The Camping World Truck Series drivers headed to Watkins Glen International on Saturday, Aug. 7, for the final regular-season race of 2021. Lightning brought the event to an early end with NASCAR officials declaring Austin Hill the winner and setting the final, 10-driver playoff field.
There were several drivers that entered Saturday’s race with secure spots in the playoffs. John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland, Sheldon Creed, Hill, Zane Smith, and Matt Crafton made up the list. There were three spots available and several drivers fighting for them, but Carson Hocevar, Chandler Smith, and Stewart Friesen locked up their spots at the last possible time.
With the playoff field set, the Truck Series drivers will now have a week of rest before competing again. The first race in the Round of 10 will be the Gateway 200 presented by CK Power at the World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway in Madison, Ill. The race will take place on Friday, Aug. 20, at 9 p.m. ET as the drivers fight to move on to the next round.
Weather Disrupted the Final Battle for the Checkered Flag
When the NASCAR teams headed to Watkins Glen for a weekend of racing, they brought along sets of rain tires. The forecast called for a 31% chance of thunderstorms during the Truck Series and Xfinity Series races, creating concern among fans and analysts alike.
The weather did indeed play a factor in the Truck Series race at Watkins Glen. Lightning began to strike within eight miles of the track with 11 laps remaining, immediately bringing out the red flag. The drivers headed down to pit road for a mandatory delay of at least 30 minutes.
The delay continued as the broadcast crew reiterated that NASCAR officials intended to continue the race and provide an opportunity for the drivers to fight for the three remaining playoff spots. However, lightning and the pending Xfinity Series race forced the officials to call the race early and end the regular season with the trucks sitting under covers.
Kyle Busch Motorsports Won the Regular-Season Championship
With the race at Watkins Glen marking the end of the regular season, the time came to award the first championship of the year. Handing out the trophy was merely a formality considering that Kyle Busch Motorsports driver John Hunter Nemechek entered the race as the points leader over Hill, and he walked away with an 89-point advantage.
The second-place finish at Watkins Glen ensured that Nemechek would head home with the regular-season points championship trophy in his possession. He will now enter the playoffs as the top seed over Hill, Rhodes, Gilliland, and the other playoff drivers with 2,049 points.
Nemechek remains the championship favorite due to dominating in several categories. He has the most wins (five), stage wins (nine), laps led (487), and top-five finishes (nine). The closest drivers are Rhodes and Hill, who remain tied with two victories apiece.
However, capturing the championship trophy will not be a simple task. Nemechek will have to continue turning in strong performances while fighting against equally talented drivers. Rhodes and Crafton, in particular, represent figures who could derail Nemechek’s standout season by taking away momentum in any given race.