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Austin Hill Overcomes Adversity for Third Straight Win in Xfinity Season-Opener

Austin Hill overcame multiple instances of adversity to score the victory in Monday's NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Daytona, his third consecutive win in the February season-opener. Photo Credit: Craig White, TobyChristie.com

For the third consecutive season, Austin Hill is beginning the NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign with a victory at Daytona International Speedway, putting his No. 21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Camaro in Victory Lane in Monday’s United Rentals 300.

Hill, entering his third season of full-time Xfinity Series competition for Richard Childress Racing, didn’t exactly have an easy path to his seventh career victory, though, facing several difficult setbacks throughout the 120-lap contest.

The native of Winston, Georgia started on the outside of the front row, next to his rookie teammate Jesse Love, for Monday’s 300-mile event, which had been postponed on two separate occasions due to inclement weather.

Even though the 29-year-old driver was able to collect 19 stage points — by winning the second stage and finishing runner-up to teammate Jesse Love in the first – the driver of the No. 21 had to overcome several instances of adversity.

After a speeding penalty and safety violation sent Hill to the tail-end of the longest line, the Richard Childress Racing driver found himself in an unideal spot — right in the middle of the pack — during the opening laps of the second stage.

So, when John Hunter Nemechek got into the rear bumper of Jesse Love on the backstretch seven laps into the second stage, Austin Hill found himself right in the middle of the accident, sustaining some significant damage to his No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro.

Then, after driving his way back to the front of the pack, Hill had another issue, or so he thought, sending a flat tire on his Chevrolet Camaro, which sent him – once again – to the rear of the field, and left to fight his way through the pack.

Fast-forward to the end of the 300-mile contest from Daytona, and as the field thinned, Hill had returned to the front of the pack, where he was able to set his sights on the victory during a late-race restart, making the pass on Jordan Anderson with two laps to go.

Coming to the white flag, former teammate Sheldon Creed was attached to his rear bumper and looking for a way to get by for the lead, when a crash erupted behind, removing all of the help that the newly-sworn-in Joe Gibbs Racing driver could possibly get, leaving the No. 21 to pull away.

Sheldon Creed, in his first race for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished in the runner-up spot once again, his eighth second-place finish and his third in a row. In third and fourth were a pair of Jordan Anderson Racing teammates Parker Retzlaff and Jordan Anderson.

Chandler Smith, also in his first race with Joe Gibbs Racing, rounded out the top five. Riley Herbst came home in sixth, recovering from a restart violation on the second-to-last restart, while NASCAR Cup Series regular John Hunter Nemechek finished in seventh.

Justin Allgaier was eighth, followed by Brandon Jones and AJ Allmendinger.

Finishing 11th for Alpha Prime Racing, Ryan Ellis matched a career-best result in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, falling just short of his first-ever top-10 result in the second-tier series, a carrot he’s been chasing for a long time.

Natalie Decker, making a one-off appearance in a third entry for DGM Racing, came home with solid 18th-place results, a career-best, after leading seven laps. In doing so, the 26-year-old driver became the third woman to lead laps in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Hill, by winning the event, is guaranteed to make the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, becoming the first driver to solidify his spot in the 12-driver post-season, which will begin this Fall.

Up next for the Xfinity Series, is another superspeedway-like event in Hill’s hometown, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which will take place as part of a doubleheader with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on Saturday, February 24.

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