji, who was running towards the rear of the field, got loose near the outside wall entering Turn 4 and spun as his car came to rest near the pit road entrance.
When the event restarted under green on the sixth lap, Allmendinger received a draft from Gragson to challenge and overtake Berry for the lead as Gragson got loose entering Turn 3 and fell back to sixth while Mayer and Hill quickly overtook him entering and exiting the frontstretch.
Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Allmendinger held a narrow advantage ahead of Berry and Gibbs while Mayer, Hill, Gragson, Justin Allgaier, Jeb Burton, Jeremy Clements and Daniel Hemric were in the top 10. Two laps later, the caution returned when rookie Sheldon Creed got loose and spun his No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro in the backstretch, though he managed to keep his spinning car off the course and not sustain any damage.
Another three laps later, the race proceeded under green as Allmendinger and Berry dueled for the lead. Through the backstretch, the outside lane gained the advantage as Allmendinger pulled ahead followed by Gibbs and Hill while Berry was back in fifth alongside teammate Gragson.
At the Lap 20 mark, Allmendinger remained as the leader in a five-car breakaway ahead of Hill, Gragson, Gibbs and Berry. Two laps later, however, Hill made his move to the lead through the backstretch as he was followed by Gibbs, who attempted but could not overtake Allmendinger for the runner-up spot. Another four laps later, though, Allmendinger reassumed the lead after executing his move entering the frontstretch. He was soon pursued by Berry, Gibbs, Gragson, Hemric and Brandon Brown while Hill fell back to seventh.
Just past the Lap 30 mark, Allmendinger remained as the leader ahead of a seven-car breakaway followed by Berry, Gibbs, Gragson, Brandon Brown, Hemric and Hill. Meanwhile, Brandon Jones was in eighth while Clements and Jeffrey Earnhardt were in the top 10.
Under the final five laps of the first stage and with the leaders navigating their way through lapped traffic that included Natalie Decker, Berry and Allmendinger swapped the lead as the front-runners were jumbled up in tight, close-quarters racing.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 40, Berry managed to fend off the pack as he claimed his fifth stage victory of the season. Gibbs edged Allmendinger for the runner-up spot followed by Brandon Brown and Gragson while Hemric, Hill, Allgaier, Brandon Jones and Myatt Snider.
Under the stage break, the leaders led by Berry pitted as Brandon Jones utilized a two-tire pit stop to his advantage as he assumed the lead followed by Gragson, Hemric, Tyler Reddick and Hill, all of whom elected for two fresh tires. During the pit stops, Allmendinger exited pit road in eighth place after his No. 16 Action Industries Chevrolet Camaro was being blocked by Gibbs’ No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Supra while Berry had to back his No. 8 Harrison’s USA Chevrolet Camaro back to his pit stall due to a left-rear wheel that was discovered to not be tight and secured while he was attempting to leave his stall. In addition, Hemric and Ryan Sieg were penalized for speeding while exiting pit road.
The second stage started on Lap 46 as Creed and Brandon Jones occupied the front row. At the start, Creed managed to pull ahead on the outside lane to assume the lead followed by Gragson and Reddick while Brandon Jones was losing ground towards the front while stuck on the inside lane and without any drafting support.
Two laps later, Reddick gained a huge run from the backstretch to move his No. 48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet Camaro to the lead from Creed while Gragson got shuffled back to 10th. In the midst of the battles, Allmendinger made an unscheduled pit stop for two right-side tires after he made contact with the wall.
Back on track, Reddick was scored as the leader at the Lap 50 mark followed by Creed, Hill, Brandon Brown and Brandon Jones while Mayer, Allgaier, Clements, Gragson and Ryan Truex were scored in the top 10.
Through the first 60 laps, Reddick continued to lead a five-car breakaway from the field followed by Creed, Hill, Brandon Brown and Brandon Jones while Allgaier, Mayer, Truex, Gragson and Riley Herbst were in the top 10.
Eight laps later, Creed made his move in Turn 1 as he reassumed the lead ahead of Reddick, Hill and Brown while the front-runners started to approach Allmendinger, who was on the verge of losing a lap to the leaders. By then, Matt Mills pitted with light smoke coming out of his car.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 80, Hill executed a final lap pass on teammate Creed entering the first turn to wheel his No. 21 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet Camaro to his first stage victory of the season. Teammate Creed settled in second followed by Brandon Brown, Reddick and Allgaier while Brandon Jones, Gibbs, Truex, Landon Cassill and Jeffrey Earnhardt were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the leaders led by Hill returned to pit road and Reddick exited with the top spot followed by Hill, Brandon Brown, Gibbs and Jeffrey Earnhardt. Following the pit stops, however, Reddick was sent to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road, thus giving the lead back to Hill. In addition, Jeremy Clements was penalized for pitting outside of his pit box.
