In a race that started in chaos and ended in bedlam on the last lap, Austin Hill won his third NASCAR Xfinity Series race of the season, beating Daniel Hemric to the checkered flag in Saturday’s RAPTOR King of the Tough 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
With his family in attendance, the Winston, Ga., native, led three times for a race-high 103 laps and dominated an event that featured a record 12 cautions for 68 laps.
NASCAR called the final yellow on the last lap, after a multi-car wreck erupted as Hill and Hemric approached the finish line.
Here's a look at the end of the race at @ATLMotorSpdwy. pic.twitter.com/GoPTUfMyUK
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) March 19, 2023
Parker Kligerman made a race of it until the cars entered the frontstretch dogleg on the last lap. At the end of a two-lap dash to the finish, Kligerman’s Chevrolet turned sideways across the front bumper of Hemric’s car and hit the right rear of Hill’s No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevy.
Hill maintained control and took the checkered flag with Hemric trailing by 0.085s. Kligerman slid backwards across the finish line in fourth, as Ryan Truex edged him for the third spot by 0.001s.
“They knew we were here,” Kligerman radioed to his Big Machine Racing team.
The defending race winner, Hill came to Atlanta with victories at Daytona and Las Vegas and, understandably, the Xfinity Series lead. The win was Hill’s second at Atlanta and the fifth of his career.
The only thing that shook Hill all night was the contact with the right rear of his car in the final 100 yards.
“I have no idea how I saved it coming to the line,” Hill said, after his young daughter ran out to greet him at the finish line. “What a start to the season. Everybody at Richard Childress Racing, ECR engines—we’ve just had such a fast start with Chevrolet. This has been special, for sure.”
Riley Herbst finished fifth, followed by Brett Moffitt, Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek, Sam Mayer and Justin Haley.
Hill won the first stage, and Kligerman gave Big Machine its first-ever stage victory in the second.
In the first two stages combined, the race featured more caution laps than green-flag laps—49 to 31, to be exact—the result of nine yellow flags.
Josh Williams’ No. 92 Chevrolet sustained damage in a lap 27 accident with the No. 02 Chevy of Kyle Weatherman, and when Williams dropped debris on the frontstretch to cause the fourth caution moments after the subsequent lap 32 restart, NASCAR parked him under the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
Instead of driving his car to the garage, however, a frustrated Williams parked it at the start/finish line. NASCAR ordered Williams to the hauler for a discussion of the incident, after he was released from the infield care center.