HILL, ECKES SCORE TOP FIVE FINISHES AT ATLANTA
Hill continues to lead the point standings
ATLANTA (June 6, 2020) – Tundra drivers Austin Hill (second) and Christian Eckes (third) were the highest finishing Toyotas at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Race 4 of 23 – 130 Laps, 200.2 Miles
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Grant Enfinger*
2nd, AUSTIN HILL
3rd, CHRISTIAN ECKES
4th, Todd Gilliland*
5th, Zane Smith*
7th, DEREK KRAUS
10th, STEWART FRIESEN
18th, BRENNAN POOLE
19th, RAPHAEL LESSARD
22nd, KYLE BUSCH
24th, KORBIN FORRISTER
26th, SPENCER DAVIS
27th, CLAY GREENFIELD
29th, ANGELA RUCH
30th, KORBIN FORRISTER
35th, GRAY GAULDING
AUSTIN HILL, No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra, Hattori Racing Enterprises
Finishing Position: 2nd
What more did you need and what happened on the final restart?
“All day on the restarts, it took our truck about five to seven laps to get going. We would be in the splitter a little bit, but as the tire wear came in and as the pace fell off, our splitter heights and everything were really good. There at the end, on that white flag lap going into turn one beside the 98 (Grant Enfinger), I drove in there deeper than I had all day. It got on the splitter a little bit and when it did, I just got tight and had to lift a little bit. I’ll take the blame on that one for not getting the win. We had a dominating Tundra. There at the end, we were just as good as the 51 (Kyle Busch) before he had his issues. Can’t thank everyone at United Rentals and HRE for bringing a fast Tundra to unload off the truck and go racing like we do. We’re going to be good at Homestead.”
Can you talk us through the decision to pit on the final caution?
“We figured everyone would pit there at the end. As many laps as we had on the tires and as bad as the fall-off is, we knew we needed to change tires. When we pitted, I was kind of back and forth on telling the guys to maybe do something a little bit different to have the frontend of our run a little bit better. It seemed like it took our truck five to eight laps to get going good. After that, we were a really good truck. We were a dominant truck. We just needed that clean air and I think it showed there during that long run how good we were. All in all, that white flag lap going into one beside the 98 (Grant Enfinger), I got on the splitter a little bit going into one, ultimately it just got me tight and when it did, he was able to clear me off of two and it was kind of over from there. Man, I wanted to win here so bad. This is my home track. I’ve run a lot of races here in the Bandolero and Legend Car Series and won a lot of races here doing that. To get a win here would have been really special, but I guess we have to be the first losers this year. We’ll try again next year maybe.”
What do you learn from this finish that you can use moving forward?
“I’m sure when I go back and watch the race, I’m just going to look at all different things that I could have done differently for that not to have happened. I saw that the 98 (Grant Enfinger) was getting a run on me down the backstretch, but we had been so good on the bottom all day, wrapping the line, that I didn’t really want to give that up and he was able to get to my corner on entry to three and he kind of got tight on my corner and sucked me around a little bit and that got me loose enough that I kind of just bogged down off of four. Maybe I could have protected that outside line a little bit more and made my truck just a little wider. I just think that when we go back to the drawing board, maybe I could have said something different to Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and the guys to maybe have a little better truck on that short run. It felt like our truck didn’t fire off good for five to eight laps, but after that, we were really dominant. I’m just going to go back and look at that and see what I could have done differently as a driver to tell the crew just so maybe that doesn’t happen again and I don’t get on the splitter like I did last time and get too tight.”
What was it like racing without practice or qualifying?
“The track was really loose when I would fire off and it didn’t seem like it would tighten up much all day long for our truck at least. For the first five or eight laps, I would be on the splitter a little bit, but I would also be really loose back to throttle trying to put the throttle down. It just took our truck a little bit longer than other guys to get going and it was fun slipping and sliding. I thought it was a good race. I wish it would have gone green there at the end, but it didn’t. We’ll just have to take what we had and go on. All in all, it was a good points day for us.”
Is finishing second today harder with Atlanta being your home track?
“Yeah, they’re always tough to swallow when you’re that good and then you end up second. It being my hometown, this is one of the race tracks I’ve wanted to win at ever since I was a little kid racing here when I was eight years old on the frontstretch. It hurts. It’s really frustrating, but we’re just going to keep digging. We have that points lead and we’re hoping to keep it. I’m excited to go to Homestead. I think we have a really good truck there like we did last year. Hopefully we can get a win and get locked into the Playoffs.”
Does knowing how strong you were at Homestead last year make this finish easier to accept?
“Yeah, a little bit. Since we’re going racing again in one week and we don’t have some time off to kind of dwell over it, I’m sure I’ll be a little frustrated over the weekend, but by the time Monday or Tuesday rolls around, we’re going to be focused on Homestead and focused on the task at hand and that’s to go get a win.”
Will you try to take this truck to Homestead?
“Our trucks are so identical now. Over this little break that we’ve had, we’ve done a lot of R&D work and a lot of stuff to our trucks to make them very similar. I’m honestly fine with running any truck they want to put out there. I have total confidence in my guys and total confidence in all the trucks in our shops. I think you can have a truck that was just as good today, next week at Homestead and it be a whole different chassis and whole different truck, you just have to get it driving right and these guys can do it. Everybody at HRE and United Rentals, they do a heck of a job. I’m excited to go to Homestead without any practice and get after it.”
How did you approach this race being in June differently than you would have in March?
“We were a little bit concerned on tire wear. The first 15 laps of the race, you kind of saw us fall back a little bit and I think that’s just because we were trying to be a bit more conservative on that first stage just to see where the tire wear went. There at the end of the first stage, once we saw the tire wear was actually pretty good, then we started running hard and trying to fight for those positions a little bit harder. I kind of go into each race the same way with the same mindset or just getting the first five to 10 laps in, get single-filed out and see what your truck has. Then start giving communication to the crew so when that first stop comes we can make the right adjustments going forward.”
