Austin Hill scored the biggest win of his career on Saturday night.
The Winston, Georgia driver was battling with veteran A.J. Allmendinger with half a lap to go in the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Raceway. Behind them, a grinding crash sent Myatt Snider’s car tumbling through the air, bringing out the caution.
Hill had just moved ahead of Allmendinger when the caution came out, ending the race and sending Hill to his first series victory.
The win comes in his first start for Richard Childress Racing as he prepares to contend for the series title for the first time in his career.
“Yeah, me and Derek Kneeland worked really well, my spotter,” said Hill. “I was learning all night. I kept telling him, I’m just putting that in the bank, I’m putting that in the bank, I’m putting that in the memory bank to remember for late in the race.
“We timed it perfectly. Obviously that caution came out but we had a heck of a run, so who knows what would have happened there.”
The race ending crash occurred when Anthony Alfredo made contact with Snider’s Chevy as the pack raced down the backstretch. That turned Snider’s car around in front of the car of Jade Buford. That contact sent Snider’s car then tumbling through the air and making hard contact with the catch fence.
Snider’s car saw both the rear axel and engine ripped free by the fence as it tumbled in a shower of sparks and flames. Fortunately, Snider walked away from the destroyed car under his own power. He was treated and released from the infield care center. Eight other cars were also gathered up in the shunt.
The crash was severe enough that it tore out a section of the catch fencing on the backstretch, which will have to be replaced overnight before Sunday’s running of the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500.
Meanwhile, Hill took the checkered flag under caution to score his first win in his 16th career start.
“I was able to drag back, 98 (Riley Herbst) gave me a heck of a push, we were able to get by him, and this is so crazy,” Hill said. “I won it back in 2019 (in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) with a new team, now we’re with RCR, first race with them. We were able to get the job done.”
Hill was in the mix all race long, battling at times with Kaulig Racing teammates Daniel Hemric and Allmendinger for the race lead.
After a caution on lap 14 for a crash between Atlanta, Georgia’s Drew Dollar and Jeremy Clements on the backstretch, the race ran mostly incident free until lap 84, when the car of Sam Mayer lost the back bumper cover off his Chevrolet.
Hemric flat spotted a tire and received damage while trying to avoid the debris, sending him to pit road for repairs.
Hill took control of the race on the restart, but a multi-car crash on the next lap would end the hopes of one of his strongest competitors.
The crash occurred coming off turn four, when C.J. McLaughlin lost control, spinning back up into the pack and triggering a melee that involved Hemric, Jeffery Earnhardt, Brett Moffitt, Shane Lee, Tommy Joe Martins, Joey Gase and Kyle Weatherman, among others.
Hemric, who started from the pole and led 38 laps – the most on the night – soldiered home to a 28th place finish.
Back under green, Hill again moved to the lead, with Noah Gragson and Allmendinger in tow. Allmendinger would move to second on lap 101, and challenged for the lead one lap later. After battling back and forth for several laps, he moved back to the point on lap 106 as the field settled into single file formation behind him.
With two laps to go, Gragson tried to challenge for the lead, but Allmendinger held the spot with a push from Hill. After taking the white flag, Hill got a run on the leader coming off of turn two, and had pulled ahead just seconds before the race ending crash occurred behind the leaders.
“Man, I’m speechless,” said Hill. “Andy Street, Richard Childress, just all these guys back at RCR for believing in me. It’s been a fun off-season, and now we get to go race for a championship.”
Allmendinger had to settle for second in as many races at Daytona.
“Kind of kept trying to block both lanes, and it looked like Austin (Hill) moved up there and timed it perfect where he just got a massive shove, and I probably could have tried to really block, but I think I probably would have wrecked us if I would have done it,” said Allmendinger.
Gragson followed in third, with Herbst in fourth and Justin Allgaier in fifth.
Sheldon Creed, Alfredo, Tucker, Georgia’s Ryan Sieg, Josh Bilicki, and Brandon Brown rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Daytona International Speedway – Daytona Beach, FL
Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 – February 19, 2022
1. (2) Austin Hill #, Chevrolet, 120.
2. (11) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 120.
3. (14) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 120.
4. (10) Riley Herbst, Ford, 120.
5. (17) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 120.
6. (4) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 120.
7. (16) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 120.
8. (19) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 120.
9. (31) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 120.
10. (13) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 120.
11. (15) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 120.
12. (38) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 120.
13. (21) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, 120.
14. (6) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 120.
15. (20) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 120.
16. (7) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 120.
17. (9) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 120.
18. (8) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 120.
19. (27) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 120.
20. (25) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 120.
21. (36) Kyle Sieg, Ford, 120.
22. (33) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, Accident, 119.
23. (3) Jade Buford, Chevrolet, Accident, 119.
24. (32) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, Accident, 119.
25. (18) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, Accident, 119.
26. (28) Joey Gase, Ford, 119.
27. (30) Jesse Iwuji #, Chevrolet, 118.
28. (1) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 116.
29. (29) Joe Graf, Jr., Ford, 110.
30. (34) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 105.
31. (24) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, Accident, 95.
32. (23) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Accident, 91.
33. (37) Shane Lee, Toyota, Accident, 91.
34. (5) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, Accident, 91.
35. (26) C.J. McLaughlin, Ford, Accident, 91.
36. (12) Drew Dollar, Toyota, Accident, 14.
37. (35) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, Accident, 13.
38. (22) Caesar Bacarella, Chevrolet, Engine, 11.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 136.605 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 11 Mins, 46 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution
Caution Flags: 6 for 28 laps.
Lead Changes: 18 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hemric 0;D. Hemric 1-2;A. Hill # 3-10;D. Hemric 11-33;J. Graf Jr. 34-36;B. Brown 37-48;N. Gragson 49-59;D. Hemric 60-66;T. Gibbs 67;D. Hemric 68-73;T. Gibbs 74-75;J. Berry 76;J. Bilicki 77-86;A. Hill # 87-97;A. Allmendinger 98-102;A. Hill # 103-105;A. Allmendinger 106-117;N. Gragson 118;A. Allmendinger 119;A. Hill # 120.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Daniel Hemric 4 times for 38 laps; Austin Hill # 4 times for 23 laps; AJ Allmendinger 3 times for 18 laps; Brandon Brown 1 time for 12 laps; Noah Gragson 2 times for 12 laps; Josh Bilicki 1 time for 10 laps; Ty Gibbs 2 times for 3 laps; Joe Graf Jr. 1 time for 3 laps; Josh Berry 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,16,98,21,9,54,7,39,68,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,39,1,16,7,68,54,8,19,98
Playoff Standings: 1. Austin Hill – 47 (1 Win); 2. A.J. Allmendinger – 51; 3. Riley Herbst – 42; 4. Justin Allgaier – 42; 5. Ryan Sieg – 41; 6. Noah Gragson – 40; 7. Ty Gibbs – 35; 8. Brandon Brown – 34; 9. Sheldon Creed – 31; 10. Anthony Alfredo – 30; 11. Daniel Hemric – 29; 12. Josh Bilicki – 28.