By: Ashley McCubbin
Despite starting off the year with a pair of finishes outside the top-20, Austin Hill’s confidence has not shifted as he knows what Hattori Racing Enterprises is capable of based on the past two seasons.
“It definitely helps winning races and having the confidence in doing the things we’ve done in 2019 and 2020,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “When you start the season with the way we have and not the way we wanted to start off the season, those two races are a wash and Vegas starts our season. Vegas becomes race number one for us because those two races didn’t just go the way it was supposed to. Daytona is one of those races that are up in the air; anybody can win that race, and then the road course, we had some issues with the throttle body sticking and stuff happening. When we got back to the shop, we looked at what we can do to do better next time.
“When you have stuff happen, you just have to keep your head down and move forward. With success that I’ve had with this team and everybody at HRE, not really anything knocks us down. All of my guys here, they have just as much as confidence we can go win every race just as I do. I’m excited to get to Las Vegas to see if we can get our Toyota Tundra up front and see where we stack up against the field. Hopefully we can get a win out there.”
Fortunately, Las Vegas has treated Hill very well in the past, as he won the most recent NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in Sin City following a battle with eventual series champion Sheldon Creed. In his last three trips there, he has scored two wins and a third.
“I honestly cannot pinpoint one thing about Vegas that I’ve had success with,” he commented. “We’ve had really fast Toyota Tundras every time we’ve been there and been able to compete. I don’t know if it is something to do with the rough surface, and how bumpy it is.
“Coming up through the ranks, I always seemed to do a lot better on tracks with rough surfaces, wore out, bumping, got a lot of different characteristics about those tracks – I always seem to get around those tracks well. If you look back at my wins, I’ve won at Kansas, Homestead, Vegas twice – those tracks are wore out. Vegas isn’t as wore out as Atlanta and Homestead, but still throughout the race, as you get old tires, you fall off a lot more than you think at Vegas and have to start searching for grip.”
If Hill wants to repeat his previous success, he notes being able to navigate the bumps on the track surface will be key.
“There are some really big bumps along the bottom of turn one,” he commented. “You can run the third lane and get out of those bumps, but they’re still kind of there. Then when we ran up against the wall last year, there were some rough bumps up there, too. It’s all about just timing how you hit those bumps. You want to position your truck the right way so when you drive across those bumps, it doesn’t upset the front or back end compared to if you drove across it a different way.
“That’s something I’ve studied really good at Las Vegas – how to drive over those bumps, and it also helps having a fast Tundra from HRE. I don’t know what they do with shocks, set-up, geometry and everything, but when we drive over the bumps, I hear guys complain all the time how the bumps kill their truck, their bottoming up – I rarely complain about the bumps so they have something in the shop that gets me over them pretty good.”