With 77 laps remaining, the final stage commenced under green as Hill and Gibbs occupied the front row. At the start, Gibbs received a push from Riley Herbst’s No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang to assume the lead ahead of Hill as the field stacked up in close-quarters racing. During the following lap, the caution flew when Brandon Jones got loose towards the outside wall in Turn 4 and slipped sideways as he made contact with Hemric’s No. 11 AG1 Chevrolet Camaro while Allgaier sustained minor damage to his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro. Amid his spin, Jones managed to straighten his car and proceed without sliding down pit road nor sustaining any significant damage to his No. 19 Menards Toyota Supra.
At the start of another restart with 71 laps remaining, the Monster Energy competitors of Gibbs and Herbst made contact through Turn 1 as Gibbs slapped the outside wall twice before he pitted under green for fresh right-side tires and repairs to his No. 54 Toyota. In the midst of the carnage up towards the front, Ryan Truex, who was making his fifth start of the season with Joe Gibbs Racing, assumed the lead in his No. 18 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Supra followed by Hill, Hemric, Brown and Jeffrey Earnhardt while Herbst continued in the top 10.
With 62 laps remaining, Hill reassumed the lead as Truex managed to settle in second in front of Hemric, Earnhardt and Mayer. By then, Gibbs took his car to the garage as his hopes of sweeping Atlanta evaporated.
Then with 56 laps remaining, the caution flew when Mayer, who was trying to force his way in front of Earnhardt, made contact with Earnhardt in the backstretch before he was sent sideways and hard against the outside wall as his race came to an end.
During the caution period, some like Brandon Brown pitted while the rest led by Hill remained on the track.
With 48 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green as teammates Hill and Creed occupied the front row. At the start, Hill received a strong push from Berry to clear the field with the lead as he was pursued by Berry, Ryan Truex, Hemric and Ryan Sieg while Creed was left on the inside lane and mired in sixth alongside Reddick.
Four laps later, Brandon Brown made contact with the outside wall after he blew a right-front tire, but the race proceeded under green as Brown limped back to his pit stall and eventually retired in the garage.
Back on the track and with 40 laps remaining, Hill remained as the leader of a long pack of competitors while Berry, Truex, Hemric, Sieg, Reddick, Creed, Gragson, Cassill and Allgaier were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Allmendinger, who received the free pass to cycle back on the lead lap during the previous caution, was in 17th behind Kyle Sieg.
Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Hill continued to lead in front of a 10-car breakaway from the field that included Berry, Truex, Hemric, Gragson, Reddick, Cassill, Allgaier, Ryan Sieg and Anthony Alfredo. Meanwhile, Herbst, Creed and Brandon Jones were in the top 15 while Allmendinger was mired in 16th.
With 20 laps remaining, the top-eight competitors pulled away from the field as Hill remained as the leader followed by Berry, Truex, Hemric, Reddick, Gragson, Cassill and Allgaier.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event and with the top-eight competitors pulling away from the field, Hill retained the lead ahead of Berry, Truex, Hemric and Reddick while Gragson, Cassill and Allgaier kept the front-runners within their sights. Meanwhile, ninth-place Ryan Sieg trailed the top-eight leaders by more than four seconds and Herbst was in 10th while Allmendinger, Brandon Jones and Creed were mired in the top 15.
With five laps remaining, the top-eight front-runners continued to run in a single-file line as Hill remained as the leader.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hill maintained his spot as the leader ahead of Berry, Truex, Hemric and Reddick. Then in Turn 1, Hemric launched his charge to the front as he overtook Truex. While trying to overtake Berry for the runner-up spot, he could not gain any additional drafting help as he was left to battle with Berry, Truex, Reddick and Gragson for spots in the top five. This allowed Hill to pull away and maintain both lanes to his advantage as he cycled his way back to the frontstretch and claim his second checkered flag of his career and of the season.
By claiming his second career win in the Xfinity Series, Hill became the sixth competitor to achieve multiple victories in this year’s Xfinity season as he also recorded the 88th Xfinity career win for Richard Childress Racing that was coming off a Cup Series victory with Tyler Reddick last weekend at Road America.
“Look at this crowd,” Hill said on USA Network. “Thank y’all for coming out! I love the fans. What a car. [Richard Childress Racing] has been working hard their ever-loving tales off. To bring some really fast Chevy Camaros. Our Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevy Camaro was a rocket ship all day. We had an issue right when we rolled off of pit road. The team couldn’t hear me; we had to do hand gestures on the side of the car to make adjustments. [Crew chief] Andy [Street] and the guys did a heck of a job. First [pit] stop, I put my hand out the door, which meant that I was loose and he made an awesome adjustment, didn’t make an adjustment the rest of the race.
