Hattori Racing Enterprises

Austin Hill joins Hattori Racing Enterprises in Truck Series

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Austin Hill will drive for Hattori Racing Enterprises in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series this season, the team announced Tuesday.

Hill takes over the No. 16 Toyota from Brett Moffitt, who won six races and the series title for the team last year. Moffitt revealed in early December that he would not be returning to the team due to a lack of sponsorship.

Moffitt has not announced any plans for 2019.

A native of Winston, Georgia, Hill is a former member of the NASCAR Next program who competed full-time for Young’s Motorsports in the Truck Series last year and finished 11th in the standings.

Hill has 51 Truck starts since 2014 with one top five in last November’s race at Texas Motor Speedway

He also earned five K&N Pro Series East wins from 2013-15.

The No. 16 will be sponsored by Toyota autodealer Chiba Toyopet in the season opener at Daytona. United Rentals will be a sponsor in multiple races. The team was sponsored by Ibaraki Toyopet and Kobe Toyopet in one race each in 2018.

“I’m thrilled to join HRE this season,” Hill said a press release. “(Owner) Shige (Hattori) has built a great team and what they accomplished last season has me extremely optimistic heading to Daytona. I’ve had the pleasure to work with great teams in the past, including my family’s team in the K&N Series, but this is an opportunity of a lifetime at HRE. Scott and the team proved what they’re capable of last season, and I can’t wait to get to work and see what we can accomplish this season.”

Scott Zipadelli will return as the team’s crew chief.

“I’m really looking forward to racing with Austin and continuing our team’s success,” Zipadelli said in the press release. “Austin is a great kid and has a lot of potential. He has a great track record in the K&N Series and put together a strong year last season with Young’s Motorsports. I think he’ll transition well into our program and fit right in with our group.”

Hattori also announced this week it will return to competition in the K&N Pro Series East with Max McLaughlin in the No. 1 Toyota.

McLaughlin’s team will run engines prepared by students from NASCAR Technical Institute’s (NTI) Spec Engine Program.

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2018 Truck Season in Review: Brett Moffitt

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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Brett Moffitt

CREW CHIEF: Scott Zipadelli

TEAM: Hattori Racing Enterprises

POINTS: First (Won championship in his first full season)

WINS: Six (Atlanta, Iowa, Chicagoland, Michigan, Phoenix and Homestead)

LAPS LED:  269

TOP 5s: 13 (Career-best; earned three top fives in six races in 2016)

TOP 10s: 13 (Every top 10 was a top five)

POLES: None (Best starting position was fourth at Texas II)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: His Atlanta win put Moffitt in the playoffs early as long as the team attempted to qualify for all of the races … Six wins tied for the most during the season with Johnny Sauter; no one else had more than three … Won the final two races of the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Sponsorship woes plagued the team all season. In Week 11, they considered missing the race at Chicagoland before a sponsor was found at the 11th hour with Fr8Auctions.com. Moffitt won that race … Most often was forced to overcome poor starting position. Qualified on the first two rows only once and the first three rows six times; notably his last three races began in the top five.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2019: Despite winning the championship, Moffitt will not return to Hattori Racing and no other plans have been announced.

Xfinity, Truck series banquet highlights

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On Saturday night, The Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series gathered for their awards banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Here are some highlights from the banquet:

Xfinity Series

Tyler Reddick was crowned the Xfinity driver champion with Stewart-Haas Racing taking the owners championship.

Cole Custer finished second, Daniel Hemric was third and Christopher Bell finished fourth.

Camping World Truck Series

Brett Moffitt and owner Hattori Racing Enterprises grabbed the top spot in the Truck series.

Noah Gragson finished second with Justin Haley third and Johnny Sauter fourth.

 

Hattori Racing to replace Truck champ Brett Moffitt

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NASCAR Truck champion Brett Moffitt told Autoweek that he will not return to Hattori Racing for the 2019 season. Autoweek reported that the team is replacing Moffitt with a driver who will bring funding.

Even with last year’s success – Moffitt won six of 23 races – the team struggled to make it to some races and even considered starting and parking to maintain its playoff eligibility.

“We always wanted to stay together,” Moffitt told Autoweek. “The crew guys and I certainly wanted to stay together. I found out on Monday and I was at the shop on Tuesday to get my stuff. I met with (team owner) Shige (Hattori) and he told me the direction.”

Hattori issued a statement Wednesday that did not address who will drive for his team in 2019:

“We are extremely proud of what we achieved with Brett and winning the championship together. Our organization’s relationship with (Moffitt) dates back to 2012 and we’re thankful for what he has meant to our team and the effort he put forth. This past season was full of adversity and we faced numerous challenges in getting to the racetrack each week. Our entire team is working hard to put the best possible program together for next year and we’re excited to compete in 2019. We’re looking forward to celebrating our championship on Saturday night with Brett at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series awards banquet and hope our results together benefit all of us in the future.”

Moffitt’s status is not surprising. Even after winning the season finale in Miami to win the championship, Moffitt acknowledged that “I’m still not guaranteed a job next year.”

In an interview with Fox Sports Wednesday, Moffitt explained he was very understanding of the decision by Hattori.

“I get it. It’s a business at the end of the day,” Moffitt said. “If he can take an option where it’s going to help propel his business in the right direction, it’s what you got to do. If sticking with me would have meant a lot of uncertainty I totally get and respect the decision.”

