Two hours, three minutes and four overtime restarts after the race began, Austin Hill fended off Chandler Smith to win the first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Knoxville Raceway.
“I kind of thought we were out of it (winning the race) there for a little bit,” Austin Hill said to Fox Sports 1.
“I had that restart on the outside of the 38 (Todd Gilliland) and I fell all the way back to 20th (in the running order). I didn’t think we were going to make it back up, track position was huge. It was really hard to get around people. I just kept my head down.
“This team at HRE (Hattori Racing Enterprises) never quit. That’s the thing I like about this group. We never stop, we never quit. Even when we think we’re down and down, we just keep coming back. If you would have told me we would win a dirt race this year, I would have told you, you’re lying.”
The Georgia driver didn’t become a contender for the win until the final stage when Hill restarted in the top three. Yellow after yellow, Hill stayed in contention and did not let the 18 of Chandler Smith pull away. Eventually, right before the final yellow on Lap 172, Hill pulled slightly ahead of Smith at the previous timing/scoring loop, putting him in the lead. Despite Smith having the most dominant truck during the final 10 laps, he came up short, finishing second to Hill, and will have to wait another week for a chance at his first career victory.
“First of all, just have to thank Danny (Stockman, crew chief) and all the guys on this No. 18 JBL Toyota Tundra team. They worked their tails off on this thing and we got it really good in practice. We fell back there in the race, and I couldn’t run the top, but we were able to make it work on the bottom. We needed track position, but we were able to lead a bunch of laps. I don’t think the call was right (at the end with regard to line-up) that they (NASCAR) made to be honest, but it is what it is and that’s part of it.”
Prior to the main event feature, there were four 15-lap qualifying heat races to set the field. The driver who gained the most points in the heats would start on the pole. Josh Berry, Kyle Strickler, Tyler Ankrum, and Carson Hocevar all won their heat races. However, the pole position went to Derek Kraus who gained the most points of 17.
Throughout the first stage, there three cautions that slowed the event. The yellow flag was brought out when Johnny Sauter was spun by Chase Briscoe in Turn 4 and again when dirt regular, Brian Brown, was spun by Chase Purdy in Turn 3. The final caution of the stage occurred when Jessica Friesen spun on Lap 37.
NASCAR ended Stage 1 under yellow and Kraus took home the stage victory. Todd Gilliland, Josh Berry, Carson Hocevar, Tyler Ankrum, Sheldon Creed, Stewart Friesen, Brett Moffitt, Chandler Smith and Austin Hill rounded out the top 10 finishers.
There were only a couple of incidents in Stage 2. Jessica Friesen brought out the yellow for the second time on Lap 66 after getting spun by Kraus and collected by Morgan Alexander in Turn 3. Another caution resulted when the No. 51 of Brown spun in Turn 4.
Prior to the yellow, Gilliland had led the majority of the stage before being passed by Kraus for the Stage 2 victory.
The action really heated up in the third and final stage of the night. There were nine cautions and a 14-minute red flag during the stage. The major incident included a big pileup on Lap 155 when most of the field wrecked in Turn 1. The drivers involved included Rohrbaugh, Gray, Deegan, Benning, Berry, Ankrum, Zane Smith, Purdy, Erickson, Briscoe, Jake Griffin, Schatz, Creed and Windom, creating the red flag situation.
There were two more overtime restarts as more yellows flags were flown for incidents in Turn 1.
After the multiple cautions, the final restart came at Lap 177 with Austin Hill and Chandler Smith battling it out for the win. However, on Lap 179 (29 laps over the scheduled race distance), Austin Hill scored his first victory of the 2021 Truck Series season.
Chandler Smith, Grant Enfinger, Gilliland, Kraus, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Brian Brown, Tate Fogleman and Danny Bohn completed the Top 10.
There were 14 cautions for 80 laps and seven leaders among 20 lead changes. Hill led twice for 11 laps en route to his seventh career Truck Series victory.
Playoff Points Standings with one race to go until the Playoffs begin:
- John Hunter Nemechek, five wins, 34 playoff points
- Ben Rhodes, two wins, 11 playoff points
- Todd Gilliland, one win, 7 playoff points
- Sheldon Creed, one win, 6 playoff points
- Austin Hill, one win, 5 playoff points
- Zane Smith (clinched playoff spot), +140
- Matt Crafton (clinched playoff spot), +119
- Stewart Friesen, +61
- Carson Hocevar, +53
- Chandler Smith, +40
Below the cut line
- Johnny Sauter, -40
- Austin Wayne Self, -44
- Tyler Ankrum, -51
- Derek Kraus, -71
Official Results following the Corn Belt 150 at Knoxville Raceway:
- Austin Hill, led 11 laps
- Chandler Smith, led 71 laps
- Grant Enfinger
- Todd Gilliland, led 61 laps
- Derek Kraus, won both stages, led 10 laps
- Matt Crafton, led one lap
- Ben Rhodes
- Brian Brown
- Tate Fogleman
- Danny Bohn
- John Hunter Nemechek
- Jake Griffin
- Ryan Truex
- Zane Smith
- Chris Windom
- Carson Hocevar, led 17 laps
- Tyler Ankrum
- Devon Rouse
- Norm Benning
- Johnny Sauter, led eight laps
- Hailie Deegan
- Cody Erickson, 2 laps down
- Kyle Strickler, 2 laps down
- Andrew Gordon, 2 laps down
- Jennifer Jo Cobb, 3 laps down
- Jessica Friesen, 4 laps down
- Stewart Friesen 9 laps down
- Josh Berry, OUT, Accident
- Parker Price-Miller, 19 laps down
- Austin Wayne Self, OUT, Accident
- Tanner Gray, OUT, Accident
- Donny Schatz, OUT, Accident
- Chase Purdy, OUT, Accident
- Codie Rohrbaugh, OUT, Accident
- Sheldon Creed, OUT, Accident
- Chase Briscoe, OUT, Accident
- Jett Noland, OUT, Accident
- Brett Moffitt, OUT, Accident
- Jack Wood, OUT, Accident
- Morgan Alexander, OUT, Accident
Up Next: The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will take nearly a month off before heading to Watkins Glen International Raceway on Saturday, August 7, live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio at 12:30 p.m./ET.