Race leader Austin Hill was declared the winner of Saturday’s United Rentals 176 at the famed Watkins Glen International road course after lightning in the immediate area forced the field to stop on pit road 11 laps from the scheduled race finish.
Hill had taken a 1.023-second lead over John Hunter Nemechek before the trucks headed to pit road where they waited under red flag conditions for nearly an hour before the race was officially called.
The race marked the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season finale, officially setting the 10-driver 2021 Playoff field. And while there were no impactful moves in the standings as far as Playoff eligibility, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying in the truck series’ first race at the 2.45-mile vintage road course in 21 years.
Hill, who had previously only led two laps in his career on road courses, led a race-best 36 of the 61 laps in the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota to take his second win of the season — and second straight after claiming the trophy in the previous race, July 9 on the Knoxville, Iowa dirt track.
“It was nerve-wracking that’s for sure, I didn’t know if we were going to go back to green or not,” said Hill, 27, of Winston, Ga. “It feels so good to win on a road course.
“I was really 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. But they gave me a really great piece today and we were able to go out there and get it done. It’s really special to get a win at Watkins Glen.”
Nemechek’s runner-up effort was his series-best ninth top five. His five wins in the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota are most in the series this season and a personal high mark for the 23-year old second-generation star who also receives a 15-point bonus for winning the regular season title.
The victory was especially big for Hill, moving him into second place in the standings, 18 points behind Nemechek to start the Playoff run. Another two-race winner Ben Rhodes, who finished 15th on Saturday, is ranked third.
The remainder of the 10-driver Playoff field includes Todd Gilliland, 2020 series champion Sheldon Creed, Zane Smith, three-time series champion Matt Crafton, first-time Playoff contenders, rookies Carson Hocevar and Chandler Smith and veteran Stewart Friesen.
Derek Kraus, the popular 19-year old Wisconsin driver, was officially eliminated from Playoff contention after spinning out with 19 laps remaining. Kraus had run in the Top-5 early in the race, placing third in Stage 1. He started the race ranked 11th — 40 points from the Playoff cutline line. But he and Tyler Ankrum, who started the race 12th in points, essentially needed a victory to secure that Playoff position. Ankrum finished seventh.
In many ways, Saturday’s race was a Playoff preview. Gilliland won Stage 1 and Hill took the Stage 2 victory, both fending off runs by fellow championship eligible drivers.
Creed, who boasts the series all-time best road course average finish (3.0), finished third. Gilliland was fourth and Parker Kligerman rounded out the Top-5 — his first top five showing of the season.
The first three-race round of the 2021 Playoffs begins Aug. 20 with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Gateway 200 (9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at World Wide Technology Park at Gateway. The following two races of the round are at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 5 and then Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 16.
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
–By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.