HAMPTON, Ga. – A sweaty and exhausted Austin Hill stood next to his Richard Childress Racing No. 21 Chevrolet Saturday (July 9) with a cold towel draped around his neck and eyes succumb with bloodshot on the pit road of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
He groaned in disappointment over the NASCAR Xfinity Series race that had reached its end only minutes earlier. He had finished 12th, but it could have been so much better had it not been for an incident with only three laps to go involving fellow Chevrolet driver Parker Kligerman.
But just as the 29-year-old was ready to walk to his hauler to change clothes and move on to the next race, over walked Kligerman.
The driver of the No. 48 kept his distance from Hill, but he immediately apologized for what had happened.
The incident was only around 20 minutes earlier. Hill was running fourth in the Xfinity Series event and was looking for some way to get around the Kaulig Racing cars that had placed a monopoly on the top three. Hill, who had no teammates to work with, was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of help from the other drivers.
Like, really frustrated.
“Everybody’s just too scared to pull out of line,” Hill said post-race. “It’s pretty pathetic that nobody wants to go out and race. They want to just sit there and follow each other.
“[It’s] pretty lame to me. Probably wasn’t no fun for the fans to watch until the last restart there, just watching everybody get single file. Maybe one of these days, these people start racing and stop following a leader and just riding around like they do.”
With laps winding down, Hill was trying to gather any kind of support to at least challenge the dominant Kauligs.
“We just needed somebody to go with us,” Hill said. “Everybody wanted to just fall in line and follow the leader. I guess they were just going to let the three Kaulig cars finish one, two, three.”
Thus, from the bottom of the top 10 came Kligerman, who had fought his way to fifth by lap 162.
Kligerman had reached the back end of the No. 21 and would help him around the Kaulig cars to disrupt their dominance.
“I really thought he and I could push each other up to fight those cars in those last two laps,” Kligerman told Frontstretch post-race. “That was my intention. I just wanted to get to that corner, line up and push down the straightaway.”
However, a lapped car was in the high lane, and Hill was already running in the middle of the racing surface. Kligerman peeked the nose of his Big Machine Racing Chevrolet underneath the RCR car and lifted to go with Hill.
That’s when Kligerman barely, ever so slightly, nudged the rear end of Hill’s car. The contact – if there was even any at all – sent Hill loose and spinning.
Kligerman says he never made contact.
“I never touched him,” Kligerman continued. “It just packed air on him, and it just happened so quickly, and I tried backing off.
“I wasn’t trying to wreck anyone. … I just wanted to get to that corner line up and push down the straightaway, and when it got to his left rear, like that packed so much air.”
Hill decided to reserve his judgment until after he looked at the replay of the incident.
“I’d have to see the replay,” Hill said. “He said that it just packed air in my left ear and got me loose. I don’t know. I wasn’t even really sure what he was doing, driving up the racetrack like he was. I don’t know if he was fighting a loose balance or if he was trying to get behind me, and he just misjudged it.
“I don’t really know but [it] ruined our day, obviously.”
Although, his car owner Richard Childress wasn’t impressed after the spin – replay or not.
The day began with a chance for Hill to become only the second driver in Xfinity Series history to win at Atlanta three consecutive times. However, it instead ended with another mediocre and disappointing result.
About the author
Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.
Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT
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