Taming the Monster Mile is a difficult thing to do, but 20-year-old Austin Hill appears to have Miles the Monster on a leash. Hill from Winston, Georgia came back after suffering a flat tire with just over 50 laps to go to score his second straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win at Dover International Speedway (DE) on Friday evening.
Hill was racing hard with Brennan Newberry for the lead during the latter stages of the race, when Newberry got loose going into turn one. Newberry slipped up and into the left rear of Hill’s No. 22 before Newberry went for a long, lazy slide in the center of the corner. Hill did a great job to keep his car from spinning and to hold onto the lead, but he would be forced to visit after his tire went flat from the contact. A broken valve stem caused the tire to deflate.
“I was pretty bummed out about that,” said Hill about the flat tire. “I thought that if I got a top-five that would be great.”
Hill may have been knocked down, but he certainly wasn’t out of it. He restarted 13th on lap 98 and quickly worked his way back up through the field going three-wide at one point using any lane he could. Hill moved into third just ten laps after the restart.
“When we went back green and I could run the top and just pass people on the top side I knew that I would have a shot at it,” said Hill. “Especially since we had over 50 laps to go.”
As Hill was making his way back through the field, 2014 series champion Ben Rhodes and Kaz Grala were putting on a show at the front of the field as they battled side by side for the lead. Rhodes would go to the bottom and Grala would go about half a lane higher.
But while they battled hard for the top spot, Hill closed back in. Hill was close to three seconds behind Rhodes when Hill took third-place from Eddie MacDonald on lap 108. He brought the gap down to just seven-tenths of a second by lap 114.
Hill took over second from Grala on lap 116, and then moved by Rhodes going into turn three just two laps later.
After that Hill was able to drive off into a picturesque Delaware sunset. Hill’s margin of victory over Grala was 5.136 seconds when the checkered flag waved. Hill led a race high 62 laps.
“Once I took the lead I just never looked back,” said Hill. “I could get down the straightaway as good as anybody.”
After having already locked up the championship, Rhodes was just going out hoping to score his sixth win of the season. He led a total of 21 laps, but it certainly wasn’t the day he’d wanted.
Rhodes’ started losing power as he battled with Hill and Grala, and eventually the motor did expire under the hood of Rhodes’ No. 41 with two laps to go. The blown motor relegated Rhodes to a 15th-place finish after he ran in the top-five most of the day.
“(I am) disappointed in the race,” said Rhodes, who also won Rookie of the Year this season. “I think all of our guys are. It really started from lap one when it felt like we had some issues.”
Rhodes said he had wanted to do a celebratory burnout all season long, but the blown motor kept that from happening.
“I was wanting to do a burnout for the celebration,” said Rhodes. “I haven’t done one ever. For the end of the year we had a big celebration we wanted to do, but we didn’t get to do it.”
But Rhodes isn’t too disappointed. The lack of success in this race just has him even more driven for next year.
“I’m going to bring Miles home one of these days,” said Rhodes. “Miles is going to be mine one day.”
Meanwhile Hill will be bringing home his second statue of Miles. The win is not only Hill’s second straight at Dover, but it’s also his second straight win this season. Hill won the last time this series raced on September 6 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC).
“To be able to win Greenville two or three weeks ago and then to win here I think shows a lot about our team going into next year,” said Hill. “I just can’t believe that we won two in a row here.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (CT, Long Island, NJ) – Twitter; @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Drive Sober 150 Unofficial Results
Dover International Speedway – Dover, DE
1) Austin Hill
2) Kaz Grala
3) Scott Heckert
4) Eddie MacDonald
5) Brodie Kostecki
6) Sergio Pena
7) J.J. Haley
8) Gray Gaulding
9) Ryan Gifford
10) Dylan Presnell
11) Brandon Gdovic
12) Ronnie Bassett Jr.
13) Cameron Hayley
14) Kenzie Ruston
15) Ben Rhodes
16) Jay Beasley
17) Mackena Bell
18) Cole Custer
19) Matt Tifft
20) Milka Duno
21) Brandon Jones
22) Daniel Suarez
23) Jesse Little
24) Kyle Benjamin
25) Brennan Newberry
26) Anderson Bowen
27) Trey Hutchens
28) Nick Drake
29) Codie Rohrbaugh
30) Chad Finley