For the first time in 20 years, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series came back to Watkins Glen International Raceway for the final race of the 2021 regular season. Knoxville race winner, Austin Hill, claimed the victory, as the race was called just 11 laps short due to lightning in the area.
“It was nerve-wracking that’s for sure, I didn’t know if we were going to go back green or not,” Hill said to Fox Sports 1 about the victory. “It feels so good to win on a road course. I’ve been wanting to win on a road course for a very long time, even back in the (NASCAR) K&N Pro Series days. I felt like, I always get around the road course very decent and finally, we have a race where everything went our way.”
“I was biting my nails a little bit when that rain came. I didn’t know what was going to happen with the lightning and all that. Everybody at United Rentals, HRE (Hattori Racing Enterprises) they gave me a really good piece today and we were able to get it done.”
Following the two-week hiatus due to the Olympic break, the NASCAR Truck Series was back in action Saturday afternoon as part of a doubleheader feature with the NASCAR Xfinity Series following the event shortly thereafter.
Stages 20-25-27 originally made up the 72-lap event before lightning and rain came to the area late in the final stage.
Austin Hill was on the pole via the metric qualifying system.
There were multiple incidents in Stage 1. The No. 99 of Ben Rhodes and the No. 18 of Chandler Smith spun around in the first turn, however, no caution was thrown as both trucks were able to get fired back and going.
One caution occurred in the stage on Lap 9 for the No. 45 of Chad Chastain who wheel-hopped into Turn 1 and crashed into the tire barrier.
While there would be more spins including Rhodes spinning on Lap 10 and Matt Crafton on Lap 15, no more yellow flags were seen and Circuit of the Americus winner Todd Gilliland took the Stage 1 victory. Sheldon Creed, Derek Kraus, Josh Berry, Austin Wayne Self, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Stewart Friesen, Ben Rhodes and Ryan Truex completed the Top 10.
Stage 2 had the least amount of incidents and remained caution-free. Austin Hill was strong throughout the stage and nabbed the Stage 2 victory. Nemechek, Allmendinger, Zane Smith, Creed, Ankrum, Hocevar, Gilliland, Rhodes and Mayer were the Top 10 finishers.
As the final stage began with 23 laps to go, rain and lightning started to move into the area. On Lap 53 with 19 laps to go, the yellow flew once more for playoff-hopeful Derek Kraus who spun on the backstretch and came to a stop. Unfortunately, due to the incident, Kraus’s playoff chances were eliminated.
The field went back green with around 16 to go but the racing continued for only four more laps. Due to lightning, the trucks were brought down to pit road and after a long delay, the race was eventually called, giving the checkered flag to Austin Hill.
Regular-season champion John Hunter Nemechek finished second and will lead the playoff grid just 28 points above Hill heading into the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the first race in the Round of 10.
“Possibly, it’s hard to say with the high downforce package that we have on these trucks, dirty air is really bad,” Nemechek said about finishing runner-up. “You get super aero-tight behind other trucks and it kind of gives you a disadvantage being the second guy compared to being in clean air. Overall, we had a really fast Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra today. I feel like Austin (Hill) had the dominant truck all day. I do feel like we were better in certain spots, and he was better in other spots on the racetrack. Who knows what would have happened, he could have made a mistake, I could have made a mistake. It’s part of racing. I felt like if he would have slipped a little bit or if I could have gotten side-by-side with him, I feel like we probably could have made the pass and possibly drove off. I don’t know how fast, but I felt like we were playing cat and mouse with trading back who was faster on certain laps.”
Official Playoff Standings for Round of 10:
- John Hunter Nemechek, 2,049 points
- Austin Hill, -28
- Ben Rhodes, -30
- Todd Gilliland, -34
- Sheldon Creed, -58
- Zane Smith, -40
- Matt Crafton, -45
- Carson Hocevar, -47
- Chandler Smith, -48
- Stewart Friesen, -48
Tracks in the Round of 10 consist of Gateway, Darlington, and Bristol.
There were five cautions for 10 laps and six leaders among seven different lead changes. Hill led three times for 35 laps en route to victory.
Official Results following United Rentals 176 at Watkins Glen International Raceway:
- Austin Hill, won Stage 2, led 35 laps
- John Hunter Nemechek, led two laps
- Sheldon Creed
- Todd Gilliland, won Stage 1, led 18 laps
- Parker Kligerman
- Zane Smith, led four laps
- Tyler Ankrum
- Paul Menard
- Sam Mayer
- Carson Hocevar, led one lap
- Josh Berry
- Kaz Grala
- Christian Eckes
- Tanner Gray
- Ben Rhodes
- Austin Wayne Self
- Ryan Truex
- Corey Heim
- Hailie Deegan
- Stewart Friesen
- Derek Kraus
- Matt Crafton
- Johnny Sauter
- Timmy Hill
- Jack Wood, led one lap
- Tate Fogleman
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Danny Bohn
- Roger Reuse, 1 lap down
- Josh Reaume, 1 lap down
- Lawless Alan, 1 lap down
- Spencer Boyd, 2 laps down
- Chad Chastain, 3 laps down
- Taylor Gray, 8 laps down
- Jennifer Jo Cobb, 16 laps down
- Norm Benning, OUT, Too slow
- Grant Enfinger, OUT, Transmission
- Will Rodgers, OUT, Transmission
- Chandler Smith, Disqualified
Note – Chandler Smith was disqualified from his finishing position for failing post-race heights. As a result everyone moves up a position. However, Smith still qualifies for the Truck Series playoffs despite losing points and finishing position in the process.
Up Next: The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will begin their playoffs run at World Wide Technology Raceway on Friday, August 20, live at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio.