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July 9, 2022

Austin Hill fends off final-lap challenges for home-state win in Atlanta

James Gilbert | Getty Images
James Gilbert
Getty Images

Radio trouble prevented driver Austin Hill from being able to speak to his Richard Childress Racing crew during the Alsco Uniforms 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he sure understood the final hand signal.

Number one.

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The Georgia native, 28, won at his hometown track for the first time in his NASCAR career – holding off JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry by a mere .111-second -the closest Xfinity Series race finish in track history and another fitting number nod to Hill’s finish.

His 73 laps led in the No. 21 RCR Chevrolet was most on the day and the most of his young NASCAR Xfinity Series career.

“Man, look at this crowd, I love the fans,” a smiling Hill said, looking toward the loud and enthusiastic grandstands. “What a car. Man, RCR has been working their ever-loving tails off to give me a car that will race really fast.”

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Hill was so impressed and appreciative of the work of his crew, particularly to win on a day it had to overcome a major challenge. He came down pit road on the pace laps once the team realized his radio didn’t work. Hill could hear the crew, but they could not hear him.

Even a new helmet didn’t solve the problem so he spent all of the often-eventful 163 laps around the 1.54-mile speedway listening only. They worked out hand signals for adjustments he wanted during the pit stops.

There were 17 lead changes in the race, but Hill took the lead for good on a restart with 48 laps remaining and held off Berry, Ryan Truex, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick. The front-runners got dicey as expected, but Hill was able to pull away and was never challenged heading to the checkered flag to take his second series victory in 2022.

Truex finished third, followed by Reddick – who became a first-time NASCAR Cup Series winner last week – and reigning Xfinity Series champion Daniel Hemric.

Noah Gragson and his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier were sixth and seventh, followed by Landon Cassill, Riley Herbst and AJ Allmendinger.

That 10th-place finish marked a solid comeback for Kaulig Racing’s Allmendinger, who led the championship standings by a mere nine points going into the Atlanta race. A tire problem and slow pit stop put him down two laps in Stage 2, and it proved to be a long, challenging day for Allmendinger, who methodically worked his way forward.

At one point, he briefly lost the championship lead to Ty Gibbs. But Gibbs, Saturday’s pole-sitter, had his own problems. Racing hard with Herbst at the front on a restart for the final stage, Gibbs’ No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota hit the wall hard and suffered enough damage for him to take a DNF.

MORE: Ty Gibbs exits early at Atlanta

A four-race winner, Gibbs went into the race trailing Allmendinger by only nine points, but now he’ll go to New Hampshire for next week’s race 29 points out of the championship lead.

“We had a very fast Supra, we had a good car,” Gibbs told PRN Radio. “The 98 slid up and wasn’t clear and hooked us in the left-front. It was hard racing and I just came home on the wrong side of it.”

The Xfinity Series’ next race is scheduled for next Saturday (5 p.m. ET, USA, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Note: Inspection was completed in the Xfinity Series garage with no issues, affirming Hill’s victory.

Contributing staff reports