When the recession hit, Austin Hill’s racing stagnated because of his family’s finances. It was then he began to realize that if he wanted his motorsports career to progress he needed to leave his Winston, Ga., home and move to North Carolina.
About a year ago Hill relocated his race team to a 10,000-square-foot building in Kannapolis that he and his brother-in-law, Kendall Sellers, share. Originally an carpet building, the structure had to have all of its old carpet ripped up before being converted to a race shop. This year, the facility has become Hill’s second home.
“Monday through Friday I’m in there from 8 o’clock in the morning until 10 or 12 o’clock at night,” said Hill, who lives about 10 minutes away in China Grove. “I still have a lot to learn. … But I’m learning as much as I can about the car, what adjustments need to be made to go faster. I think that’s helped us this year tremendously on how fast we are week-in and week-out at the race track.”
Last year, in Hill’s first full season in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East, he produced two victories, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 16 races, a performance that left him fifth in the standings.
This year Hill jumped into the standings’ lead with a victory at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway. He followed it with a fourth-place finish at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway. However, his seventh-place finish April 18 at Bristol saw him slide into second in the standings, just three points behind Charlotte’s William Byron.
“Working on the cars, I think, has made me better as a driver,” said Hill, whose team’s car inventory stands at four. “I think my team and I communicate so much better. We’re more like a family now.”
Hill’s team consists of three full-time employees, including himself, one person who handles parts pickup and crew chief Ron Otto, who comes in once a week and on race weekends. Otto works full-time at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Even though Hill became interested in racing as a toddler, he didn’t begin competing until age 6 in a quarter-midget. He finished third in his first outing and he’s been hooked on racing ever since.
Hill played basketball for his middle school, but he shunned the sport in high school because it would have interfered with his racing.
After winning a quarter-midget championship, he advanced to Bandoleros, where he claimed another title. By this time, Hill wanted to be at the race track every day.
At age 13, he began chasing a Legend car title and a year later claimed the Semi-Pro championship in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Summer Shootout Series.
“My dad never took me to a track that didn’t have a lot of competition,” Hill said. “He put me against the toughest competitors. When I was 15 years old and running a late model I was running against Kyle Busch, David Ragan, guys like that. I had to learn from them.
“We got a win or two from late models, but we didn’t run many late model races. When the economy crashed, my dad closed the shop. We didn’t really race for about two years. I only raced Legend cars in the Shootout and that’s 10 races. So I don’t even have 50 races under my belt in a big car.”
During the economic downturn, Hill worked for his father and learned to weld, assisting with constructing steel buildings.
Even though Hill’s focus is now on the K&N Series, he hasn’t strayed far from his Bandolero and Legend roots. The Kannapolis building that houses his K&N team also contains Legend and Bandolero cars fielded by AK Performance, a company his brother-in-law operates and Hill assists with on his off-weekends.
“I love going to the track and helping the 8- to 12-year-old kids, see them progress like I did when I was that age,” the Hill, 21, said. “It’s really fun doing that.”
Hill’s father, Bryan, owns the team known as Hill Brothers Racing. However, Hill believes the name may be changed to Austin Hill Racing since his two brothers have decided not to pursue the sport.
“I live and breathe racing,” Hill said. “That’s all I ever want to do. Hopefully, I can get up to the Sprint Cup level and race with these boys one day. Even if I don’t make it to the Cup level, I think I’ll definitely be working on race cars for the rest of my life.”
Bell victorious at Orange County Speedway
Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Christopher Bell won the super late model portion of the CARS Racing Tour Orange Blossom 300 at Orange County Speedway.
Bell qualified the Mooresville-based team third, but after missing driver introductions he had to start in the rear of the 30-car field. By lap 13, Bell had taken over sixth and on lap 41 he assumed the lead.
He then dominated the rest of the event to record his first career CARS Racing Tour victory. Bell is now second in the super late model standings of the Mooresville-based sanctioning body, four points behind leader Cole Timm of Mooresville.
Valvoline Little 600 to be broadcast
The event features NASCAR drivers in the facility’s rental karts. The coverage by 51 TV will include the drivers meeting, Valvoline Little 600 heat races, the 15-lap feature, the NASCAR spotters’ race and the future stars support races.
The broadcast will be from 5:30-9 p.m. at http://speed51.com/little600live/.
The broadcast team for the event is comprised of NASCAR TV broadcaster Bob Dillner, PRN At the Track host Lenny Batycki and veteran motorsports broadcaster Wendy Venturini.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Deb? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.