Home / Beth Lunkenheimer / Tracking the Trucks: Austin Hill Ends Regular Season With a Win in Michigan
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Tracking the Trucks: Austin Hill Ends Regular Season With a Win in Michigan

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In a Nutshell: Austin Hill ended the regular Gander Outdoors Truck Series season the same way he began it with a trip to victory lane. The driver of the No. 16 Toyota led a race-high 26 laps, including the final 10, through an overtime finish to score his second career win in the Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway.

“It’s huge. We have had a struggle these last few races. We just keep having issues and just can’t finish these races,” Hill said after the race. “These guys just worked their tails off, day and night, just trying to put these trucks together. This is actually a brand-new truck. [The] first time it had seen the race track was yesterday. When we unloaded, we had to work out some bugs. We got it driving really good. I was really happy with the speed of it.

“Man, this race was crazy. I had to come from the back a few times. I had a speeding penalty one time, and I kind of thought our race was done, but man we came back through the field. This Toyota Tundra was really good today. I need to thank Hino, AISIN for coming on board, TRD, just everyone that makes it happen.”

Sheldon Creed, who faced this weekend without his suspended crew chief, truck chief and engineer after a penalty stemming from Eldora Speedway last week, made a strong run for the lead but had to settle for his second straight runner-up finish. Tyler Dippel scored a career-best third-place finish and the best result for Young’s Motorsports ahead of Brett Moffitt, who ended up fourth. Austin Wayne Self scored a season-high fifth-place finish and his first top five since Daytona in 2017.

Bayley Currey finished a career-best sixth, followed by regular-season champion Grant Enfinger. Stewart Friesen, who suffered a flat tire early in the race, ended up eighth, followed by Ray Ciccarelli, who scored a career-best ninth-place run. Matt Crafton, who started at the rear of the field following an engine change, rounded out the top 10.

Race Rundown

Late-Race Big One Sends the Field to Overtime

The Corrigan Oil 200 restarted with just four laps remaining following Christian Eckes‘ third spin to bring out the final yellow on the day. But instead of a race to the finish, the field ended up littered with carnage when Tyler Ankrum spun his tires on the start and Crafton ran into the back of him, sending the No. 17 spinning into the outside wall. The contact spun Ankrum back into the rest of the field, setting off a melee that officially involved nine trucks, including several that had run toward the front and were in the victory lane conversation.

For DGR-Crosley, it was an expensive wreck. Ankrum’s spin off of Crafton’s front bumper was only the beginning of the melee that took out Ankrum’s teammates Anthony Alfredo and Natalie Decker as well. The trio, along with Todd Gilliland, were the only ones who were unable to continue following an extended caution to clean up and sent the field to an overtime finish.

Creed scored the highest finish of those involved in the wreck with a runner-up result and a late challenge for the win. Meanwhile, despite having a large part in triggering the multi-truck crash, Crafton ended up 10th. Johnny Sauter (12th), Jordan Anderson (14th) and Joe Nemechek (20th) were also listed as involved in the crash but were able to continue on and finish on the lead lap. For Nemechek, it was the first race this season he ran to completion.

2019 Playoff Field Set

When the checkered flag dropped over Michigan International Speedway, this year’s playoff field was set. Six drivers were already locked in based on wins earlier this season, and Enfinger clinched his playoff spot simply by starting the race. By the end of stage one, he had also clinched the regular-season championship, giving him an added 15 playoff points.

Crafton took the final spot in the playoffs based on points, giving ThorSport Racing three trucks in the championship battle.

“I just raced my race because at the end of the day I knew the drivers that couldn’t win and which ones were going to be tough at the end,” Crafton said. “When the No. 4 (Gilliland), No. 18 (Harrison Burton), No. 99 (Ben Rhodes) were all one, two, three, I knew I had to get up on the wheel. I was content for a while riding third and then try to settle it on the last lap. I’m happy for my guys and the Thorsons to be able to put this No. 88 in the playoffs and go contend for a championship.”

When the playoffs begin at Bristol Motor Speedway, Moffitt will hold a three-point advantage over Enfinger. Friesen sits six markers behind the leader, while Hill and Ross Chastain end the regular season with 12 playoff points and are tied at fourth and fifth. Crafton is seeded sixth, followed by teammate Sauter. Meanwhile, Ankrum will line up eighth with a 17-point deficit to Moffitt.

Quick Hits:

KRISTL: AUSTIN HILL PUTS HIS STAMP ON THE REGULAR SEASON

  • Chastain dominated and won stage one on Saturday, but his race ended a short time later after contact on pit road. Sauter pulled out of his pit stall at the same time Codie Rohrbaugh was pulling in. Contact between the two sent Rohrbaugh spinning into Chastain’s right front. The damage ended Chastain’s day with a 30th-place finish.

  • A pair of pit stops for flat tires late in the race marked the end of Rhodes’ playoff hopes. The driver of the No. 99 Ford, who’s suffered multiple bouts with poor luck throughout the season, was arguably the strongest truck behind Chastain and was in the mix for the race lead when the tire went down. A second failure sent Rhodes two laps down, and while he finished the race, he was dead last of the trucks still running at the finish in 23rd.

  • After missing Eldora due to a back injury, Spencer Boyd returned to pilot the No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet. He started 27th and was running inside the top 20 when the Big One hit to send the field to overtime. After running through the grass and tearing off a section of the splitter, the driver of the No. 20 Chevrolet ended the race 22nd. Boyd will also make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut Sunday afternoon with Rick Ware Racing. He qualified the No. 53 Ford 36th.

Rookie Report

2019 Rookie of the Year Candidates:

No. 02 – Tyler Dippel
No. 2 – Sheldon Creed
No. 12 – Gus Dean
No. 17 – Tyler Ankrum
No. 18 – Harrison Burton
No. 54 – Anthony Alfredo/Natalie Decker

Number of Rookies in the Race: 7

Number of Rookies finishing in the Top 10: 2; Sheldon Creed, finished second; Tyler Dippel, finished third

Rookie of the Race: Creed

  • Tyler Ankrum, by virtue of being the only rookie to make the playoffs, clinched the Rookie of the Year title for the season as he will be the highest finishing rookie in the standings with a guaranteed points finish of no worse than eighth.

Points Update: With the playoff field set (see above), Rhodes in ninth currently hold a slim one-point margin over Burton in the standings for best of the rest. Gilliland, Burton’s KBM teammate, is 11th and holds an eight-point lead over Creed. Dippel, who’s more than 100 markers behind Creed, Self and Anderson round out the top 15.

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Up Next: The Gander Outdoors Truck Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next week to open up the playoffs. Coverage for the UNOH 200 begins Thursday, Aug. 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 13-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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