Eckes Earns Second Runner-Up Finish in Seven Days

Eckes Earns Second Runner-Up Finish in Seven Days NK Photography Photo
After finishing 13th in Friday's night's NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series race at Kansas Speedway, the No. 18 team went to work overnight and brought a fast Safelite Tundra for Saturday's second event of unprecedented back-to-back races at the same venue. Christian Eckes stalked two-time series champion Matt Crafton in the closing laps but in the end the rookie contender crossed the stripe 0.324 seconds behind the veteran.
For Eckes, it was his second runner-up finish across the last three events, equaling the career-best result he achieved at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18 when he finished second to KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch.
Stage One Recap: 
  • Eckes started from the third position based on an inversion of the top-15 finishers from Friday night. The talented teenager muscled his way to the front of the field on the initial start of the race and would remain out front for the first six circuits.
  • A garbage bag made its way onto the hood of the Safelite Tundra and Eckes fell back to the third spot as he was trying to free it from his Toyota. He would lose one more lap in the closing laps of Stage One and cross the stripe fourth. 
Stage Two Recap:  
  • The 19-year-old driver reported that his truck was "free" before he hit pit road for the first time between stages. After a four-tire and fuel stop, Eckes lined up sixth when Stage Two went green on Lap 36.
  • By the time a one-truck spin slowed the field on Lap 44, the rookie had fallen back to the 11th spot. He reported to veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle that his Safelite Tundra was "still loose on entry."
  • Eckes was able to gain two positions over the second half of the stage and would register a ninth-place result in the second stanza. 
Final Stage Recap:  
  • Before hitting pit road, he reported that his Safelite Tundra was "terribly tight in traffic." Fugle ordered up another four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment designed to improve the handling for his young driver.
  • The No. 18 Toyota was scored in the sixth position when the Final Stage went green on Lap 67. He was in seventh five laps later when the fourth caution of the race occurred and seventh when the fifth caution flew on Lap 79.
  • Eckes reported that he needed the truck to have more turn through the center of the corner. Having neared the window to make it to the end of the race on fuel, Fugle elected to take his final set of tires and make one more swing at improving the handling for his driver.
  • The Safelite Tundra restarted 20th on Lap 83 and narrowly missed a 12-truck pile up in the middle of the field which brought out the red flag.
  • When another caution occurred on lap 95, the top trucks that didn't pit when the No. 18 team made their way to their pit stalls for their final set of sticker tires.
  • Eckes would take the Lap-88 restart from the sixth position and would remain there until he gained three spots on a restart with 25 laps remaining.
  • After another quick caution flew, the Toyota Racing Development driver had another strong restart and moved into the second position behind Crafton with just over 20 laps remaining. He would ride in Crafton's tracks for the remainder of the race, closing to his bumper a few times but was never able to make a pass.
  • The second-place result equaled Eckes career-best finish that he achieved last Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.