Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: Austin Hill Conserves Enough Fuel to Win Atlanta

Another week, another Austin Hill victory. 

The No. 21 Richard Childress Racing driver was able to conserve enough gas to claim his second NASCAR Xfinity Series win in a row at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Under a full moon, Hill took the lead in overtime to win his third race at his home track.

Chandler Smith was second, Shane van Gisbergen was third and Sheldon Creed and Parker Retzlaff earned their second consecutive top fives of the season.

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Choo Choo: Drivers' Thoughts on Another Single-Filer at Atlanta

Winners

I’d like to revisit my point from last week that Hill is skilled at superspeedway races. While yes, Atlanta isn’t as big as the other superspeedways, it still features drafting and can sometimes produce large crashes.

But Hill won because of fuel mileage, right? Yes and no. When Jesse Love dropped out of the pack at the start of overtime, Hill was in the right place at the right time and took control of the race. How did he get to that point to be ready to take the lead? With a good strategy, good pit stops and Hill’s desire to side draft the car in front of him while in the midst of a long train of cars.

Hill is very talented and can win in several different ways, as he displayed these first two weeks of the season.

Shoutout to van Gisbergen, who pitted during the last caution and surged through the field to place third. He learned some things about his car this week and applied it throughout the race to take a podium finish.

Since several cars ran out of fuel, that opened the door for some underdogs to earn good results. Retzlaff especially impressed since he earned his second-straight top five. The strong runs have him in the top five in points to start the year. 

Other drivers who took home good results were Jeremy Clements (sixth), Anthony Alfredo (seventh), Jeffrey Earnhardt (eighth), Kyle Weatherman (17th) and BJ McLeod (18th). These finishes can make a difference when more than 38 cars are attempting to make the race. A select number of drivers and teams make the field on points even if they are slower than the ones with less points. So the more points that a driver or team has, the better chance they have to qualify for the race.

Plus, everybody loves an underdog, right?

Losers

The obvious choice is all the drivers who ran out of fuel in the closing laps. With about three laps to go, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and Riley Herbst ran out of fuel and had to make a pit stop. Then, Ryan Sieg stalled after running out of gas, bringing out the caution. Cars started dropping like flies as their tanks went empty. Drivers like Justin Allgaier, Parker Kligerman and even polesitter Jesse Love all ran out.

Love’s unfortunate ending was a heartbreak for the No. 2 team, as the rookie had led all but 12 laps in the race. He won both stages and was well on his way to his first Xfinity victory, yet had to settle for 12th. He spent most of stage three out front, so he couldn’t save as much fuel as those behind him.

But with the speed Love showed the past two weeks, it’ll be no surprise if he breaks through to victory lane, especially at a drafting track.

See also
Fuel Tank Sputter Denies Dominant Jesse Love at Atlanta

Allgaier, who hung in the top 10 for most of stage three, saw the fuel situation turn “hairy” (as he said over the radio in the final laps). He dropped all the way to 28th after having to pit just as the field went to green in overtime. It was a frustrating result to what was a good points day.

JJ Yeley, or rather, his crew chief Jason Miller, lost his temper with DGM Racing driver Kyle Weatherman after the No. 91 bumped into Yeley in stage two, causing him to spin. The No. 91 team wasn’t happy and, according to Jonathan Fjeld, said: “He better have some pants on after this race because I’m going to come find him.” What this means, I have no idea. 

Miller did find Weatherman and showed his displeasure to the Missouri native via a shove and a “next time you touch my racecar” statement.

The whole thing seems rather absurd. They were running around 18th or 19th at the time, and Yeley didn’t hit the wall or other cars while trying to regain control of his No. 14. So why the reaction from Miller?

Perhaps it’s because of the work he and his team put in to the car before this race. Maybe he’s just really passionate about his car and driver. Whatever the reason, it seemed rather excessive for such a seemingly small matter.

Fuel for Thought (Literally)

There’s no better title for this section than for a race in which the top storyline was fuel mileage. 

What caused the race to end the way it did? Well, crew chiefs seemed to bank on the trends of previous Atlanta events that featured multiple cautions. The slower periods would help drivers save more fuel, though it would still be close for them. 

But a caution didn’t come until about lap 162 when Sieg stalled on the apron heading to pit road. 

Why didn’t crew chiefs plan for multiple outcomes? I mean, yes, they told their drivers to try to conserve gas. But that doesn’t help the 19-year-old rookie leader who’s inexperienced at these fuel-saving measures. The spotter or crew chief should’ve tried to coach Love on how to ease off the throttle a bit early on in that green-flag run. They could’ve even suggested or worked with his teammate to allow him to drop out of line and move up in front of Hill.

Instead, Love sees his first Xfinity victory disappear in the fumes of his fuel tank.

It’s definitely a lesson learned not just for the team, but for Love himself.

Where to Next

Next week, Xfinity drivers will hope to make the right gambles as they take on Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Practice starts on March 1 at 6:35 p.m. ET, with qualifying shortly after. Then, on March 2, the race begins at 5 p.m. ET and will air on FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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Dawg

Fuel milage races suck

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