AVONDALE, Ariz. — Austin Hill didn‘t want to know how the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs points were lining up at any point during Friday‘s Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway.
Thus, the Hattori Racing Enterprises driver and polesitter received rather disappointing news as the checkered flag fell that he did not, in fact, advance to Homestead-Miami Speedway for next weekend‘s Championship 4 showdown.
Minutes later on pit road, his dejection as he spoke with reporters was tangible.
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“I just wanted to go out there and finish the best we possibly could and wherever we ended up, we ended up. If we made it, we made it. If we didn‘t, we didn‘t,” Hill said after placing 13th, six points out of the final transfer spot. “I hate that we finished where we did, especially after qualifying on the pole. I definitely had high hopes for this race after qualifying on the pole and showing speed in second practice. So we‘ll go to Homestead and regroup for next year. … just a bummer.”
The 25-year-old piloted the No. 16 Toyota to three wins in 2019 — the first three of his career — but was unable to propel the truck back to the Championship 4 once again. The team moved on from ‘18 champion Brett Moffitt after the season in favor of Hill.
“I definitely felt like I made somewhat of a statement but I really wanted to bring back a championship back-to-back for these guys,” said Hill. “That‘s the only thing that‘s really frustrating about it that I feel like I didn‘t achieve this year. Marked off all the other boxes except for at least giving us a shot at Homestead and we didn‘t do that.”
After clinching his berth on points after Stage 2, Moffitt will once again battle for the title next weekend racing for GMS Racing, along with Ross Chastain, Friday‘s winner Stewart Friesen and two-time champ Matt Crafton, who was the last one in over Hill.
Tyler Ankrum was the other driver eliminated, putting an end to a magical season for the high-reaching rookie Californian.
“I think we went a lot further than a lot of people expected our program to do, especially where we started from nothing and went to something,” Ankrum said after placing 26th. “In most people‘s eyes, we overachieved, but maybe in some people‘s eyes we could‘ve gone to Homestead and I think we could‘ve too, just didn‘t pan out the way we wanted it to.”
While Hill and Ankrum will look to play spoiler, Chastain, Crafton, Friesen and Moffitt will put it all on the line in next Friday‘s Ford EcoBoost 200 finale (8 p.m. ET, FS1).