Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Xfinity race with late pass
Hill, who won the 2023 season opener at Daytona, appeared headed to a runner-up finish Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but dramatically began closing the distance on Smith in the final 10 laps.
With one lap to go, Smith’s No. 16 Chevrolet got very tight in Turn 4 and Hill went to his inside and came away with the lead. He held Justin Allgaier off by 0.268 seconds at the checkered flag.
The win is the fourth of Hill’s career. So far this year, Hill has finished first, sixth and first.
“I saw him get really tight off (Turn) 4 and I wrapped the line really good and it was just a matter of trying to clear him and get into Turn 1,” Hill said of his winning pass. “There are things we can work on to get better but we’re looking really good for this year.
“You can never give up. No matter where you’re running, don’t quit. You saw (Smith) there, he was way out front but we had something left and we were able to bring it home and get the lead when it counted.”
Smith, who led 118 of the 200 laps, ended up fading to third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Josh Berry rounded out the top-five.
“Just the last 10 laps started to get a little snug,” Smith said. “I wasn’t getting much help with lapped traffic. All in all, I can’t be too disappointed.”
Completing the top-10 were John Hunter Nemechek, Sam Mayer, Riley Herbst, Sheldon Creed and Daniel Hemric.
Following the caution between Stages 2 and 3, most of the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Hill first off pit road. Jeremy Clements had to restart from the rear of the field for speeding on pit road.
On the restart on Lap 98, Hill was followed by Busch, Berry and Herbst.
Busch went to the outside of Nemechek on the restart and moved into the lead for the first time in the race.
Chandler Smith got around Busch on Lap 102 to return to the lead.
On Lap 140, several lead-lap cars hit pit road to kick off a final round of green-flag pit stops to take on new tires and fuel to make it to the end of the race.
Sammy Smith and Brandon Jones were forced to serve a pass-through penalty after speeding on pit road during their respective pit stops. Jones had to serve the penalty twice after he was caught speeding while serving the first penalty.
Once the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 146, Chandler Smith returned to the lead followed by Hill and Busch.
With 25 laps remaining, Chandler Smith had built a 2.9-second lead over Austin Hill as Allgaier ran third.
With 10 laps to go, Hill had cut Chandler Smith’s lead down to 1.3 seconds.
Austin Hill closed the gap to under a second with three laps remaining.
Hill claimed the Stage 2 win under caution when Rajah Caruth spun out with one lap remaining.
Jones was second, Busch third, Mayer fourth and Sammy Smith rounded out the top-five.
Following the caution between Stages 1 and 2, the lead-lap cars all pit with Hill first off pit road. Alex Labbe had to restart from the rear of the field for an uncontrolled tire.
On the restart on Lap 54, Hill led the way followed by Nemechek, Allgaier and Busch. Nemechek powered back to the lead shortly after the restart.
On Lap 72, Chandler Smith went to the inside of Nemechek and came away with the lead as Allgaier remained in third.
Berry spun off Turn 4 on Lap 74 to bring out the third caution of the race.
Nemechek was among those who pit under the caution. Chandler Smith led the way on the restart on Lap 79 followed by Allgaier and Busch.
Allgaier was penalized for a going below the white line before the start/finish line on the restart and was forced to serve a pass-through penalty.
On Lap 86, Hill made his way around Chandler Smith to take the lead.
Nemechek easily held off Allgaier at the line to take Stage 1 win.
Hill was third, Chandler Smith fourth and Riley Herbst rounded out the top-five.
Chandler Smith started on the pole and led the way until Parker Kligerman spun on Lap 3 after contact from Nemechek to place the race under caution.
The race resumed on Lap 7 with Chandler Smith still in the lead followed by Allgaier and Brett Moffitt.
Allgaier went to the inside of Chandler Smith and cleared him for the lead on Lap 13.
Nemechek got around Allgaier on Lap 22 as Hill moved into third.
With five laps remaining in the stage, Nemechek had opened a nearly 1-second lead over Allgaier with Hill in third.