CONCORD, N.C. — Austin Hill strode into the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center like a man with a purpose following Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice.
It wasn’t only because the driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra for Hattori Racing Enterprises hasn’t won yet this season, it was also because there was assembled media to talk to again.
After all, the Winston, Ga., native was fastest during the 50-minute session previewing the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, giving him plenty to talk about and be excited for this weekend.
“It’s just nice to see everyone again,” Hill said, a wide grin gracing his features.
But Hill’s conversation also swirled around a season that has seen him stand out as one of the most consistent performers in the Truck Series yet hasn’t seen him visit victory lane through nine races.
Hill told SPEED SPORT Friday he feels his team has all the pieces in place to succeed and be dominant. They just need some luck.
“I think we’re just having one of those seasons right now, where we’ve been pretty good, but the races just aren’t going our way,” said Hill. “It seems like these last couple of races, whether we get beat on pit road or we have an issue or something just happens throughout the race … we just haven’t put it all together. Last week [at Circuit of The Americas], getting spun out on lap one and having a decent amount of left-rear damage didn’t help us any. It’s just been one of those years where we feel like we have a shot at winning a lot of races, but we just haven’t for one reason or another.
“At Darlington, we thought that we had a really good truck, but we had a really good long-run truck that needed to be a little bit better on the short run to run with the [No.] 4 [John Hunter Nemechek],” Hill continued. “But I thought we had a really good long-run truck to be able to compete for that win. The next thing you know, we had that restart where that big wreck happened and sent everything sideways. It’s just one of those seasons, man. It just is what it is. Sometimes you’re not going to always win them.
“I feel like our team and everybody at HRE is putting in the work. They’re doing a really good job and I feel like our Toyota Tundras are really fast. We just have to put a full race together without any issues or mistakes and try to stay out of all the other mess that goes on. If we do, I think we can win some races.”
Hill has earned three top-five and six top-10 finishes this season, ranking fourth in the standings only six races away from the start of the Truck Series playoffs.
It’s a nice position to be in, but one that Hill knows he can improve on through the summer.
“We’re not content to rest on where we’re at,” he said. “We’re always trying to get better.”
One change for Hill, at least for this weekend, is that he’ll have Trey Poole atop the spotter’s stand for him as opposed to industry veteran Eddie D’Hondt, who was indefinitely suspended Wednesday by NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports — D’Hondt’s primary employer within the garage area.
Poole is NASCAR Cup Series star Chase Elliott’s cousin and a familiar face to Hill, who raced against Poole in Legend cars at tracks such as Charlotte and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“I know Trey well from my Legend car days,” Hill noted. “We used to race against each other and I knew him and Chase really well. This is actually the first time we’ve ever worked together, though, spotter wise. It was good to get out there and have some practice, because he’s, obviously, going to say some things differently, so we just went through that practice getting our communication up to speed and working through some things. I told him some things that I like to hear and we worked on that.
“It was good to get out there and have a practice session with a different spotter and be able to have that practice under our belt,” Hill added. “Now we can go back and talk about how practice went and what I liked versus what I didn’t like. I think that’s going to help a lot and be really beneficial going into the race.”