Austin Hill rallies to win NASCAR Xfinity race in Las Vegas
By MARK ANDERSON
LAS VEGAS (AP) Austin Hill overtook Chandler Smith just before the final lap to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Smith, who was the pole-sitter, led 118 laps of the 200-lap race and appeared to be in good shape in the final laps before Hill made his late charge.
“I think with about 10 (laps) to go was where it set in I had a really, really good chance to win the race," Hill said. “I knew once I got in there, I couldn’t mess around. I had to make my move right away, and he just happened to slip up in (turn) three or four and he gave me that opportunity to get underneath him.”
Hill also won the season-opening race two weeks ago at Daytona in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. The four-time series winner was sixth last week at Fontana, California.
His victory was another impressing showing for RCR. In addition to Hill's two Xfinity wins, Kyle Busch won the Cup Series race last week in Fontana and was in position to take the checkered flag at the Daytona 500 if not for a crash that forced overtime.
Hill also won the second stage Saturday, and he leads the season standings by 12 points over Smith.
“I just think it shows that we mean business,” Hill said. “We’re here to play and we’re here to win, and we are showing that confidence. I had confidence going into the season, and winning Daytona builds the confidence even more. Now that we got a mile-and-a half winner under our belt, I think we can go in anywhere.”
His other three career victories were on superspeedways, though his win at the 1 1/2-mile track at Atlanta falls under that category after it was repaved before last year's races.
The Las Vegas race looked like Smith's to lose, and that's largely how it played out as Hill overcame more than a two-second deficit in the late laps. He charged past Smith near the start/finish line of the final lap.
Smith, a rookie who drives the Kaulig Racing No. 16 Chevy, said his car got tight near the end and he finished third. He also was passed by Justin Allgaier in the JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevy.
“It's a tough pill to swallow,” Smith said. "All in all, I can't be too disappointed. It's my sixth start.”
Kyle Busch in the Kaulig No. 10 Chevy finished fourth at his hometown track, a night after taking the NASCAR Truck Series race.
Josh Berry, who has won this race twice including last October, finished fifth in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevy.
It was a busy 24 hours for Berry, who found out Friday night he would have to replace Chase Elliott in Sunday's Cup Series race. Chase was injured in a snowboard accident in Colorado, and he underwent surgery to repair a broken tibia and is out indefinitely.
“Without a doubt, it’s going to be a great challenge for me," Berry said. “But a great challenge comes great opportunity for me to learn and grow as a driver, and work around a lot of really great, talented and smart people here at Hendrick Motorsports.”
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Updated March 4, 2023