It has been a rookie season to remember, and Austin Hill is savoring every moment.
Hill, who officially claimed the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year title last weekend, is heading into the Playoffs with positive momentum and a strong No. 21 team behind him.
“That’s what you dream about as a kid, you know, making it to NASCAR’s top levels and getting to compete for a championship,” Hill said. “This is what it’s all about and I’ve got the car and the team behind me to go out there and make a statement.”
The breakout season started for Hill in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, where h e started from the second position in his Richard Childress Racing debut and led 23 laps en route to his first victory and a ticket to the Playoffs.
It hasn’t stopped there, though, for the team. In 26 races, the team located in Welcome, North Carolina has captured two wins, 10 top fives and 16 top 10s. Hill has led 247 laps and completed 99.0 percent of laps attempted. He has an average start of 9.6 and an average finish of 11.0.
Those are impressive numbers for any driver, but especially for a rookie in the series.
“It’s been a blast working with this team all season. From the beginning, I had a great relationship with all my guys. My crew chief, Andy Street, and I work really well together, and I’ve got one of the best spotters in Derek (Kneeland),” Hill said. “The team chemistry certainly boosts morale at the track and around the shop.”
Hill’s second win of the season came at Atlanta Motor Speedway and might just be the most special win of his career thus far. Hill is a native of Douglasville, Georgia and he has always considered Atlanta his home track.
Before this season, he came so close to winning there multiple times so it was just a matter of time before he got it done.
“I ran runner-up there at the race in March and in my last two Truck Series races at the track, I finished second, too. I wanted it so bad, and it was so awesome getting it done with this team,” Hill explained. “That’s probably the most special win of my career, it’ll be hard to top that one just because of how special it was to me personally. But it wouldn’t have happened without my guys.”
The team behind Hill is strong and couldn’t be more diverse. You’ve got people of various ages, various backgrounds, various specialties, and the success on the racetrack is a direct reflection of their dedication and hard work.
“This team has been focused since the offseason on winning races and competing for a championship. Every single member of this team has put everything they’ve got into this program. I’m extremely proud of the success this team, and all of RCR, has seen so far this season. Now that we’re in the heat of the Playoffs, that work doesn’t stop,” said NASCAR Xfinity Series Competition Director Danny Lawrence. “We know what is at stake and every member of this team knows what we have to go out there and do.”
This has been a career-best season for crew chief Andy Street, as well. Prior to the 2022 season, Street had 67 starts as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series with one win.
“Working with Austin and this No. 21 team has been really special this season. We’ve gone out each weekend and competed and run up front and that’s a product of how hard Austin and everyone in the shop works. I’m proud of all the hard work we’ve put in so far but we’re just getting started. The Playoffs are going to be challenging but we’re ready to go out there and battle and be the ones holding the trophy at the end,” said Street.
Hill is no stranger to being labeled an “underdog.” He’s heard that a few times throughout his career but that does nothing to his mindset except make him want it even more.
“That doesn’t bother me at all. It actually fuels my fire a little bit more. I’ve always sort of had that “underdog” name throughout my career. I’m an older guy than some and I’ve been doing this for a long time, since I was six years old. This is my first year in Xfinity and it’s never been easy, but it’s always been rewarding and that’s how I got to this point. I’d love to go out there and prove to everyone that I’m here to stay and race my way to the championship,” Hill said.
The No. 21 competes at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET in the first race of the Round of 12. You can tune in and support Hill on USA Network and PRN.