Gander Outdoors Truck Series Notebook: It's all about survival at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala.—Austin Hill is hoping to repeat his winning Daytona performance with the same truck at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday.

Hill, who is second in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series standings in the No. 16 Toyota, would love to punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a victory in the Sugarlands Shine 250.

The 25-year-old from nearby Winston, Georgia, posted the fastest single-lap run (193.115mph) in first practice in his eight of 15 laps.

“It feels like it was just as good as it was in Daytona,” Hill said. “It drafts up—sucks up really good. I can push the guy in front of me whenever I want to. It just drives really good.

“I saw a lot of guys behind me, their trucks just seemed to move around a lot with the air. Our truck seems like its sealed to the track really good.”

Hill has two starts at the 2.66-mile track and finished a career-best 10th last year.

As much as an unknown as Talladega can be, Hill realizes a driver can meet a similar fate two weeks from now at Martinsville. His strategy is simple: collect stage points and finish up front.

“I feel like you can’t really change anything you have done all season,” Hill said. “As soon as you start changing stuff, it’s going to bite you. Just like we did in Daytona. We qualified really good and we stayed up front all race long. I think that’s kind of what we should do going into tomorrow.

“We need to be aggressive and we need to be up front because we need to get stage points. Stage points are huge. If we can go out there and win the first two stages—and get 20 stage points – that’s huge going into the next round. I’m here to win Talladega. I’m looking at Homestead, but my number one goal is to win Talladega. And if I’ve got to get aggressive to make it happen, I’m going to.”

Hill had big shoes to fill coming into 2019 with the defending series champion team—Hattori Racing. In 19 starts, he’s posted three wins, three poles, six top fives and 11 top 10s. He currently trails Brett Moffitt—the driver he replaced in the No. 16 truck—by 17 points.

With four races remaining in the season, Hill believes the team is “definitely, easily” capable of a repeat.

“Talladega is obviously an unknown and you’ve got to get through this round,” Hill said. “Our number one goal is to get stage points in stage one and stage two and hopefully we can be there at the end of the race for a solid top-10 if not a win. If we are in the lead, it’s going to get aggressive to try to win the race obviously.

“But I feel really confident going into Martinsville and Phoenix. Probably a little more confident in Phoenix than Martinsville. I feel very confident that this team is capable of being in the Final 4 and being able to compete for a championship at Homestead for sure. Especially how we have been running the last couple of months. We’ve been running, firing on all cylinders, we’ve been really good.”

ThorSport plans to GoFish with Ben Rhodes

ThorSport Racing is partnering with GoFish and DishFish on the No. 99 Ford F-150 driven by Ben Rhodes.

The specialty cleaner will sponsor Rhodes for the final four races of the season—starting this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I’m proud to represent the GoFish/DishFish colors on and off the track,” Rhodes said. “They make an exceptional product that I know our fans will love—just as I do. It’s pretty exciting to have a new partner going into the last races of the year.

“Hopefully, we can give them great finishes and wipe the competition away.”

Rhodes, who is currently ninth in truck series standings, is in his fourth season with ThorSport Racing.  

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