RPW Column: Lightning Strikes For Austin Hill In NASCAR Trucks Return To Watkins Glen; Second-Straight Series Win
Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – WATKINS GLEN, NY – Austin Hill was in a close battle with John Hunter Nemechek for possibly the win at Watkins Glen.
Then, lightning struck within the eight-mile radius.
The red flag came out and there was not enough time to finish the race due to the Xfinity Series’ schedule giving Austin Hill back-to-back wins in a wild race at The Glen.
Hill and Todd Gilliland started on the front row, and it was wild from turn one. Nemechek wheel hopped into Ben Rhodes spinning the latter around, also involving Chandler Smith. No caution came out. Five laps in, Todd Gilliland would take the early lead from Hill for a few laps until the first yellow as Chad Chastain came in too hot into turn one.
On the restart another close call as Christian Eckes got turned from Austin Wayne Self. Self would turn around Eckes’ teammate in the bus stop of Matt Crafton with five to go, infuriating Crafton and his team. Todd Gilliland would go on to win stage one, the only issue he reported was being tight through the bus stop.
Mixed strategy between stages, some coming in and others staying out to being stage two. Sam Mayer would have the lead temporarily, then Carson Hocevar would pass him to take the lead. A lap later, Zane Smith would get the lead back. Four laps later, Austin Hill would go to the point on lap 29. In a caution free stage two, drivers and teams were left with the decision in the final laps to stay out for a Playoff point/stage points or come in early to possibly cycle through to the lead. Everyone pitted under green after Nemechek pitted, and Hill reassumed the lead to win stage two.
On the penultimate restart, Hill held serve in the esses as Nemechek slammed the door on Zane Smith protecting second spot and nearly got turned. The battle for the win heated up between Hill and Nemechek. Another yellow would fly with just under 20 to go for Derek Kraus getting turned by AJ Allmendinger going down the back chute. One driver came into pit road, that being Stewart Friesen and it became a 16-lap shootout. Creed tried to go for second spot on Nemechek, who went wide in turn six, but didn’t make a move. Red would fly for lightning and an hour later, Hill was declared the winner.
“Once we played pit strategy, we got to the lead. I wanted to keep clean air. That was big for me. We made the right adjustments, did the right calls, just everything happened the way we needed,” Hill told RPW. “There’s no telling what could happen on the restart or something. It was nice to have the rain come.”
How much was Hill made aware on the incoming weather?
“The only time they said anything to me was right when we were going green on the last restart. We could make it all the way or get it cut short. When you have that restart, get your gears right. Try to save your stuff.”
MRN had said that it seemed like Nemechek was faster on the turns while Hill had the advantage on the straights. Nemechek seemed to agree on it.
“With the high downforce package that we have on these trucks, dirty air is really bad. You get super aero tight behind. Other trucks, give you a disadvantage being the second guy compared to being in clean air. I feel like Austin had the dominant truck all day,” Nemechek commented to RPW. “I do feel like we were better in certain spots. Who knows what would’ve happened?”
Nemechek also apologized to Ben for wheel hopping and said “that’s not how I want to race.”
Making it into the Playoffs via points are Carson Hocevar, Stewart Friesen, and Chandler Smith. They join John Hunter Nemechek (Regular Season Champion), Austin Hill, Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland, Zane Smith, Sheldon Creed, and Matt Crafton in the field to contend for the Truck Series championship.
Next up, the Playoffs begin at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway with the Gateway 200. Glen weekend concludes tomorrow with the Cup Series’ Go Bowling at the Glen. Race coverage starts at 3pm.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – United Rentals 176 at The Glen
Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, New York
Saturday, August 7, 2021
1. (1) Austin Hill, Toyota, 61.
2. (6) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 61.
3. (19) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 61.
4. (2) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 61.
5. (38) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 61.
6. (8) Zane Smith, Chevrolet, 61.
7. (10) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 61.
8. (39) Paul Menard, Toyota, 61.
9. (40) Sam Mayer(i), Chevrolet, 61.
10. (9) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 61.
11. (21) Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 61.
12. (23) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, 61.
13. (15) Christian Eckes, Toyota, 61.
14. (22) Tanner Gray, Ford, 61.
15. (5) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 61.
16. (20) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 61.
17. (12) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 61.
18. (16) Corey Heim, Toyota, 61.
19. (18) Hailie Deegan #, Ford, 61.
20. (17) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 61.
21. (7) Derek Kraus, Toyota, 61.
22. (4) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 61.
23. (14) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 61.
24. (36) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 61.
25. (27) Jack Wood, Chevrolet, 61.
26. (13) Tate Fogleman, Chevrolet, 61.
27. (25) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 61.
28. (11) Danny Bohn, Toyota, 61.
29. (35) Bobby Reuse, Chevrolet, 61.
30. (37) Roger Reuse, Ford, 60.
31. (33) Josh Reaume, Toyota, 60.
32. (24) Lawless Alan, Toyota, 60.
33. (34) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 59.
34. (31) Chad Chastain, Chevrolet, 58.
35. (32) Taylor Gray, Ford, 53.
36. (28) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Ford, 45.
37. (26) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Too Slow, 40.
38. (30) Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, Transmission, 8.
39. (29) Will Rodgers(i), Chevrolet, Transmission, 6.
40. (3) Chandler Smith #, Toyota, 61.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 87.298 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 42 Mins, 43 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 10 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Hill 1-4;T. Gilliland 5-22;J. Wood 23;C. Hocevar # 24;Z. Smith 25-28;A. Hill 29-41;J. Nemechek 42-43;A. Hill 44-61.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Austin Hill 3 times for 35 laps; Todd Gilliland 1 time for 18 laps; Zane Smith 1 time for 4 laps; John Hunter Nemechek 1 time for 2 laps; Carson Hocevar # 1 time for 1 lap; Jack Wood 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 38,2,19,25,22,23,66,52,99,40
Stage #2 Top Ten: 16,4,23,21,2,26,42,38,99,32