“I knew we had a really good car. We were able to just keep [the field] close enough to me where they could never get a big enough run on me on entry or exit. We just won it at Atlanta. That’s so special. I’ve been trying to win here for a long time. [I] Finished second here three times in a row: twice in a Truck and then earlier in the spring here. It’s been owing me one and finally, we got one in Georgia, where I grew up and was raised about an hour down the road in Douglasville. This is gonna be so special. I can’t wait to party, see my wife and kids, they’re here, and all my family members. This is gonna be a special one.”
“[Winning] Never gets old,” Richard Childress, owner of Richard Childress Racing, added. “I think we’ve really worked hard to get our cars better. Everyone has. Our engines are better, our cars are better. Our drivers are on it and we’re gonna make a run for that championship, for sure. [Hill]’s really, really impressed me. Solid. Nothing shakes him up. No matter how close you’re on his bumper, what’s happening to him or whatever he don’t get shook. That’s what it takes. I knew another driver like that. He did pretty well, too.”
Behind, Josh Berry came home in the runner-up spot for his eighth top-five result of the season while Ryan Truex recorded his first top-five result of the season after finishing in third place.
“The top [lane] was super good,” Berry said. “That would’ve been really hard to complete that pass ‘cause it seemed like whenever you jumped down to the bottom [lane], the car behind you would just push you away. You couldn’t stay connected enough to build a run. All in all, it was a really good day for our Harrison’s USA Chevrolet. The guys did a good job. We had a bad pit stop there, but they rebounded, got me back up front and got a second place. Stage win’s a good day, and we’ll go on to Loudon.”
“This place is crazy with this [racing] package,” Truex said. “I’m just thankful to be in this car again. This wasn’t on my schedule and [Joe Gibbs Racing], Toyota Racing, Auto-Owners [Insurance] stepped up. To have them on the car with all the success Martin’s [Truex Jr.] had and everything they’ve done for him is really special for me. I was trying to back up and get a run from [Hemric]. I just didn’t have anything for these guys. It seemed like the top few [competitors] in front of us were just, I don’t know if they were more trimmed out, but I could just never get that run I needed. Just kind of had to hang out the top. I was hoping they’d have a big jumble in [Turns] 3 and 4 and I was just gonna run the top, just keep in wide open. It didn’t work out, but just thankful to be here and hopefully, I’ll be back for more.”
Reddick settled in fourth while Hemric, who was in position of claiming his first victory of the season, fell back to fifth. Gragson, Allgaier, Cassill, Herbst and Allmendinger completed the top 10 on the track.
There were 17 lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 28 laps.
With nine races remaining in the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season stretch, AJ Allmendinger continues to lead the regular-season standings by 29 points over Ty Gibbs, 30 over Justin Allgaier, 64 over Josh Berry and 67 over Noah Gragson.
Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, Noah Gragson, rookie Austin Hill and Brandon Jones are currently guaranteed spots for the 2022 Xfinity Playoffs based on winning once throughout the regular season stretch while Sam Mayer, Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric, Ryan Sieg and Landon Cassill occupy the remaining vacant spots to the Playoffs based on points. Anthony Alfredo trails the top-12 cutline to the Playoffs by 80 points, rookie Sheldon Creed trails by 95, Brandon Brown trails by 100, Brett Moffitt and Jeb Burton trail by 101, Myatt Snider trails by 140, Alex Labbe trails by 152 and Jeremy Clements trails by 154.
1. Austin Hill, 73 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Josh Berry, 13 laps led, Stage 1 winner
3. Ryan Truex, eight laps led
4. Tyler Reddick, 21 laps led
5. Daniel Hemric
6. Noah Gragson
7. Justin Allgaier
8. Landon Cassill
9. Riley Herbst
10. AJ Allmendinger
11. Brandon Jones
12. Sheldon Creed, 16 laps led
13. Jeb Burton
14. Anthony Alfredo
15. Ryan Sieg
16. Kyle Sieg
17. Jeremy Clements
18. Myatt Snider
19. Jeffrey Earnhardt
20. Brett Moffitt
21. Ryan Vargas
22. David Starr
23. Alex Labbe, one lap down
24. Mason Massey, one lap down
25. Josh Williams, one lap down
26. Joey Gase, two laps down
27. Natalie Decker, two laps down
28. Caesar Bacarella, two laps down
29. Bayley Currey, two laps down
30. Joe Graf Jr., two laps down
31. Brennan Poole, four laps down
32. Jesse Iwuji, six laps down
33. Brandon Brown – OUT, Accident
34. Sam Mayer – OUT, Accident
35. Ty Gibbs – OUT, Accident, seven laps led
36. JJ Yeley – OUT, Fuel pump
37. Matt Mills – OUT, Engine
38. Sage Karam – OUT, Engine
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ lone visit of the season to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. The event is scheduled to occur on Saturday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.