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February 15, 2019

Shigeaki Hattori

Austin Hill

Scott Zipadelli

Daytona Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We're going to start with our post‑race media availability for the 20th annual NextEra Energy Resources 250 in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, and we're joined by our race winning driver, Austin Hill, driver of the No.16 CHIBA Toyopet Toyota. And boy, what a feeling it is for you tonight to get to Victory Lane. And we also have crew chief Scott Zipadelli coming on stage now. We'll open the floor for questions.

Q. Earlier today in the drivers' meeting, Marcus Lemonis threw a bonus for winning the championship. Now that you're locked in, how desperately are you going to fight for that bonus at the end of the season?
AUSTIN HILL: You know, the number one goal is to win the championship, so we're locked in now. Kind of takes a weight off of your shoulders going into Atlanta. We get to go have fun now. We're not chasing points. We're not chasing anything but wins. That's going to be really cool. It's going to be a lot more relaxed, I think, going forward.
You know, the bonus structure that they have going on with Gander Outdoors and all that, that's a cool deal, so you know, obviously we want to go get that money. We're going to try every race as hard as we can, and if we come out on top, great; if not, we're going to take a decent day and go to the next one.

Q. Scott and Austin, kind of walk me through the decision to not go back in, especially when there were so few cars there, and how close was it to you guys actually going in?
AUSTIN HILL: Yeah, so man, we pitted pretty early I felt like, and they kept harping me, man. They just kept saying, save fuel, save fuel, max save, max save. Any time I could, shutting the motor off, letting it coast, doing all that, all those things. We knew how hard it was to pass tonight. It seemed like if you could get out front, you could kind of control the lanes and what you wanted to accomplish because our truck was really good leading out front I felt like.
We just took the chance. We took the gamble. You know, we're here to win races, so that's the chance we took. You know, luckily it worked out for us. I was pretty scarce off of Turn 2. I was thinking we were going to run out at any moment, but we made it to the finish.

Q. Scott, was there a chance you were going to call him in?
SCOTT ZIPADELLI: No, I was pretty committed. I was pretty committed. You watch these races, and if you're not on the front row or way in the back, your chances of getting wrecked are like 75 percent, right? So I felt like had a really good truck, and calculations put us really close, but then we get another caution. Just kept working on the numbers, and we were committed at that point, really.

Q. Kelly and I have been kind of having a debate, with Twitter, too, what constitutes an underdog, what constitutes a small team, and that's kind of been the story with the team. So both for Shigi and Scott, are you still underdogs? You're the championnow, but it's still a small team, one truck ‑‑
SCOTT ZIPADELLI: Yeah, we're the underdogs. We like that. I don't know what‑‑ yeah, we're definitely underdogs because we're a small team. We struggle with some‑‑ completing the funding last year, and we kept kicking the ball down the road. We had to lay some people off mid‑year to tighten up on our payroll and keep the team rolling.
But we went through the season with four less employees than we did last year through the off‑season, so we've all worked harder to pick up that slack. I don't really have the answer for that other than when you work‑‑ when you're surrounded by amazing people, amazing things can happen, and the heart and soul of this group of guys that we have assembled is just really, really amazing, to be honest with you.
We had a fun winter. We worked really hard. We laughed, and the guys, they're just all in. Their families are in. They're in, and it's just an amazing group.

Q. Shigi, do you think you're an underdog?
SHIGEAKI HATTORI: I don't know. Well, actually last year, obviously Brett, he did a really good job. Same things this year, most definitely I believe him. He does a good job.
And also, the other team members, they spent a lot of time in the off‑season, and definitely we're able to get a good season again this year.

