Austin Hill survives to win NASCAR Trucks race at Knoxville

Austin Hill (Photo: Getty Images)

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series took to the track at the Knoxville Raceway on Friday night to contest its second dirt race of the 2021 season. After a full night of racing in the Corn Belt 150 Presented by Premier Chevy Dealers that featured heat races and the 150-lap main event, it was Austin Hill who claimed the win on the historic half-mile track located in the state of Iowa. It was a survival of the fittest type win for the Hattori Racing Toyota driver from Winston, Georgia.

There were four heat races with drivers accumulating points in those preliminary contests to determine the starting lineup for the main event.

Josh Berry won the night’s first heat race beating out Sprint Car ace Parker Price-Miller, Hailie Deegan, Chandler Smith and Austin Wayne Self just before Dirt Late Model regular Kyle Strickler topped Zane Smith, Matt Crafton, Todd Gilliland and Ben Rhodes in the second preliminary race.

In the third heat, it was Tyler Ankrum bested Derek Kraus, Knoxville Raceway Sprint Car racer Brian Brown, Johnny Sauter and Jack Wood while Carson Hocevar took the fourth heat over NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Briscoe, Brett Moffitt, Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed.

At the conclusion of the heat racing action, it was Derek Kraus who would start the feature race from the pole with Tyler Ankrum, Todd Gilliland, Haillie Deegan, Carson Hocevar, Johnny Sauter, Parker Price-Miller, Kyle Strickler, Matt Crafton and Chandler Smith rounding out the top-10 on the starting grid.

At the start of the Corn Belt 150 it was Kraus who took the initial lead with Ankrum, Sauter, Hocevar and Gilliland trailing. It didn’t take long for Sauter to move toward the front as he passed by Ankrum for second on the second lap then moved by Kraus for the lead one lap later. However, Kraus and Hocevar moved into apply pressure on the race leader 10 laps into the race.

Hocevar wrested the lead away from Sauter on lap 11 with Gilliland following to grab second in a race that featured several exchanges for position in the early going. Sauter then spun shortly thereafter to bring out a caution on lap 15.

Gilliland went to the lead following the lap 20 restart with Hocevar, Creed and Ankrum in his tire tracks.

Brian Brown spun on lap 30 to bring out the race’s second yellow flag. Parker Price-Miller suffered damage as he moved to avoid the spinning truck of Brown. On the ensuing another caution flag waved when Jessica Friesen spun.

Derek Krause was the winner of the first stage followed by Todd Gilliland, Josh Berry, Carson Hocevar, Tyler Ankrum, Sheldon Creed, Stewart Friesen, Brett Moffitt, Chandler Smith and Austin Hill.

During the stage break, all trucks came to pit road for controlled pit stops to take on tires and fuel. Ten-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car champion Donny Schatz opted not to pit during the stage break which allowed him to move to the front of the field at the start of the second stage.

Gilliland, Kraus and Hocevar quickly went to the front of the pack when green flag racing resumed with Berry and Creed joining the mix.

Gilliland broke away from his pursuers during the early portion of the second stage leaving Berry, Hocevar, Kraus, Hill, and Moffitt to fight for top-5 positions.

Gilliland’s advantage was erased when Jessica Friesen spun on lap 66 after contact from Kruas. The truck of Morgan Alexander was then collected in the melee. Friesen and Alexander suffered significant damage in the incident.

The bottom lane became dominant as the laps clicked away in the second stage with Gilliland continuing to show the way ahead of Kraus, Hocevar, Crafton and Grant Enfinger trailing. As the end of the stage loomed, Kraus closed into to apply pressure on Gilliland for the race lead. Kraus rooted Gilliland off the bottom with just five laps remaining in the segment with Hocevar following to take second just before Brown spun to bring out a caution that would end the stage.

Derek Krause won the second stage ahead of Carson Hocevar, Todd Gilliland, Matt Crafton, Grant Enfinger, Brett Moffitt, John Hunter Nemechek, Josh Berry, Donny Schatz and Ben Rhodes.

The trucks again came to the pit area for controlled pit stops to set the machines up for the final 60 laps of the race. Chandler Smith and Sheldon Creed stayed out during the break which put them at the front of the field but on older tires.

Smith maintained the lead for a short time until Price-Miller spun to bring out a yellow flag just two laps into the final stage.

Smith led Hocevar, Crafton, Berry and Moffitt until lap 105 when a caution flag was once again displayed to the field when Kraus spun with a flat left rear tire. Smith continued to lead the pack under green until a yellow flag for a spin involving Stewart Friesen and Ryan Truex with less than 40 laps remaining.

With 25 laps to go, Smith led Crafton, Hocevar, Enfinger, and Moffitt with trucks fighting hard for running room around the bottom of the race track. However, a caution for Chris Windom stopped on track brought out a caution on lap 129.

A late spin by the fourth running truck of Moffitt set up a restart with less than 10 laps remaining. That restart led to yet another caution when multiple cars tangled to set up NASCAR overtime.

Cautions breed cautions. On the first attempt to execute a green/white/checkered finish a huge pileup involved more than a dozen trucks caused a red flag. Then another caution flag would be thrown on the second attempt to get to the finish for a two-car wreck. And again, the third attempt failed because of a crash.

On that third attempt, Austin Hill just inched ahead of Chandler Smith to get the lead and the all important inside lane for the fourth restart.

The fourth time was the charm as Hill pulled away from a wild battle behind him and ultimately grabbed the checkered flag. It was his first NCWTS win of 2021.

Feature Finish: 1. Austin Hill, 2. Chandler Smith, 3. Grant Enfinger, 4. Todd Gilliland, 5. Derek Kraus, 6. Matt Crafton, 7. Ben Rhodes, 8. Brian Brown, 9. Tate Fogelman, 10. Danny Bohn, 11. John Hunter Nemechek, 12. Jake Griffin, 13. Ryan Truex, 14. Zane Smith, 15. Chris Windom, 16. Carson Hocevar, 17. Tyler Ankrum, 18. Devon Rouse, 19. Norm Benning, 20. Johnny Sauter, 21. Hailie Deegan, 22. Cody Erickson, 23. Kyle Strickler, 24. Andrew Gordon, 25. Jennifer Jo Cobb, 26. Jessica Friesen, 27. Stewart Friesen, 28. Josh Berry, 29. Parker Price-Miller, 30. Austin Wayne Self, 31. Tanner Gray, 32. Donny Schatz, 33. Chase Purdy, 34. Codie Rodabaugh 35. Sheldon Creed, 36. Chase Briscoe, 37. Jett Noland, 38. Brett Moffitt, 39. Jack Wood, 40. Morgan Alexander

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