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Is Austin Hill NASCAR’s New Superspeedway King?

Austin Hill, driver of the #21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series King of Tough 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 24, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

On Saturday, February 24th, Austin Hill took the checkered flag at the RAPTOR King of Tough 250 from Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The race was the second of the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. Austin Hill did not collect stage points in Stage One but finished 8th in Stage Two and spent most of the race inside the Top 10.

Fuel mileage became a factor for the field, resulting in a caution with three laps to go. Hill successfully saved enough fuel and went from sixth to first in overtime to score the victory. The final two laps were the only laps the Georgia native led all night. Hill’s Richard Childress Racing (RCR) teammate, rookie Jesse Love, led 157 of the 169 laps before running out of gas while leading the final restart.

Georgia, Georgia

Although Atlanta Motor Speedway is not technically considered a “superspeedway,” its recent changes and package have made it similar.

Entering the 2022 season, the track was met with a multi-million dollar repave and reconfiguration. Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI) last reconfigured in 1997, and the surface had deteriorated over time. Despite drivers’ love of the abrasive surface, the harshness would inevitably become overbearing. This opened the door for reimagination of the track’s characteristics, ultimately resulting in tighter track limits and steeper banking in the corners. The Xfinity Series currently runs its intermediate aero package with a superspeedway engine. As a result, the field spread has been mitigated, and the draft has become an important component.

NASCAR will return to Atlanta Motor Speedway with the Cup Series and Xfinity Series in September. The race will host Cup’s first Playoff race and will be Xfinity’s third-from-last race before the Playoffs.

A Super Summary

It did not take long for Austin Hill to find success on superspeedways. In his second full-time season in Trucks, the newly-signed Hattori Racing Enterprises driver finished first in the opener at Daytona International Speedway. A second career win fell later that season at Michigan International Speedway, driving efficiently with utilization of the draft.

Hill made the full-time switch from the Truck Series to the Xfinity Series entering the 2022 season. In his debut for Richard Childress, he would cross the line first at Daytona once more. Performances on drafting tracks saw Hill finish runner-up and first in the two Atlanta races. Additionally, he would lead laps in the second Daytona race and the most laps of any driver in both races at Talladega Superspeedway.

In 2023, Austin Hill started with a bang once more by winning the second consecutive Daytona opener. He would win three of the first five races including his second at Atlanta and his first on a non-drafting track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A fourth win came at Pocono Raceway in July, but no other victories were scored on drafting tracks. He would, however, sit on the pole at Talladega and the second Daytona race.

Deja vu has been in full effect to kick off this year’s Xfinity Series season. Despite only eleven laps led, Hill won his third consecutive Daytona opener and a third time at Atlanta.

Surrounding Forces

No matter the drafting track, Austin Hill will always be in the picture. His ability and commitment to navigate lanes, build runs, and hold the field at bay result in performances like no other.

Hill mentioned his early dislike of superspeedway races in an October 2023 episode of The Dale Jr. Download. Perception changed after having those rookie successes in 2022 at Daytona and Atlanta. “Maybe I have a little bit of something that some guys don’t have… maybe I am pretty decent at this stuff.” Alongside host and drafting great Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hill would further elaborate on his mentality and his superspeedway confidence (1:12:12 mark of podcast).

Some of the success resides with RCR. Veteran leadership, including owner Richard and Executive Vice President Andy Petree, have resulted in some of the fastest cars that hit the track every week. The team’s success dates back to the late Dale Earnhardt, who is regarded as the greatest superspeedway driver and one of the greatest drivers in the history of both NASCAR and motorsports. Hill mentioned his admiration of Earnhardt in the Dale Jr. Download episode.

The Road Ahead

An opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series is on the verge for Austin Hill. However, the ability to show his superspeedway prowess may not translate the way one would hope.

Three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin spoke of the matter on his podcast, Actions Detrimental, following Daytona. “He’s (Hill) always going to be kind of a juggernaut on those kinds of racetracks. But if he goes to Cup… it will be less pronounced how good he is.” Hamlin also recognized Hill’s talent (13:16 mark of podcast). “He’s really good at keeping the lead and then keeping himself timing runs. He’s really good at timing the end of the race.”

Hill himself explained the challenges in the aforementioned podcast with Earnhardt Jr. “The Xfinity car, you can definitely control your own destiny. You can make things happen… I think that you can make certain moves happen a certain way, but I think it’s still harder to make certain runs happen. You stall out a lot quicker in the Cup car.”

His Cup debut in 2022 for RCR finishing 18th at Michigan. Last season, Hill raced in five events for Beard Motorsports finishing 24th at Talladega (spring), 37th at Atlanta (summer), and a best 14th at Daytona (summer). A crash in the Daytona Duels resulted in a DNF for the 2023 Daytona 500.

Is Austin Hill the new Superspeedway King? Can this be his year to win the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship? Stay tuned here at LWOS Motorsports for NASCAR news, results, updates, and more.

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