Moffitt’s uncertain future was posed to NASCAR President Steve Phelps two days after Moffitt won the Truck title. Phelps was asked how the sport can make sure successful drivers have their place regardless of how they relate to a company.

“Brett Moffitt is obviously a very talented race car driver who has won more this year obviously than he’s ever won,” Phelps said in Miami the day of the Cup season finale. “He has a bright future. What that future looks like, I don’t know. What I do know is that we work with race teams from a revenue standpoint as much as we can. We also work with drivers to try to bridge driver opportunities.

Are we always successful in getting a driver who wants to be driving in whatever series they want to drive in? No. But there are a lot of historical things that we have done to try to make sure that if a driver is interested in continuing that that driver has that opportunity.”

A little over two weeks after the end of the season, Moffitt is sporting a fresh mustache. Five days after he claimed the title he shaved the one he had during his playoff run.

Moffitt explained bad things started happening to him once he shaved NASCAR’s first championship mustache since 2001.

“Five days after the championship I started playing really bad golf after I shaved it,” Moffitt said. “Then I found out that I will not be returning to HRE. So all these things kind of started happening … Then I started growing it back and I went out and played golf and shot a 78, which is the lowest round I’ve ever shot. I think (the mustache) got powers, man.”

Brett Moffitt seeks to join pantheon of NASCAR ‘stache champions

Daniel McFadin
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The first question to Brett Moffitt wasn’t about his four wins or the sponsorship woes that nearly cost him his playoff eligibility.

No, it was the thin strip of hair above the 26-year-old’s lip that was the elephant in the room.

Make that the caterpillar in the room.

After almost a month of growth you can’t miss it, especially in a series made up mostly of follicle challenged drivers under the age of 25. At the Camping World Truck Series Playoff Media Day, only the working man’s beard of 42-year-old Matt Crafton rivaled it.

Moffitt’s ‘stache is arguably the most talked about in NASCAR – at least on this day – since Dale Earnhardt Sr. shaved his to go snorkeling in 1999 or Jeff Gordon attempted to regrow his infamous rookie year ‘stache in 2012.

Those happen to be the ‘staches that stand out to Moffitt in NASCAR history, which is filled by the glorious whiskers of Terry Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Tim Richmond, Richard Petty and Mike Skinner.

Noah Gragson, one of Moffitt’s seven playoff foes, is not impressed with Moffitt’s ‘stache.

The eight Truck Series playoff drivers and Brett Moffitt’s mustache. (Getty Images).

“I think I can grow a much better mustache than him,” Gragson said straight-faced. “If you gave me a day-and-a-half, I could grow a broom on my upper lip. It’s not too good. His isn’t that great. His looks like a 12-year-old’s mustache.”

Has the 20-year-old driver grown his own?

“I haven’t yet,” Gragson admitted. “I just know I could grow a good one like that.”

Smooth-faced at 35, Stewart Friesen is actually “a little jealous” of Moffitt, since his facial hair follicles don’t have it in them to “make a good playoff beard.”

“When we won (Super) Dirt Week in 2010, 2011, everybody on the crew grew a mustache,” Friesen said. “But now he’s got it, he’s flying the flag.”

Moffitt will look to fly the flag that was last carried by Jack Sprague.

Moffitt, in his first year with Hattori Racing Enterprises, isn’t very familiar with Sprague, who was Ron Hornaday Jr.’s primary rival in the Truck Series in the 90s.

He won three titles in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Moffitt was only 9 when Sprague and his ‘stache won their final title together, marking the last time a national NASCAR driver won a championship with nothing but a ‘stache on his face.

“That’d be pretty awesome then,” Moffitt said of possibly giving his team the first ‘stache title in 17 years. “Bringing it back to the early 2000s.”

The chance to become the first millennial ‘stache champion in NASCAR started as a joke.

Last month Moffitt challenged his team before the seven-race playoff started.

“I can’t grow a beard, so I couldn’t do a playoff beard,” Moffitt said. “But I could do a … mustache. I joked with them, ‘Whose going to be in on it?’ Most of them agreed.”

He started growing the mustache – his first serious attempt at facial hair – the week of his Aug. 3 K&N Pro Series East win at Watkins Glen. Since then he won his fourth Truck race at Michigan and placed 18th at Bristol.

Moffitt doesn’t even touch it as part of his daily hygienic routine.

“This is just natural,” Moffitt said. “Just let it go, baby.”

In the last week, the 2015 Cup Series Rookie of the Year started to get cold feet.

Monday evening, he posted a Twitter poll: Keep the ‘stache or “give in to the haters”?

Thanks to 77 percent of 1,273 votes, Moffitt will ride with his new facial companion all the way through the playoffs, which begins this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Matt Crafton’s beard prepares to do battle with Brett Moffitt’s mustache. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

“I said the only way I’m going to shave it off is if I meet a really hot chick that says, ‘No, unless you get rid of the mustache,'” Moffitt declared.

What if a sponsor – one Moffitt is looking to back his low-funded No. 16 Toyota at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 13) and Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 2) – doesn’t care for it?

“That’s not in my contract,” Moffitt said. “So I can have all the facial hair I want.”

Since it’s here to stay, Moffitt will try to make history.

Told Moffitt could have the first title ‘stache since Sprague, Crafton gave a hearty laugh.

He then said he’d do his best to “keep that from happening.”

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