By Toby Christie (Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie)
A six-win championship season in 2018 in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series wasn’t enough to secure Brett Moffitt’s ride for 2019 with Hattori Racing Enterprises. Although the driver was fast all season long, the team also suffered through potential shut downs at several points in the season due to lack of sponsorship.
At the conclusion of the season, the team announced that they had secured a driver who was bringing sponsorship funds to the team to replace their championship driver.
Tuesday, we found out who that driver is — Austin Hill.
Hill, 24, has brought United Rentals with him to sponsor the No. 16 Toyota Tundra in 2019 according to a team release. Hill, who finished 11th in the overall Truck Series point standings in lesser equipment, is excited to have a shot at chasing a championship.
“I’m thrilled to join HRE this season,” Hill said. “Shige (Hattori, owner) has built a great team and what they accomplished last season has me extremely optimistic heading to Daytona. I’ve had the pleasure to work with great teams in the past, including my family’s team in the K&N Series, but this is an opportunity of a lifetime at HRE.
“Scott and the team proved what they’re capable of last season, and I can’t wait to get to work and see what we can accomplish this season.”
Many criticized the team for replacing Moffitt with a pay to play driver, but at least — unlike other team’s announcements in recent years — Hill has a good racing pedigree.
Hill was a member of the 2014 and 2015 NASCAR Next Class, and he has paid his dues up the NASCAR ladder. The Georgia native won five NASCAR K&N Pro East Series races over a three year span.
Hill has also driven in 51 NGOTS races. Hill’s best finish to this point was a fifth-place effort at Texas last November while driving for Young’s Motorsports.
“Austin had a great career in the K&N Pro Series and did well in his first full-time truck series season last year. I’m looking forward to what we can do together this season,” Truck Owner Shigeaki Hattori said in a team release.
Returning to the pit box as crew chief this season is Scott Zipadelli, who is chomping at the bit to get the season started.
“I’m really looking forward to racing with Austin and continuing our team’s success,” Zipadelli said. “Austin is a great kid and has a lot of potential. He has a great track record in the K&N Series and put together a strong year last season with Young’s Motorsports. I think he’ll transition well into our program and fit right in with our group.”
Although the release stated United Rentals will be joining with Hill, the team has not revealed when the company will be making it’s debut on the truck this season. Chiba Toyapet will be the sponsor for the team in Daytona, everything else is TBA (to be announced).
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.