Connect with us


Hill Makes it Two in a Row to Start Xfinity Series Season


(Photo: Joshua White | The Podium Finish)

HAMPTON, Ga. — Two wins in a row to start the season has a nice little ring to it.

That’s exactly what Austin Hill did, saving enough fuel to win his hometown RAPTOR King of Tough 250 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday. He led just two laps — the final two in NASCAR Overtime — after teammate Jesse Love ran out of fuel late at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“It was a wild finish,” Hill said in his post-race press conference. “Everybody was tight on fuel in the restart zone. Bottom wasn’t working for me all day, so I’m like ‘man, I’m just going to run top and at least help my teammate.’ If I can’t win it, let the 2 win … I wasn’t really expecting to get much of a run and have a shot at winning. I just had in my mind like ‘hey, OK, we’re just going to try and get a top five here.'”

Then, chaos ensued on the restart. Several of the leaders, including Love and Parker Kligerman, appeared to run out of gas. That allowed the seas to part for Hill, who restarted in the third row.

Chandler Smith got behind him and pushed the No. 21 machine down the backstretch and away from the field. On the final lap, Smith tried to gather for a rally but never had positioning to make a last-ditch move on Hill.

“Right when we got to the start/finish line [on the restart], I noticed the 2 pull down. Right when he did, I’m like ‘oh, this is my chance,'” Hill explained. “I was not expecting [Smith] to go with me and he did. We both got cleared, and from then on, it was just the same thing that Jesse Love did an excellent job of doing all day. That was just controlling the runs, not getting too far out.

“When we took the white, I just knew that I had to keep my gap because it was so hard to make runs happen today. Off of two, [Smith] kind of air pushed me out, and right when he did, I just went flat out and I was like ‘hey, I’m just gonna run the shortest distance back to the line and hope it’s enough,’ and sure enough, it was.”

Ultimately, Love dominated. He led 157 of 169 laps from the pole as many drivers explained the difficulty of passing and making something work on the bottom line. The 19-year-old from Menlo Park, California won both stages but ended up finishing 12th after running out of fuel.

Jesse Love and Austin Hill lead the field at Atlanta. (Photo: Joshua White | The Podium Finish)

“I’m going to be really proud of my performance and proud of everybody on this 2 car’s performance,” Love told FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass after the race. “I don’t think we could have done anything better. I think Jesse Love, myself, could have saved a little more fuel out front, but at the same time, you say that and get taken off guard and get passed for the lead and you’re in a bad spot. Our car was untouchable out front.

“I thought I was saving a lot [of fuel] and I thought for sure we were going to make it.”

Smith continued his strong start to the season, finishing second for his second consecutive top-five. He pitted before overtime along with Shane Van Gisbergen, Sheldon Creed and others, and they had enough fuel to easily make it to the end.

The 21-year-old from Talking Rock made the switch from Kaulig Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing over the off-season.

“I wasn’t really frustrated in the moment there. I did second guess it for a minute there as I thought I had saved a lot of fuel and didn’t think a lot of guys were going to take the gamble and come down,” Smith said of the late stop. “My crew chief, Jeff Meendering, did an amazing job making the last-minute pit call there. Looks like we dragged everyone else down pit road with us when we went … I’m really happy with how our results were coming out of here with the No. 81 QuickTie Products Toyota GR Supra, which was as fast as Xfinity 10G internet today.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Jesse Love
  2. Riley Herbst
  3. Sam Mayer
  4. Ryan Truex
  5. Parker Kligerman
  6. AJ Allmendinger
  7. Justin Allgaier
  8. Sheldon Creed
  9. Ryan Sieg
  10. Sammy Smith
Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers
  1. Jesse Love
  2. Justin Allgaier
  3. Riley Herbst
  4. Ryan Truex
  5. Sammy Smith
  6. Chandler Smith
  7. Cole Custer
  8. Austin Hill
  9. AJ Allmendinger
  10. Sheldon Creed
RAPTOR King of Tough 250 Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 2 21 Austin Hill Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Running
2 12 81 Chandler Smith QuickTie Toyota Running
3 13 97 Shane Van Gisbergen WeatherTech Chevrolet Running
4 10 18 Sheldon Creed Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Toyota Running
5 24 31 Parker Retzlaff FVP/ Chevrolet Running
6 23 51 Jeremy Clements One Stop/All South Electric Chevrolet Running
7 15 5 Anthony Alfredo Chapman Fence Chevrolet Running
8 22 26 Jeffrey Earnhardt ForeverLawn Toyota Running
9 8 19 Ryan Truex Toyota Genuine Parts Toyota Running
10 14 8 Sammy Smith Pilot Flying J Chevrolet Running
11 6 1 Sam Mayer Raptor High Heat Chevrolet Running
12 1 2 Jesse Love Whelen Chevrolet Running
13 7 16 AJ Allmendinger Campers Inn RV Chevrolet Running
14 18 9 Brandon Jones Menards/Atlas Roofing Chevrolet Running
15 4 98 Riley Herbst Monster Energy Ford Running
16 11 00 Cole Custer Haas Automation Ford Running
17 17 91 Kyle Weatherman Chevrolet Running
18 21 78 BJ McLeod BJ McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet Running
19 5 48 Parker Kligerman Spiked Lite Coolers Chevrolet Running
20 30 44 Brennan Poole Finance Pros Plus Chevrolet Running
21 35 42 Leland Honeyman LH Waterfront Construction Chevrolet Running
22 20 39 Ryan Sieg Sci Aps Ford Running
23 25 27 Jeb Burton State Water Heaters Chevrolet Running
24 36 14 JJ Yeley Chevrolet Running
25 34 43 Ryan Ellis Classic Collision Chevrolet Running
26 31 92 Nick Leitz Precision Measurements Inc. Chevrolet Running
27 19 15 Hailie Deegan AirBox Ford Running
28 9 7 Justin Allgaier Jarrett 25 Years Chevrolet Running
29 33 35 Joey Gase NCPC Race Against Crime Chevrolet Running
30 28 29 Blaine Perkins Pritchard Injury Firm Ford Running
31 29 4 Dawson Cram KSDT CPA Chevrolet Running
32 3 20 John Hunter Nemechek Pye Barker Fire & Safety Toyota Running
33 37 07 Patrick Emerling SIMFORGE Chevrolet Running
34 32 6 Garrett Smithley Chevrolet Running
35 27 38 CJ McLaughlin Viking Motorsports Ford Running
36 26 28 Kyle Sieg Night Owl Ford Running
37 16 11 Josh Williams Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet Running
38 38 32 Jordan Anderson EasyCare Chevrolet Steering


Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *