• 68°

Austin Hill earns Truck Series victory in Daytona opener

An exciting truck race to open season

Natalie Decker (54) is helped out of her truck on pit road after it caught fire on the track during a NASCAR Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Austin Hill blocked his way to his first career Truck Series victory in a crash-marred season-opener Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.
With only nine of the 32 trucks still running in the second overtime, Hill had to block Grant Enfinger for most of the final lap. He needed a last big, bold maneuver to hold off Enfinger as they rushed toward the checkered flag.
“When we went overtime, man, I was just so scared. So much stuff was running through my head,” Hill said. “That whole last lap my heart was pounding. I thought they were going to get to my outside and make it a drag race. I never thought in a million year I would win at Daytona.”
Hill won for Hattori Racing and solidified the team’s decision to release reigning series champion Brett Moffitt a month after Moffitt won the title. Hattori Racing struggled all last season with funding, but Moffitt won the final two races of the year to give the underdog team an unexpected championship.
Team owner Shige Hattori released Moffitt and signed Hill, who had some financial backing, in early January. The 24-year-old won for the first time in 52 career Truck Series starts and Hattori has won three straight dating to last season.
Enfinger finished second and summed up the race as “carnage everywhere.”
Ross Chastain was third, followed by Spencer Boyd and Matt Crafton. Angela Ruch, the niece of 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, finished eighth. She and Natalie Decker both made the Truck Series opener and are the only two women racing at NASCAR’s national level on opening weekend.
Ruch’s finish is the second-highest for a female driver in the Truck Series, trailing Jennifer Jo Cobb, who was sixth at Daytona in 2011.
Decker’s national debut ended just two laps into the race when a flat left front tire caused her truck to catch fire. She drove it to pit road as flames shot from under her hood and crew members helped pull Decker from the truck. One used a little too much force as he shoved Decker out of the way and she stumbled over the pit wall.
Decker is trying to race in five different series this season, and Daytona was the first of 12 scheduled Truck Series races.
A crew member was struck on pit road by driver Bryan Dauzat during that hectic early caution. Dauzat had lost his brakes and warned his team over his radio he wasn’t going to be able to stop, and jackman Billy Rock was hit as he crossed in front of the truck.
The impact sent the crew member sprawling to the ground, but he was awake and alert as he was transferred by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
The series opener featured three-wide racing that stretched five or more rows into the field, but it contributed to the race-record 11 cautions that eliminated all the top contenders.
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Truck Series title sponsor Gander Outdoors, offered financial incentives to the competitors in the pre-race driver meeting. Lemonis, star of “The Profit” on CNBC, pledged an additional $10,000 and a travel trailer to the Daytona winner. He also promised a $100,000 bonus to the championship-winning crew as well as other incentives for the upcoming season.
“How come we’re not more fired up tonight? Are we fired up?” Lemonis said to the competitors.
____
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Comments

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow

Business

Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh

Nation/World

California population declines for first time

News

GOP leaders differ on bottom line for state spending

News

Police: Man killed in shootout with officers in Winston-Salem

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras