Austin Hill is in his rookie NASCAR Xfinity Series season, but it doesn’t seem like it.
Hill, 28, has made a splash in his first season with Richard Childress Racing. He’s won twice and recorded 16 top 10s, finishing the regular season as one of the series’ most consistent drivers.
While he’s succeeded in his inaugural Xfinity season, it took him longer than he thought to make it here.
Hill raced part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from 2014 to 2017 before running full-time for Young’s Motorsports in 2018. A year later, he jumped to Hattori Racing Enterprises and had a breakout season. He won four times, including the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.
He won at Las Vegas Motor Speeday in the Round of 10, but a crash at Martinsville Speedway in the Round of 8 resulted in him missing the championship race by six points. In bittersweet fashion, he won that race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“The Truck Series is always a lot of fun to race,” Hill told The Podium Finish. “We had really, really good trucks and a lot of speed each and every week… The only thing that kind of stings a little bit is we never made it to that final.”
Hill wanted to make the jump to Xfinity after that season, but he didn’t have enough sponsorship. He returned to Hattori in 2020 and 2021, where he won two races each season.
Finally, he had enough sponsorship to make the jump in 2022.
“I had been talking with RCR over the last three or so years,” Hill described. “I had a good relationship with a lot of guys over at RCR. We were trying to make it work. We wanted to make it work back in 2020 and it didn’t happen. We wanted to make it work in 2021 and didn’t happen again, just with sponsorship and everything else. Finally going into the ’22 season, we made it work.
“I’ve loved the family atmosphere that RCR brings to the table. That’s kind of what I grew up racing.”
Since joining RCR, Hill has thrived on superspeedways. He won the season-opener at Daytona and won at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his home track, back in July.
Though he’s had success at superspeedways, Hill didn’t embrace that style of racing until this season. He led 67 laps at Talladega in April, and even though he crashed and couldn’t finish, it was the first time he really started to like it.
“I’ve never really enjoyed superspeedway racing for whatever reason,” Hill said. “We went to Talladega and I actually had a blast. I had so much fun controlling the race and being the leader. Our car was so fast that, you didn’t want to get too far out. You had to play that kind of strategy where you’re lifting and you’re dragging some brake and things like that.
“After Talladega, with getting in the wreck and stuff, I was frustrated with it. But then, going to Atlanta, a place that I’ve been wanting to win at ever since I was a little kid because I grew up an hour from from Atlanta Motor Speedway. When we unloaded for Atlanta and we went and ran that race the second go around, I had a ton of confidence. I was like ‘we’re going to win this race.’ And that’s what we did.”
Hill has only won on superspeedways this season, but he’s had plenty of other success. He had a streak of eight top 10s stringing from Portland International Raceway to Michigan International Speedway over the course of the summer and finished runner-up at Atlanta and COTA in the spring.
While he’s remained consistent, Hill doesn’t just want to run in the top 10. He wants victories.
“We’re hungry. We just want to win,” Hill said. “Anytime we feel like we come up short don’t have the car capable enough of winning that particular weekend, then we go back to the drawing board. In our competition meetings, we are trying to figure out what we can do to be better because we’re hungry, we want to win races and dominate in the Xfinity Series.”
Hill’s success in the Xfinity Series earned him a Cup Series start at Michigan in August. His goal was to finish all 200 laps — which he accomplished with an 18th place finish.
“He works really, really hard,” teammate Tyler Reddick told The Podium Finish. “I spent a lot of time with him working with Josh Wise. He has a lot of car control but he goes about it in a very calculated way that I think is good for Cup racing.
“Michigan is one of the fastest tracks we’ve had this year… he was in a tough spot, but he did well with it.”
Hill heads into the Playoffs as the No. 6 seed, 11 points above the cutline. Admittedly, Hill isn’t satisfied with the team’s short track program, but they’ve had speed nearly everywhere else. The Round of 12 starts Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway before races at Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte ROVAL.
And with superspeedway and road course wins in the past, that may bode well for Hill. He wants a strong start to the Playoffs in pursuit of a championship.
“I think we’re ready,” Hill said. “If we can kind of minimize some mistakes and maybe unload a little closer to where we’re not having to throw a lot at it throughout the race to get where we want to be by Stage 3, you could see us really having a shot at winning some more races.
“You got to run inside the top five in Stage 1, Stage 2 and really stay up front all race long and have a shot at these wins if you want to advance.”
Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.