You could sense the disappointment oozing from Austin Hill after he climbed from his No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro following Saturday night’s Alsco Uniforms 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The 29-year-old, who has emerged as the best superspeedway racer in the NASCAR Xfinity Series over the last couple of seasons, was outnumbered by the field once his only drafting help — teammate Sheldon Creed — fell from the race on Lap 88.
As the race drew to a close, Hill was trying to single-handedly defeat three Kaulig Racing teammates, as virtually everybody else in the field seemed in no hurry to push Hill to the front, or even pull out and make a move themselves. Hill admitted that he was miffed that other drivers in the race seemed content to rest on a solid top-five or top-10 finish and seemed in no hurry to pull out of line to try to advance forward.
“It sucks because we still had a shot at winning the race. We just needed somebody to go with us,” Hill explained after the race. “Everybody just wanted to fall in line and follow the leader. I guess they were just going to let the three Kaulig cars finish 1-2-3. Everybody is just too scared to pull out of line. So, pretty pathetic that nobody wants to go out and race. They just want to sit there and follow each other. Pretty lame to me.”
Hill continued by saying, “Maybe one of these days, these people will start racing instead of following the leader around like they do.”
While he was fighting a losing battle against the Kaulig Racing cars, Hill was spun by the No. 48 Big Machine Racing car, which is driven by Parker Kligerman. Hill says that while he hasn’t seen a replay, he is baffled by what Kligerman was trying to accomplish at the time that he was sent spinning out of contention on Lap 162.
“I’d have to see the replay. [Kligerman] said that it just packed air on my left rear and got me loose. I don’t know,” Hill said. “I wasn’t even 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 just trying to get behind me and if he misjudged it. I don’t really know. But ruined our day, obviously. Just have no friends out there. Everybody is my enemy.”
It’s hard driving with everyone as your enemy, but that’s how it goes when you build up a reputation of being unbeatable at superspeedway races. People absolutely refuse to push you to yet another win.
“I’ve noticed that, really all of this year. When we go into a superspeedway, nobody wants to work with me — the only person who does is my teammate Sheldon, other than that you have no Chevy alliances. Nobody. You’re just out on an island by yourself and trying to do all you can. It makes it tough. It doesn’t make it easy. You have to work extra hard.”
While it’s understandable that nobody wants to play second fiddle to Hill, and the No. 21 team, Hill’s frustration of how he was raced in the closing laps on Saturday is justified because of who he was racing against.
While he said he feels that he has no on-track alliances at superspeedways, that actually isn’t supposed to be the case.
Kaulig Racing and Big Machine Racing are two alliance teams of Richard Childress Racing, the team that Hill drives for. RCR provides a lot of support, data, engines and everything else to help those teams get better results on the track.
While RCR continues to help their alliance mates, Hill says it feels like his “teammates” by way of alliance always seem to screw him over.
“I mean, it’s whatever. It is what it is. We have an alliance with Kaulig. We have an alliance with the 48. But for whatever reason — I don’t know if they’re bitter that I outrun them on the superspeedways or what it is, but they do all they can to screw me and they definitely did it tonight,” Hill stated emphatically.
Hill had a potential win within his grasp but had to settle for a rally back to finish 12th after a late-race spin.
The growing tension between Richard Childress Racing and their alliance teams is nothing new by the way. Back at Martinsville Speedway in April, Sheldon Creed complained that the Kaulig Racing drivers rough him up more on the track than anyone else following a late-race crash that eliminated a chance at a good run for the No. 2 RCR team.
It seems that the RCR alliance teams haven’t improved in that regard to Hill’s liking since that day. And you certainly get the sense that the frustration among the camp is beginning to boil over.