Austin Hill wasn’t the dominant driver in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he was able to pull into victory lane, after making a late-race pass of Chandler Smith.
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After occupying the second spot throughout most of the race’s final run, Hill was able to quickly close the gap on the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro in the closing laps of the race, before sneaking to his inside coming to the white flag.
“Just knew I had to not abuse the tires and try to methodically just work our way through traffic,” Hill said of the final run of the race where he ran down Smith for the race win.
Here’s a video of the finish, courtesy of NASCAR on FOX:
Heartbreak for Chandler Smith. Statement win for Austin Hill. Here’s the finish of today’s @NASCAR_Xfinity race at Las Vegas: pic.twitter.com/lck6revPuz
— Toby Christie (@Toby_Christie) March 5, 2023
The triumph – Hill’s third at Las Vegas Motor Speedway across NASCAR’s National Series – continued a brilliant start to the year for the Richard Childress Racing driver, after capturing the victory in the season-opener at Daytona.
This marks Hill’s fourth-career NASCAR Xfinity Series win and it’s his first victory at a non-superspeedway-style race in the series. Hill says scoring a win at a normal intermediate track is sweet.
“It feels good to win on a mile-and-a-half, not just these superspeedways,” Hill quipped.
Also in the middle of the battle for the win was Justin Allgaier, who was able to sneak around Smith’s Kaulig Racing entry on the final lap to score a runner-up result, marking his third consecutive top-three to start the 2023 campaign.
Chandler Smith, making his sixth start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and his third for Kaulig Racing, was able to record a career-high third-place result in Saturday’s 300-mile event, continuing a strong bout of momentum for the rookie driver.
Leading a race-high 118 laps around Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Smith set a single-race record for most laps led by a Kaulig Racing entry in a single NASCAR Xfinity Series event, a record previously held by Ross Chastain.
After climbing from the No. 16 machine at the end of the 300-mile event, Smith felt he could have made some adjustments to his driving inside the car to pull off the win.
“Just overall I got a little tight there at the very end. It is what it is. That really is a tough pill to swallow,” Smith admitted. “There are some things I could have done from inside before we started feeling tight. Just getting my lead a little bigger to have a bigger buffer.”
While coming up short was disappointing, Smith takes solace in the fact that his race team brought a really fast car to the track, and he sees good things in the future for the No. 16 Kaulig Racing group.
“All-in-all I can’t be too disappointed,” Smith said. “This is my sixth start, third start with Kaulig Racing. We have a really, really fast QuickTie Products Chevrolet Camaro. I’m just really appreciative of everybody, with Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice, and everybody at Kaulig Racing for bringing me on board and believing in me. We’re going to win a few races this year for sure.”
Finishing fourth, seven seconds behind the battle for the victory that encompassed the top-three drivers, was Kyle Busch, making his return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing in the No. 10.
Josh Berry completed the race’s top-five finishers, rebounding from a spin exiting turn four prior to the conclusion of the race’s second stage. Berry’s weekend will continue with Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event, where he’ll fill in for Chase Elliott.
John Hunter Nemechek recorded a sixth-place finish, after several issues throughout the afternoon, including an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel. Sam Mayer, Riley Herbst, Sheldon Creed, and Daniel Hemric completed the top-10.
Sammy Smith, who ran inside the top-10 for the majority of Saturday’s event, was relegated to a 17th-place result, after spinning his No. 18 Toyota GR Supra on the entrance to pit road, and making contact with the pit wall.
Alternatively, Brandon Jones, who ran as high as second place during the 300-mile event, finished in 21st, after a pair of speeding penalties under green-flag conditions.
Next for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is Phoenix Raceway, the fourth event of the 2023 season, which also plays host to the season finale. Last year, it was Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs who captured wins at the one-mile oval.
With both of them in the NASCAR Cup Series full-time this year, who will swoop in to capture the victory in the series’ fourth race of the season.