“Better late than never, right?”
That’s at least part of Austin Hill’s mindset going into NASCAR’s race weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
Hill, whose full-time job is competing for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, will have a side gig this weekend. On Sunday, the Georgia native will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the FireKeepers Casino 400 driving the No. 33 Chevrolet for RCR.
Unlike many fellow drivers from his generation, Hill’s debut comes as he nears the age of 30.
“I’m 28 years old, so getting a little bit later jump on this,” said Hill.
Hill will dip his toe into the Cup Series racing pool in the midst of his first full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and with 156 national series starts and 10 wins on his résumé.
This one-off race also comes in the wake of the news in July that RCR Cup driver Tyler Reddick will leave the team at the end of 2023 to joins 23XI Racing.
Regardless of what that could mean for him down the line, Hill thinks any opportunity to race in the Cup Series means he’s being evaluated.
“I feel like no matter who it is, I think that they’re going to be evaluated … not just for the organization you’re racing for, I think, for the whole garage,” Hill said. “I think that’s just an understanding that all of us drivers have is that you’re gonna be evaluated, you’re gonna be looked at (to) see what you can do against the Cup regulars and try to minimize the mistakes the best you can and … just finish all the laps and see where you end up. And if that’s 15th, great, if that’s 30, great too. Just need to go out there and run all the laps and learn as much as we can.”
Ford Executive Wants Changes to All-Star Race
It’s a growing belief that NASCAR’s All-Star Race has run its course in its current form.
Count Ford’s global director of motorsports, Mark Rushbrook, among those.
Rushbrook was asked this week for his thoughts on the recently announced street course race in Chicago. He eventually brought up the exhibition race that’s been held every year since 1985.
“We encourage NASCAR to keep doing that kind of experimentation, trying different things, new things, smart things — not just trying different things to try them, but in a smart way, and I think they are,” Rushbrook said of the Chicago race. “I think that needs to continue. Things like the All-Star Race. I think some improvement can be made there as well in terms of the format and how to make it a real All-Star Race again.”
When asked what more could be done for the event, which was held at Texas Motor Speedway this year, Rushbrook noted the race is too much like what is seen every other weekend in the sport.
He then spitballed potential changes.
“Take it to a different market, just like we did with the Clash (at the L.A. Coliseum) — somewhere very different,” Rushbrook said. “Right now, in recent history, the All-Star Race is very similar to any other NASCAR weekend, other than it’s fewer drivers in the feature race and different stage lengths, different qualifying formats and stuff like that. While that’s interesting and entertaining, is it really different enough?
“So if we can go to a different track, if we can bring in different ideas. Bring in a former champion that’s retired to come and mix it up with the current drivers. There’s good things about doing that and there are some bad things about doing that, but that’s what I think people are talking about, what can be done, what will work and I’m sure that the sport will come to something and see some changes there soon.”
Auto-Owners Extends With Truex
Last month Martin Truex Jr. confirmed he’d be returning to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota in 2023.
On Thursday (Aug. 4), Auto-Owners Insurance announced it would be back as one of Truex’s primary sponsors next season.
Auto-Owners, based in Lansing, Michigan, made its announcement ahead of NASCAR’s annual trip to Michigan International Speedway this weekend.
Auto-Owners has sponsored Truex since he drove for Furniture Row Racing in 2016.
New Enfinger Sponsor
Fresh off winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff opener at Indianapolis Raceway Park, GMS Racing announced a new sponsor for Grant Enfinger’s No. 23 Truck.
The partnership involves e-commerce platform, SureDone, and existing team partner AutoParts4Less.
The deal is for the second race of the playoffs, on Aug. 13 at Richmond Raceway.
The 4Less Group initially joined forces with GMS Racing with their LiftKits4Less brand in 2021, and has been featured on Jack Wood’s No. 24 Chevrolet for two races this season.