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Notes: The Glen Sets The Field For Trucks Playoffs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 7 2021

Austin Hill collects a Trucks Series win at The Glen. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. _ Aided by an unexpected assist from Mother Nature, Austin Hill won Saturday’s United Rentals 176 at The Glen. But with the 10-driver field for the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs now set, this postseason figures to be all about John Hunter Nemechek.

Nemechek finished second to Hill in a battle of Toyota Tundra drivers that ended under a red flag after 61 laps/149.45-miles of the scheduled 72 laps/176.4-miles due to lightning and threatening weather. A five-time winner this season, Nemechek clinched the NCWTS Regular Season Championship by 89 points over Hill.

As such, Nemechek and Hill will be seeded 1-2 when the postseason begins under the lights with the NCWTS 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Madison, Ill., on Friday, Aug. 20.

“It all comes down to Phoenix,” said Nemechek, alluding to the Playoffs finale at the 1-mile Phoenix Raceway on Friday, Nov. 5. “You have to make it there, be in the Final Four and whoever has the better race and plays the strategy right. We’re on our ‘A’ Game I feel like, and we’ve been preparing fast trucks all year and we just have to keep the momentum rolling. Have to try to be that one that’s the favorite going into Phoenix.”

Nemechek and Hill were among seven drivers to start Saturday’s event on WGI’s historic 2.45-mile/seven-turn layout with their Playoff futures secure. They were joined by Ben Rhodes (15th), Todd Gilliland (fourth), Zane Smith (sixth), three-time series champion Matt Crafton (23rd) and Sheldon Creed (third). Saturday’s outcome allowed rookies Carson Hocevar (10th) and Chandler Smith (18th) and veteran Stewart Friesen (21st) to join the party.

Pole-sitter Hill led a race-high 35 laps en route to his second victory of 2021 and eighth overall in 113 series starts. It also was his first victory and top-10 finish in two races at WGI. Hill said dealing with the possibility of rain, not to mention lightning, was “nerve-wracking.”

“The only times that they came on the radio and said anything to me was right when we were going green for that last restart (on Lap 57),” said Hill, driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota fielded by Hattori Racing Enterprises. “My crew chief, Scott (Zipadelli) came over the radio and said there was weather in the area, don’t know how long it’s going to last. We could make it all the way or we could be cut short, we don’t know. Just get to the lead if you can and when you have that restart, get through the gears and everything right. Try to save your stuff, but at the same time go. Don’t hold back, don’t let guys get around you.

“I was trying to manage that the best I could. I saw the No. 4 (Nemechek) was pushing really hard, he was driving in deep. I was just trying to save my stuff, but at the same time just keep that gap from him. I didn’t want him to get too close to me. We just played that cat-and-mouse game the right way.”

Hill said the series’ three-week summer break, including two for the Tokyo Olympics, allowed his HRE crew to prepare for The Glen and the Playoffs.

“Actually, we brought a whole brand new road-course package than what we had been running this weekend and we didn’t really know what to expect with no practice,” Hill said. “It paid off and we unloaded and were really good. They made good calls on pit road to get us to the lead and then get that clean air and the adjustments that were made were really good.”

Nemechek, meanwhile, continued to deliver for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Nemechek _ who returned to the Truck Series after a frustrating 2020 season in Cup _ has posted those five wins, eight top-fives and 11-top-10 results in 14 races. Saturday’s start was his first at WGI, which played host to its first NCWTS race since 2000.

“When Kyle and I sat down at the end of last year, beginning of this year when this whole deal came together, we pretty much went into it and told me that I had to have a championship mindset,” said Nemechek, 24, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota. “Don’t make mistakes, don’t make people mad and just go run your races and dominate races.

“I’m lucky enough that I’m the guy that Kyle believed in that could do that and put the experience there _ like a Matt Crafton-type guy _ as he would say. It’s definitely been nice to kind of fill those shoes with Toyota and with Kyle as well within the organization. The last time KBM was a real threat for the championship was William Byron and Christopher Bell era, so hopefully we can be on the list with those guys.”

Hill, only the fourth driver to win the six Truck Series races run at The Glen, quietly issued this caution to anyone conceding the championship to John Hunter and his “Rowdy” team-owner. 

“Don’t count us out. We’re hungry and we’re ready,” said Hill, 27. “We have a lot of confidence so we’re ready to go for these Playoffs.”

Teen-ager Ty Gibbs outhustled veteran road-racing ace A.J. Allmendinger after losing the lead on a late-race restart to win Saturday’s 26th annual Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey NASCAR Xfinity Series event.

Ty Gibbs mounts the podium at The Glen. (RacinToday photo by Martha Fairiss)

Gibbs, 18-year old grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, was passed by Allmendinger at the bottom of Turn 1 on a restart on Lap 79 of the scheduled 82. But Gibbs relentlessly closed the gap around the 2.45-mile/seven-turn layout to retake the lead in Turn 6 on Lap 80. Gibbs pulled away to a margin of victory of 0.938-seconds over Allmendinger, with reigning series champion Austin Cindric placing third.

“You never give up, just keep hammering down to the end,” said Gibbs, driver of the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Supra fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. “I need to work on my restarts, as everybody saw, but that’s part of learning. Just not charging hard enough, little stuff like that. Just kind of learning how to push it. That’s going to happen. I feel like on the days I lose I work harder the next week.”

After finishing second in Friday’s ARCA Menards Series race here, Gibbs scored his third Xfinity win in 10 career starts at historic WGI. Gibbs’ previous Xfinity wins this season came on the Daytona International Speedway Road-Course and the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval.

