Austin Hill went back-to-back for the first time in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career with his first road course victory at Watkins Glen International (WGI) in the United Rentals 176. The driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra dominated to lead 35 of the 61 laps completed in the weather-shortened event. His second-consecutive win came along with the Stage 2 victory en route to cap off the regular season. His eighth career win also earned him an additional eight playoff points by winning the race, earning his first stage win of 2021, and gained a position in the championship standings to finish second in the regular season point battle.
By virtue of his previous victory at Knoxville Raceway, metric qualifying placed Hill on the pole for Saturday afternoon’s United Rentals 176. As chaos immediately erupted in his rearview mirror on the opening lap, Hill jumped out to lead the first four laps and held position inside the top five over the first 17 circuits. As his handling condition built tight, crew chief Scott Zipadelli called Hill to pit road on lap 17 for four tires, fuel, and air pressure changes.
While Hill was scored 19th at the end of Stage 1, the pit call allowed Hill to line up third on the following restart and gained two positions in the pit cycle.
When the green flag dropped on Stage 2 at lap 24, Hill employed his tire conservation skills and it paid significant dividends in short order. Hill climbed to third by lap 27 and grabbed the second position on lap 28. He immediately drew a bead on the leader and regained the race lead on lap 29 with a hard-braking maneuver into the chicane.
After taking the lead, he drove away to an advantage of over three seconds before pitting on lap 42. An extremely short pit cycle moved Hill back to the lead by lap 44 and allowed him to capture his first stage win of the season on lap 45.
As dark clouds began to appear on the horizon, Hill jumped out to the lead once more on the lap 50 restart. Hill masterfully managed the lead by efficiently balancing a hard enough pace to maintain the race lead while preserving his tires. A caution on lap 54 forced Hill to withstand a restart on lap 57 and did so to perfection. On lap 60, the caution was displayed for lightning in the area with Hill holding a five-truck length lead and the race was ultimately declared official 11 laps shy of the finish on lap 61. Hill earned HRE’s first road course victory and his third straight top-five finish.
Austin Hill Quote:“We just made really good adjustments throughout those stops. The start of the race we were decent, then the No. 38 got by us and a few others got by us, so we needed to be a little bit better there on the long run. We felt like we were decent on the short run but we needed to be better. We were fighting a tight condition, so Scott (Zipadelli) and all the guys, they made some really good adjustments. We talked through it and got it freed up enough to where I could really hit the apexes of the corners like I needed to. That was the difference maker. Once we got out front, clean air was big. I just made sure I didn’t overdrive the entry and got really good runs off. It’s really cool to win at Watkins Glen, and win at a place that my sponsor, United Rentals is sponsoring the United Rentals 176. That’s really special, really, really cool to bring home the hardware.”