NASCAR Next Driver Making A Name In K&N Pro East
By the impressionable age of 5, Austin Hill fell in love.
Attending his first NASCAR race at Talladega Speedway, the Winston, Georgia, driver not only became a diehard Jeff Gordon fan, but also fell for racing himself.
By the time he was 6 years old, he was racing and at 8 he won his first quarter-midget championship (Gordon won his first quarter-midget championship at 8, too). And Hill didn’t plan to stop there.
Racing briefly took a back seat during the now 20-year-old Hill’s final two years of high school. He waited until 2012 – the summer after graduation – to makes his first two K&N Pro Series East starts. Since, however, it’s been on the fast track.
In 2013, Hill upped the start total to five, collecting his first victory at Dover International Speedway. Not only did he conquer the Monster Mile, but he bested some of the sport’s top young talents including Cole Custer, Kyle Benjamin, Gray Gaulding and Daniel Suarez.
And then 2014 rolled around.
Things started heating up this year. After being named part of NASCAR Next — an industry initiative designed to spotlight NASCAR’s rising stars — Hill’s first full-time K&N Pro Series East season was stamped a success for this family-run, single car team. He racked up two wins, seven top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes in the 16-race season – good enough for a fifth-place finish in the points.He capped the year with back-to-back wins at two grueling tracks: the flat half-mile of South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway, known for testing driver’s strategy with heavy tire wear, and a second win on the high-banked concrete of Dover.
That’s a huge leap compared to his partial season in 2013. And another win at Dover was the highlight of it all.
“This year’s Dover win meant more to me especially because of all the things we had to overcome – fighting a tight race car at the beginning of the race and then cutting the left rear tire down,” Hill said. “As a small team, you definitely have to work a lot harder. We don’t have six or seven guys working on the cars like most teams do, we only have one full-time guy. I try to work on the race cars as much as I can.”
Off the track, the driver took some big steps of his own. They included relocating from home to Kannapolis, North Carolina; getting married to his long-time girlfriend on the beach in South Carolina; starting a home renovation with his wife; and merging race teams (K&N Pro Series East, Bandaleros, Legends and Late Models) under one roof with his brother-in-law into AK Performance, which will be housed in their newly purchased 10,000 square foot space in Kannapolis. That particular project is currently being renovated by the duo.
“It gets tough at times for sure, having to help on the house then work on the Bandaleros and Legends cars, and then go to the shop we’re trying to finish up now. It kind of wears you out a little bit,” said Hill, “It is what I love doing and I hope to do it for the rest of my life. I just wake up every morning ready to work.”
What’s the next step for the rising star in 2015?
“We’re going to try and run the full K&N Pro Series East season for one more year and see where it leads to, try and get a championship next year.”
Sources: Alex Moore, NASCAR PR