Q. Austin, you guys gambled tonight, and it worked, but you told me after practice on Thursday that you were just grateful these guys were willing to‑‑ and wanted you to come drive their truck because you had never had that. Is this paying them back tonight? Against all the odds, everybody looks at you and goes, they shouldn't be sitting here, yet here you are. Is this you being able to pay them back for taking that chance on you?
AUSTIN HILL: Yeah, you know, I had a lot of people throughout the off‑season and even when I got to the racetrack asking if a lot of weight was on my shoulders, you know, coming into a team that won the championship. You know, I kind of embraced that. I felt like they went out and won the championship last year, so I feel like they should at least get a shot at it, you know, getting the final Round of Eight. Now we are.
Yeah, I mean, these guys have been awesome to me. The transition really hasn't‑‑ really hasn't been a transition, if you know what I mean. It's almost like I've known these guys forever. I go in the shop every day, I hang out, get to know the guys a little more each day. We go to lunch. We do all those things. So I just feel like the team bonding is a big key to success, and that's what we were able to do in the off‑season going forward.
And then Greci, Mike Greci is really the one that kind of stepped in and kind of asked me what 2019 was going to look like for me, and I didn't know at the time. Somehow it all came together. I'm still simply amazed that we're sitting here right now talking to you guys. It's a surreal experience. It's awesome that we had CHIBA Toyopet on board, Toyota, TRD and all those guys. And then getting the first win with Gander Outdoors, I think that's a really special deal.

Q. For Scott and Shigi, day one, as Scott, you said a minute ago, you guys like being the underdogs. How big a statement is this now as the defending championship team to say, okay, we have a shot to defend this title?
SCOTT ZIPADELLI: Actually I'm pretty proud of that. I thought about that on the way over here. I think it is a good statement. It's a good statement‑‑ we really don't care too much what other people say, right. I try to tune all that out, just we're focused on‑‑ I think it's a big statement for our employees and our race team, our partners, TRD, Toyota, all of our partners from last year to this year. I think it's a big statement that we are a championship‑caliber team, and we're going to work as hard as we can to give Austin the same opportunity that we had last year. We're pretty proud of that accomplishment today.

Q. Austin, on the last lap, the block that you threw on Enfinger on the backstretch, usually when you throw a block like that, you're either going to get wrecked and the whole field will, or they'll make a move and go underneath or above you. What was going through your mind when you saw him coming up quick on you, and did you think you were going to be able to make that stick?
AUSTIN HILL: Oh, man, I didn't know what was going to happen. That's really the first time I've been put in that predicament. You know, I really listened to Herm, my spotter. I think the whole backstretch I didn't look straight. I think I was looking in the mirror the whole entire time down the backstretch. I don't think I looked down until we were entering Turn 3, and then once we entered Turn 3, I was back looking in my mirror. So really that whole lap I was driving it off my mirror, just trying to block as much as I could.
He hit me. He hit me pretty good. It kind of got me upset, but I was able to correct it, and then he gave me a really big shot right down in the center of 3 and 4, and that's really a dangerous spot to be touched.
Man, Scott had that thing hooked up. We were a little on the tight side, but we didn't want to really mess with it because we thought it would be good at the end and it would kind of give you some stability, and it did. When he gave me that shot, I think if we would have been on the loose side, we wouldn't probably be sitting here talking to you guys.
My biggest concern was throwing that block, and then once we got off of Turn 4 and I was told that I was clear by one, it was just hopefully getting to the line and not running out of fuel, and we were able to do that.

Q. Austin, was there a point‑‑ you said a moment ago how you thought that you weren't sure what 2019 was going to hold. Have you been at a crossroads yet in your career where you thought, despite being in your 20s, that you thought it might be over, you have a family, two kids, at one point you were driving for your own race team and then driving for a mid‑level team. Did anything like this Hattori opportunity seem like on the horizon?
AUSTIN HILL: Yeah, I was at a crossroads back when I was 20 years old, so four years ago. We were kind of throwing it around, are we going to keep racing or not, and we wanted to stay in the sport. Yeah, we were only running 10 races and we were doing it on our own, doing our own truck team, so we wanted to stay in the sport, keep my kind of name out there, and then last year being able to go run a full season, it gave me a lot of experience. I got to go to all the racetracks. But yeah, I mean, the last‑‑ really the last four years, it's been‑‑ when it gets down to the end of the year, what are we going to do next year, are we just going to hang it up, is it time to go find a real job, go work in racing, do some spotting gigs, do something other than actually driving the trucks, and this opportunity, I never would have saw coming in a million years.
You know, I really‑‑ when I was approached, I never would have thought that we could have made it all work, and with great partners that we have and United Rentals coming on board this year with us and backing us a little bit more going into '19, that really helps.
So yeah, it's really‑‑ it's still a surreal moment for me. I don't think it's really set in yet. I'm going to be thinking about this all the way going into Monday and then we're going to be getting ready for Atlanta.

