The NextEra Energy Resources 250 kicked-off the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season at Daytona International Speedway on Friday. The race had two NASCAR Overtime attempts and was later won by Austin Hill. A total of 32 drivers took the green flag and only nine of those drivers finished on the lead lap.
Austin Hill started 10th on the leaderboard and looked strong upfront all throughout the race. Hill, a 24-year old driver from the state of Georgia, led the field for the most laps of 39 on his way to his first career NASCAR National Series victory.
“I never would have thought in a million years I’d win at Daytona. We’ve had some success at Daytona before, but just didn’t have the finishes we were looking for there at the end,” said one happy Austin Hill after the race. “We’d have something happen and to be able to come on board with Hattori Racing and start off the season like this, I think there’s going to be a lot of good things to come for us.”
Driving the No. 16 Hattori Racing Toyota, the same team that Brett Moffitt raced for one season ago and ending 2018 as the Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion, Hill and his team had to think about fuel in the closing laps. The team elected to stay out while holding the lead and go for the win – picking up right where they left off in 2018.
“I didn’t have any confidence to be honest with you. We pitted really early and we already knew it was going to be close and then when we went overtime, I was so scared,” Hill said. “I just knew I was going to run out coming off of four and not make it to the line. So much stuff was going through my head, but hey, we’re here in victory lane.”
Hill sat second in stage one and finished 13th in stage two.
Grant Enfinger finished behind race winner Austin Hill in the second spot. Enfinger started fifth in his No. 98 Ford and went back and fourth throughout the field all night long.
Enfinger, holding two victories in the series through 61 career starts, has 19 top five and 36 top 10 finishes.
Ross Chastain rounded out the top three finishers on Friday in his No. 45 TruNorth Chevrolet. Chastain finished stage one sitting 24th and 21st in stage two. The 26-year old driver earned his 16th career truck series top 10 finish.
Spencer Boyd and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five finishers in the season opener.
Josh Reaume, Timothy Peters, Angela Ruch, Austin Wayne Self and Stewart Friesen rounded out the top 10.
Several key drivers got caught up in race incidents all throughout the season opener. Natalie Decker was one of the victims early on when she and the No. 17 of David Gilliland were involved in the opening yellow flag on lap two. The next yellow flag for an on-track incident, on lap 27 just after the end of stage one, involved a trio of trucks including Chris Fontaine, Ray Ciccarelli and Tyler Dippel in turn three.
The action calmed until lap 53, just after the end of stage two, when 12 trucks tangled in turn four. The drivers involved in the fifth yellow flag of the night included Sheldon Creed, Jordan Anderson, Todd Gilliland, Gus Dean, Johnny Sauter, Austin Wayne Self, Brett Moffitt, Myatt Snider, Brennan Poole, pole sitter Christian Eckes, Stewart Friesen and Grant Enfinger. Eckes would bring out the sixth yellow of the night 10 laps later by dropping fluid on the track.
Numerous yellows came out the rest of the way involving one or two trucks at a time until two laps left on the backstrech. On lap 98 of 100, a nine-truck incident at the front of the field brought out the yellow flag that took out a number of contenders. Friesen, along with Ben Rhodes, Sheldon Creed, Gus Dean, Matt Crafton, Joe Nemechek, David Gilliland, Ross Chastain and Clay Greenfield were involved in the caution. After the field went green, on lap 105, a three car incident extended the race even further after Bobby Gerhart, Stewart Friesen and Austin Wayne Self tangled in turn two. The incident would be the final yellow of the already extended NextEra Energy Resources 250
The next race for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 23. The Active Pest Control 200 will air live on FS1 and MRN Radio at 4:30 p.m. ET.