Christian Eckes sealed his career-best season with a thrilling walk-off victory at Phoenix Raceway on Friday night. The driver of the No. 19 NAPA Auto Care Chevrolet Silverado RST captured his fourth victory of the season on the fourth overtime restart in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finale. Eckes led the final restart to pocket his fifth career victory and his fifth top-three finish of the playoffs. Eckes’ MHR teammate Jake Garcia finished second to complete the organization’s first one-two finish in team history.
Eckes began the night from eighth position but fought a free balance from the outset. He maintained position inside the top-10 through the entirely of Stage 1 and collected four points at the end of the segment on lap 45. Crew chief Charles Denike and the NAPA Auto Care team gave Eckes four tires, fuel, and a spring rubber adjustment under the stage caution, which brought the No. 19 Chevy to life.
Stage 2 began with Eckes restarting fifth and hovering around the top five position until a pivotal caution waved on lap 77. Eckes and company elected to pit as they were within the fuel window to reach the finish. The strategy call was off-sequence with many of the lead-lap trucks and gave him fresher tires to drive from ninth to finish fourth the end of Stage 2 on lap 90.
As several leaders pitted, Eckes inherited the lead under caution on lap 96. He restarted as the leader on lap 100 and paced the field for 26 laps. He was running second when a fortuitous caution flew with three laps to go and set up a series of four chaotic restarts. Eckes restarted in the first two rows for the quartet of restarts and was out front of the continuous calamity. He lined up on the outside of the front row and jumped to the hole shot and took command of the lead on the final restart. He set sail from the chaotic battles in his mirror to earn his fourth win of the season and finish fifth in the series standings.
Christian Eckes Quote:
“I missed the second-to-last (restart) pretty bad. I was leading and almost threw it away. Just super proud of everybody. Obviously, it’s mixed emotions. We wish we were in the final four. We should be in the final four and we proved that today. Just a huge thanks to NAPA Auto Care, Gates Hydraulics, Peak, BlueDEF, Adaptive One, Chevrolet, Instacoat, everybody involved. This one might sting, but it’s still awesome to end the season on a win and we’re ready for 2024.”
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