CHRISTIAN ECKES, No. 18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports
Finishing Position: 3rd
How important is getting this top-five finish after the struggles earlier this season?
“We were really fast on short runs. I felt like we could run with the best of them for about three or four laps and then for whatever reason we just weren’t good past that. Finally, this is a result we can build on – the 22nd, 23rd and 14th place finishes to start the year definitely hurt, but we finally got it turned around a little bit and we can build on it. Hopefully be two spots better at Homestead.”
What does it mean to have a run like this after struggling early in the season?
“It’s huge. We kind of had a ‘coming to Jesus’ moment in the conference room this past week just trying to figure out what we could do better. I feel like we’ve done that and we can finally start trending some finishes together. It will be big for momentum and that’s definitely what this sport it all about. To finish third means a lot and it’s definitely a lot harder with a 40-car field now. Third would probably be fifth or sixth in a normal race. I’m really happy to finish here and just looking forward to the next race.”
How challenging are these races with no practice and no qualifying?
“It’s a lot of preparation. It’s actually a little bit better starting from the pole because you know exactly what you’ve got to do after watching film and stuff like that. You can just hold it wide open and see what happens. At Charlotte we really struggled, starting deep and not really knowing what traffic does at Charlotte or anything like that. Overall, it’s better this week starting from the pole and now we have a little momentum and more comfort back in the truck and it should be better for Homestead as well.”
What kind of momentum does this run give you going to another 1.5-mile track in Homestead-Miami Speedway?
“I feel like this track is similar grip level wise, you’re always sliding and it’s definitely a tough race track as far as that, just a lack of grip late in the run, but lots of grip in the beginning of the run. We struggled in the beginning and finally got some momentum now and hopefully can string together some better finishes.”
What was needed to get the team turned around?
“Execution as a whole, we haven’t been great on my end and the team’s end. We had a bad pit stop today and it was a little fault of both of ours. We’re not perfect yet, but at the same aspect, we’re getting closer.”
Do you approach preparation differently when you’re struggling versus having success?
“Absolutely. I feel like after Daytona I tried to do something different and after Vegas I tried to do something different and then after Charlotte we tried to do something different. It’s just finding the balance of whatever works for you. For me, I just went back to good old-fashioned film instead of trying to go off the sim as much. I feel like we’re in a good balance right now and I was prepared to make moves and do the stuff I needed to do today. As far as the team stuff, it’s just a matter of time. I’m really looking forward to the next races and we all have a little improvement to do.”
Do you feel the film help you more than the sim information?
“I would say 50-50. The film is identical and the sim is really, really close, but there is something about film that gives you that extra confidence.”
How can you make the truck better on long runs?
“Honestly, I don’t really know yet. It might take a little bit just to go over everything and figure out what we can do better. Our truck was really fast on short runs so it’s just trying to find the happy medium. I felt like we could run with anybody there for about five or six laps, especially in clean air. I felt if we had clean air there at the end we would have had a shot for sure. We still had a shot, but even more. There’s a little bit of work to do, but we’re definitely closer and looking forward to it.”
DEREK KRAUS, No. 19 NAPA Auto Care Toyota Tundra, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing
Finishing Position: 7th
You really had a solid race all-day. Can you talk about your top 10 run today at Atlanta?
“It was really good. We started 11th, and kind of fell back a little bit. It was hitting the splitter a little bit, but once we got going, the splitter came off the racetrack and that’s when we started running really good times. Everyone at MHR brought a really good NAPA Auto Care Toyota Tundra, and that helped a lot with the second and final stage with finishing seventh.”
You are headed to Homestead next, how ready are you to get to there after today’s performance?
“It was really good today, and I’m really excited to go to Homestead. It will be the first race back that I’ve been to the track that were racing at. I feel like that will definitely help. I’m just going in there with a lot of confidence and momentum from Atlanta. Hopefully, we can have a good finish there as well.”
STEWART FRIESEN, No. 52 Halmar ‘Racing To Beat Hunger’ Toyota Tundra, Halmar Friesen Racing
Finishing Position: 10th
Really good finish after a long day on track including an incident on pit road. Talk about your run.
“It was tough. We just had a real bad spot on – where we were located on pit road. We had to battle through that, and we just battled some balance stuff. We are still learning a little bit of the dynamics of the Tundras. We are at the fourth race in, and no practice time or testing to speak of, I think we doing a good job of hitting it by the end of the race. I think we would have had a top-10 in Charlotte if we didn’t get jammed up there, and we were kind of rewarded with a top-10 today. It’s a strong field. It’s a lot stronger than we are used to the last couple years. We are back in 20th, but you are racing good teams. We kind of hit it right there at the end. We are struggling to hit air pressures a little bit, but we are hitting them by the end of the race, the third stage. We had a really fast truck there at the end. We had a pit penalty, which sucked, but we battled back and got a top-10 out of it. It’s cool to represent the Tundra brand in the top-10, and Halmar, and Halmar’s Drive For Hunger. I think we got some momentum going.”
The Truck Series schedule has been updated, and you know what is coming. How excited are you to get rolling in this season?
“I’m super excited. We are using the first and second stages as basically a practice. We are not sure; we are getting a pretty good idea, but we are consistently hitting it too loose to start. I think we got a good direction now. We are going to utilize some of the tools with TRD in the next couple weeks, and we look forward. We’ve got some good momentum. We’ve got great support from Chris Larsen and Halmar, and I’m looking forward to get rolling with the season.”
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