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Austin Hill Takes Atlanta Win After Fuel Mileage Heartbreak for Jesse Love

Austin Hill NASCAR Xfinity Series Atlanta winner RAPTOR King of Tough 250 2024 race recap

Photo Credit: Craig White, TobyChristie.com

All Austin Hill does at superspeedways is win.

The driver of the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was involved in a crash last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. It didn’t matter. He went on to capture his third-straight win in the season-opening race.

On Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hill pulled off more heroics as he conserved his fuel load perfectly over the final run of the race to score the win in the RAPTOR King of Tough 250 as his teammate Jesse Love’s tank ran dry on a overtime restart.

Even Hill couldn’t believe that he emerged victorious on Saturday night.

“I just gotta thank my guys. Everyone on this No. 21 Bennett Chevrolet. We really worked through it. I really was down and out, and thought my teammate was going to win it,” Hill stated.

However, while Hill thought he was at best a top-five finisher on the night, his crew chief Andy Street continually stressed fuel conservation on the radio. Hill listened, and in the end, Hill had exactly what he needed in the tank to win.

Hill held off runner-up finisher Chandler Smith, who Hill said gave him a shove from behind on the final restart of the race. Hill said his car had stumbled on the overtime restart like it was running out of gas, but the fuel picked up after the push from Smith.

Incredibly, Shane van Gisbergen drove like a cagey NASCAR veteran as he scored a third-place finish in his second-career NASCAR Xfinity Series start. The Australian Supercars legend continues his impressive start to his NASCAR racing career.

Sheldon Creed finished the race in fourth, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was left shaking his head about the superspeedway package being utilized at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has seen some wear on its reconfigured surface over the last few years. Creed stated that he is worried about the package being used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is currently the plan.

Behind Creed was Parker Retzlaff, who recorded a fifth-place finish. The Jordan Anderson Racing driver has two top-five finishes through the opening two races of the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

Jeremy Clements notched a great sixth-place finish, and he was followed by Anthony Alfredo, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ryan Truex, and Sammy Smith in the top-10.

While it was elation for Hill, it was absolute heartbreak for Rookie of the Year contender Love, who led a race-high 157 laps in the 169-lap contest. Love was impressed many by leading so many laps, but it’s most likely being at the front of the field that caused him to burn more fuel than his teammate, which ultimately led to him losing the race.

“You kind of have to laugh it off,” Love said. “As a driver, I always want to take whatever responsibility that I can. Maybe Jesse Love could have saved more fuel tonight leading out front, right? I thought I was saving a good bit, but man, it honestly died on that restart.”

It looked like Love was going to have enough fuel to make it to the finish, as his No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro was still under power with three laps to go, but when just about every Ford in the field ran out of fuel on that lap, and Ryan Sieg’s No. 39 Ford Mustang came to a stop on the track, the caution flag came out.

That caution moved the race into overtime, which extended the distance of the race, and ended the hopes of a win for Love.

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