Austin Hill’s win is a big confidence builder

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 13: NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series World of Westgate 200 playoff race winner Austin Hill (16) Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE) Toyota Tundra celebrates with his crew on the track after winning the race on September 13, 2019, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Austin Hill’s win in Friday night’s World of Westgate 200 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race was good enough to punch an automatic ticket to the next round of the series Playoffs. But equally as important to Hill and his Hattori Racing Enterprises team, the victory is an unmistakable reminder that the 25-year-old Georgia native expects to be a major player in the series championship.

The Las Vegas trophy is his third this season (also at Daytona and Michigan). He has six top-five finishes and 11 top 10s through the opening 19 races.

He took the lead from three-race winner Ross Chastain with 11 laps to go. And it was a strong statement victory that Hill should also be counted among the title favorites along with Chastain and reigning series champ Brett Moffitt, who won the opening two races of the Playoffs.

“It means the world to me,’’ Hill said of his win late Friday night. “This is the hardest one I’ve had to win. We were going to stay out that last caution and we stayed out and everybody else pitted. We decided we needed to pit or we were going to be screwed.

“We came down pit road, restarted at the tail-end of the longest line and it stayed green. I had to drive all the way through the field and this truck was unbelievable.’’

Greg Engle