CONCORD, N.C. – Austin Hill led a chaotic, crash-filled NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice session Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as multiple drivers found trouble early in the Queen City.
Hill turned a best lap of 30.391 seconds (177.684 mph) around the 1.5-mile quad-oval on his final of 16 laps during the 50-minute session that was extended slightly due to the myriad of yellow flags.
No less than seven drivers – Keith McGee, John Hunter Nemechek, Timothy Peters, Danny Bohn, Akinori Ogata, C.J. McLaughlin and Drew Dollar – spun or crashed during the lone Truck Series practice.
The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra wasn’t one of those in trouble, however, and experienced a relatively smooth go of things devoid of issues for he and his team.
“Our United Rentals Toyota Tundra was pretty good, even though it didn’t really fire off as well as we had hoped it might,” Hill told reporters at the track following practice. “Every time I got out there, it seemed like I would run down some of the slower trucks a little quicker than I thought I would, so it was hard to get some clean laps in. We’ve been struggling a little bit with front turn on entry [to the corners]; the bumps down in [turn] three has been a really big issue for us.
“It seemed like as the tires built air pressure, the bump just got bigger, so that’s going to be something tonight that you’re likely going to see,” Hill added. “Whoever can get through those bumps the best is probably going to win the race.”
While Hill wasn’t planning on venturing into the upper groove, where track officials applied a layer of the PJ1 traction compound used at multiple NASCAR facilities, he was forced up the track via circumstances at one point late in the going Friday.
“I was planning on staying out of the PJ1, but I caught one of the slower trucks and had to go to their outside, and I just went into a four-wheel slide down in [turns] one and two and thought I was going to get in the wall,” Hill recalled. “I was able to get out of it, thankfully, and gather myself up before I even got too far off the race track. It’s sketchy up there right now. I actually thought that there would be a little more grip in the PJ1, so I really wasn’t expecting that to happen when I drove up into it.
“The whole rest of the practice session, I stayed out of it, even on entry into the corner. I tried to enter a little bit earlier than maybe I will in tonight’s race, just to kind of stay out of it,” Hill added. “It seemed like as you transitioned through the PJ1 out of it, that trucks drove differently as they crossed over it and out of it. So I tried to stay out of it.
“It seemed like a lot of guys had issues, so hopefully it comes in later and we can use it, but if it doesn’t come in it’s going to be a bottom-groove race track.”
Nemechek, who led most of Friday’s practice despite scrubbing the outside wall before being leapfrogged by Hill in the dying minutes of the session, ended up second (30.408/177.584) with the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Rookie Carson Hocevar was the fastest Chevrolet driver, ranking third for Niece Motorsports, followed by the GMS Racing-prepared Chevrolet of defending Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed and the David Gilliland Racing Ford of Tanner Gray.
Chandler Smith, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton, Christian Eckes, and Derek Kraus filled out the top 10.
Ty Majeski was 16th-fastest in a fifth Toyota Tundra for ThorSport Racing, making his first start this year.
The two biggest moments in the session were roughly five minutes in, when Timothy Peters hit the outside wall and coasted along the SAFER Barrier in turn four, and midway through the session when Drew Dollar’s truck broke loose off turn two and backed into the wall on the backstretch.
Both drivers were OK, but will move to backup trucks for the remainder of the event.
Qualifying for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 is slated for 5:30 p.m. ET, live on FS1.
Thirty-eight trucks are on site vying for 36 starting positions, meaning two trucks will miss the race.