“It’s super-cool to win here, just wonderful _ a track where Graham Hill, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon _ you name it _ raced. People I looked up to as a driver,” said Gibbs, who led a race-high 43 laps. “It means a lot, hasn’t set in yet.”

Allmendinger posted his second top-10 finish in four races at WGI. “The Dinger” now has 13 top-10 finishes in 2021 and admittedly was impressed by Gibbs.

“Ty did a great job, he was clean, made a great move on me and I couldn’t really do anything to defend it,” said Allmendinger, driver of the No. 16 Hyperice Chevrolet Camaro fielded by Kaulig Racing. “I needed him to lose about three more spots (on the restart). I knew how good he was, especially in the Carousel (Bus Stop) and going through the last couple corners. That car had a lot of rear grip and he used it. Congratulations. Fantastic job by him. Proud of everybody at Kaulig Racing. Solid day, but it sucks when you come in second.”

With Saturday’s results, Team Penske’s Cindric _ a four-time winner in his No. 22 Car Shop Ford Mustang _ and two-time winner Allmendinger have maintained their spots atop the Xfinity Series championship standings. Cindric leads Allmendinger by 80 points with six regular-season races remaining to set the 12-driver Playoff field.

JR Motorsports’ Michael Annett sits 12th in the standings with a 30-point advantage over Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst and a 45-point pad over Brandon Brown.

Corey Heim drew to within two points of ARCA Menards Series point-leader Ty Gibbs with a victory in Friday evening’s Clean Harbors 100 at The Glen, the second/final road-race of the season.

Heim won his fifth ARCA race of 2021 and sixth dating to last season. 

“Everything we possibly could bring to the racetrack, we brought today,” said Heim, who led the final 18 of 41 laps around the 2.45-mile/seven-turn layout in his No. 20 Toyota. “This Venturini Motorsports team has battled back from a lot this year. I’m really proud of them; this Craftsman Camry was rolling really good today.”

The race’s flow changed at the end of Lap 23. Chase Briscoe, who had taken the lead from Gibbs eight laps earlier, was forced to pit with a suspension issue. Simultaneously, Heim was catching and passing Gibbs for position. Because of Briscoe’s issue, what would have been a move for second became a pass for the lead when Heim got the best of Gibbs going into the Bus Stop at the top of the Esses.

Austin Hill, who won Saturday’s weather-shortened NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race here, finished second after passing Gibbs in the closing laps. Gibbs placed third after leading 14 laps and now leads Heim, 672-670. Carson Hocevar and Brandon Jones finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Riley Herbst, Taylor Gray, Nick Sanchez, Austin Wayne Self and Jack Wood rounded out the top-10.

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NASCAR Xfinity Series Race

Watkins Glen International

Watkins Glen, New York

Saturday, August 7, 2021

  1. (15)  Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 82.
  2. (6)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 82.
  3. (2)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 82.
  4. (1)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 82.
  5. (4)  Harrison Burton, Toyota, 82.
  6. (21)  Brandon Jones, Toyota, 82.
  7. (11)  Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 82.
  8. (8)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 82.
  9. (5)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 82.
  10. (23)  Sam Mayer #, Chevrolet, 82.
  11. (18)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 82.
  12. (14)  Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 82.
  13. (10)  Riley Herbst, Ford, 82.
  14. (19)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 82.
  15. (7)  Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 82.
  16. (12)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 82.
  17. (24)  Kris Wright(i), Toyota, 82.
  18. (13)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 82.
  19. (17)  Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 82.
  20. (20)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 82.
  21. (16)  Jade Buford #, Chevrolet, 82.
  22. (3)  Daniel Hemric, Toyota, 82.
  23. (35)  Preston Pardus, Chevrolet, 82.
  24. (30)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 82.
  25. (28)  Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 82.
  26. (9)  Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 82.
  27. (27)  Jesse Little, Chevrolet, 82.
  28. (40)  Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 82.
  29. (32)  Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 81.
  30. (25)  Joe Graf Jr., Chevrolet, 81.
  31. (31)  Colby Howard, Chevrolet, 81.
  32. (39)  Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, 81.
  33. (38)  David Smith, Chevrolet, 80.
  34. (22)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Electrical, 75.
  35. (34)  Michael Munley, Chevrolet, Suspension, 74.
  36. (36)  Erik Jones(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 66.
  37. (33)  Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, Chassis, 53.
  38. (29)  Matt Mills, Toyota, Accident, 47.
  39. (26)  Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 28.
  40. (37)  Kyle Tilley(i), Chevrolet, DVP, 20.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  84.088 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 23 Mins, 21 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.948 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 15 laps.

Lead Changes:  12 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Allgaier 0;A. Cindric 1-21;H. Burton 22-24;B. Jones 25;T. Gibbs # 26-36;A. Allmendinger 37-41;T. Gibbs # 42-48;D. Hemric 49-55;T. Gibbs # 56-70;A. Cindric 71;T. Gibbs # 72-78;A. Allmendinger 79;T. Gibbs # 80-82.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Ty Gibbs # 5 times for 43 laps; Austin Cindric 2 times for 22 laps; Daniel Hemric 1 time for 7 laps; AJ Allmendinger 2 times for 6 laps; Harrison Burton 1 time for 3 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,16,18,20,10,11,9,19,98,8

Stage #2 Top Ten: 16,54,22,7,9,98,8,1,31,18

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 7 2021
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