Q. Shigi, you guys have conquered the most from a championship to winning at Homestead to winning Atlanta and now winning at Daytona. Is there anything left for your team to accomplish?
SHIGEAKI HATTORI: Well, Daytona is definitely my dream come true. Again, we cannot stop, and everybody keep going hard. We cannot just get this and then go back to work. We try to every day spend more time and go forward.

Q. Austin, obviously you replaced the defending champion of the series, and I'm sure‑‑ I've seen some of the stuff on social media that people have said about that. How does this shut up the haters?
AUSTIN HILL: I mean, I feel like you're always going to have haters, no matter what series you're in, what team you're running for, what organization you're with. You're always going to have haters. Like Scott said, you just‑‑ you kind of just mind your own business. You work with your guys and accomplish what you can with the team. If the truck gives you a good enough truck to go run up front, then you go run up front that weekend. If you're struggling that weekend, you just‑‑ you learn from it and move forward.
You know, I'm sure that there's going to be some guys that kind of tell me good job for the win and all that and start kind of maybe moving over to the Austin Hill brand or whatever you want to call it. But there's still going to be haters out there, but that's not something I'm worried about. All I'm worried about is going to get wins for these guys and finishing in the best positions I can.

Q. Austin, how does this moment compare to what you imagined winning would be like at this level?
AUSTIN HILL: Man, ever since I was three, four years old, I wanted to be a race car driver. When I started racing, watching it on TV, all that, I always wanted to race at Daytona. I thought it was the coolest thing to see those guys run at Daytona. It's the World Center of Racing. It's so huge to win at a place like Daytona.
To come here and get my first win at Daytona, it's an amazing feeling. Like I said, I don't know if it's really set in yet completely with me. You know, I'm so, so excited going forward with these guys. I think that there's a lot of good things ahead of us and on the horizon. Can't wait to get back in the shop and get working with Scott again.

Q. Austin, can we go back to the incident on the backstretch? First of all, the contact with Ben Rhodes where you both had to get yourselves straightened out and it looked like everybody was going to blow past you, and then all of a sudden a wreck is breaking out and you somehow missed it. First off, the emotions of thinking you're out of it as you and Ben get together, and then how did you miss that wreck?
AUSTIN HILL: Yeah, so coming off of Turn 2, I had a huge run on Ben. He left the door open. He left the bottom open. So I went to go fill the hole. Right when I went to go fill it, he turned left, and when he did, we made contact. We were both able to gather it up and keep going, but it killed our momentum. I just knew our race was over. I knew that we were just going to hopefully take a decent finish and move forward to Atlanta.
But whenever I saw‑‑ I think it was the 20 or the 12 or somebody got turned and got into the 99, I just knew that all the cars went up, so I went all the way down as low as I could without touching the grass and just hoped and prayed that nobody touched me and nobody got into my right rear, and luckily we made it through. I don't really know how that happened, I just held a straight wheel and tried to get through it as quick as I could.

Q. Austin, whenever you're sitting in the rocking chair looking back on this win at whatever point in time, what are you going to remember most about it? What's going to stick out the most to you?
AUSTIN HILL: I think the biggest thing that's going to stick out the most to me is my whole entire family is here. It's a really special win for me. My wife and two kids and my brothers, they don't get to come all the time. This year they're going to be able to come a lot more. It's a little emotional for me because last year I think they only came to one or two races.
So to see them here today and to see all the smiles on their faces, it's just very special to me. And to be able to win the first race with Hattori Racing, I just think it builds a lot of momentum going forward. You know, if there was any type of doubts, that's out the window. We're in the championship chase now, so now it comes down to going to try to win some more races, get as much bonus points going into the Final Eight.
THE MODERATOR: Austin, Scott, Shigi, congratulations on winning Daytona. Good luck next week in Atlanta.

Q. (No microphone.)
SCOTT ZIPADELLI: Yeah, but we had the right engine in at Miami. I was just waiting for it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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