Friday night, carnage ensued at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series NextEra Energy 250. By the time all of the sheet metal was shredded, only nine of the 32 trucks that started the race were running at race’s end.
The man who outlasted the field was Austin Hill.
Hill, 24, steered away from trouble all night long and in the closing laps he masterfully knifed high and low to block pass attempts from some of the Series’ best drivers including Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton.
“This truck was fast,” Hill said. “I knew we had a truck that could compete. It got a little scary there at the end. I thought [Enfinger] was gonna get me. He had a big run but we were able to protect it.
“I can’t believe I got my first win at Daytona. This is surreal.”
Following Hill to the line were Enfinger in second and Ross Chastain, who rallied late in the event finished third. Spencer Boyd — who had an incredible first race with Young’s Motorsports — and Crafton rounded out the top-five finishers.
Angela Ruch drove smart all night long and came home in eighth driving the No. 8 truck for NEMCO Motorsports. This marks the first time since 2011 that a woman has recorded a top-10 finish in the series.
Hill led the race three times for a race-high 39 laps and somehow stretched his gas tank over a couple of overtime finishes.
The Georgia native joined Hattori Racing Enterprises in the off season, and it was deemed a controversial move at the time for the race team. Brett Moffitt had just won the Truck Series championship for the underdog race team, but he was sent packing in favor of Hill, who had sponsorship in tow.
After Friday night, perhaps the team was smarter than everyone gave them credit for. Moffitt ended the race with a DNF in 26th-place driving for GMS Racing.
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