KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Confidence is building in the Richard Childress Racing organization after Austin Hill wins the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship. He begins his Playoff pursuit tied for the top seed with John Hunter Nemechek when the series makes its first stop at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Round of 12.
“There’s a lot of confidence,” Hill said after a solid top five effort in the Kansas Lottery 300. “We’re just trying to build this program at (Richard Childress Racing) and trying to find things that I like. The team bond and all that we have has come a long way. My future looks really good right now, and I’m really excited about the future to come.”
The future to come starts on Friday night as Hill and 11 other drivers will compete for the championship honors. While others in the field like Nemechek are being promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series next year, Hill is content with where he is and signed a contract extension with Childress earlier this summer to stay in the No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro.
“You know, the work begins next week,” he continued. “We gotta dig deep, and we got to get better. We struggled today, didn’t really have a 5th place car. We were just able to salvage it and but going into Bristol, we got to have all of our ducks in a row and just be prepared and not have to dig ourselves out of a hole like we had today.”
That confidence from the first 26 races this season will easily roll over into the remaining seven. Despite no superspeedway style tracks – places where Hill has excelled over the last few years in Florida, Alabama and Georgia – Hill still has strong finishes at the intermediate tracks, the short tracks of Bristol and Martinsville, and the season finale at Phoenix.
It’s not a shock to me that that we won the regular season.
“Last year man, we were really, really good at Bristol,” he reflected on last year’s Playoff run. “Ended up finishing third, but we had a shot at winning. I ended up getting some left front damage that kind of hurt the balance of the car a little bit. We got to be ready come Friday night.”
The Xfinity Series slogan ‘Names are made here’ rings truer in recent years. In 2023, drivers like Sam Mayer, Chandler Smith and Sammy Smith all earned their first career victories in the minor league of NASCAR. Other drivers like Nemechek and Cole Custer are on the rise again with the resurgence of their stock car racing careers.
Hill knows this challenge ahead of him is steeper than previous years.
“It’s going to be tough,” admitted Hill. “The depth is pretty, pretty deep right now. Some of the guys that missed the playoffs really should be in it as well because they’re not any slouches. They’re good drivers. I’ve always been the guy that’s been kind of the dark horse. I’ve been the guy that nobody really pays attention to. So to be able to go out here and (win the regular season championship) just goes to show that with a lot of dedication, a lot of effort with a great team – with RCR behind me and backing me – anything’s possible. I do a lot of work outside of the race car, a lot of film work and I’m always working to be a better race car driver.
“It’s not a shock to me that that we won the regular season.”
He won’t be alone this year. Teammate Sheldon Creed also qualified for the 2023 Xfinity Playoffs. Winning the 2020 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship is valuable experience for both drivers.
“Sheldon and I, we’ve been become really good buddies over last year and this year, we hang out a lot. We talk a lot about our race cars and race craft and things that we can do better inside the race car, things that he does better than I do things, that I do better than he does. So we’re always kind of leaning on each other a lot.
“We race each other really hard. I feel like we race each other probably harder than most teammates on the race track. It’s been great working with him and glad to have him as a teammate.”
Creed approached and stood to the side, ready to shake his hand in collaboration to attack the Playoffs head on. A smirk by Creed returned a nod by Hill.
“We always have a have a little beer or something together,” Hill chuckled.
A toast to the next seven races for Richard Childress Racing.