Final Stage Accident Relegates Safelite Driver to 23rd-Place Finish After Strong Opening Stages
Date: Feb. 21, 2020
Event: Strat 200 (Race 2 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Location: Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 30 laps/30 laps/74 laps
Start/Finish: 4th/23rd (Running, completed 130 of 134 laps)
Winner: Kyle Busch of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)
Christian Eckes was running up front battling with his owner Kyle Busch for the opening two stages of Friday night’s Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, before he got shuffled back a few spots on a restart early in the Final Stage and then put into the wall by another competitor as he was making his way back towards the front of the field.
After making contact with the wall, the damage to the right-front fender caused the tire to blow and sent the Safelite Tundra caroming into the outside wall and bringing out the caution on lap 75. After several trips down pit road to make repairs to Eckes’ Tundra he would return to the track, but limp home multiple laps down in the 23rd position.
Stage One Recap:
- Eckes qualified fourth with a lap of 30.476 seconds at 177.189 mph in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session. After an early caution, the 19-year-old driver restarted fourth but began to maneuver forward. He made his way into the third position on lap 15 and on lap 17 settled into the runner-up spot behind Busch.
- The Safelite Tundra would remain second for the remainder of the opening stage, crossing the stripe 3.25 seconds behind Busch.
Stage Two Recap:
- Before hitting pit road for the first time, Eckes communicated that his Toyota was “tight at the 3/8 mark in turns 3 and 4.” The over-the-wall crew executed a four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment. A speedy stop allowed their young driver to exit the pits with the lead.
- Eckes would remain out front for the first seven green-flag laps of stage two before surrendering the lead to Busch on lap 45. The talented teenager remained in the second position when stage two came to a close on lap 60.
Final Stage Recap:
- Before hitting pit road, Eckes communicated to veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle that his Safelite Tundra was “really good on bottom, but gets edgy when I move up.”
- Once on pit road, the over-the-wall crew once again administered a four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment.
- When the final stage went green on lap 67, the No. 18 Toyota was scored in the second position, next to Busch. Eckes had a bad restart and was shuffled back to the fifth position by the time field got back to the start-finish line to complete lap 68.
- Eckes gained two positions back on lap 69 and on lap 74 was maneuvering around the outside of Todd Gilliland for the runner-up position when Gilliland tried to block his run and moved him into the outside wall.
- The Safelite Tundra was able to continue on, but shortly after the contact blew a right-front tire from the contact made with the wall.
- After multiple trips down pit road to repair the damage and the steering of the truck, Eckes was able to return to the track scored in the 24th position for the lap-78 restart.
- Eckes once again had a tire go down and hit the wall again under green-flag conditions. After hitting pit road for repairs and a fresh set of tires, he would return to the track multiple laps down.
- When the field crossed the finish line to end the 134-lap event, the Safelite Tundra was scored four laps down in the 23rd position.
Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
What happened early in the final stage when you made contact with the wall?
“We had a really fast Safelite AutoGlass Tundra tonight – ran up front most of the race until the final stage when I got put in the wall by the 38 truck. After contact with the wall, we blew a right-front tire from the damage and in the end went a few laps down and ended up with a 23rd-place finish.”
What was it like running up front battling with your owner, Kyle Busch?
“It was fun — we both had fast Toyota Tundra and were by far the class of the field. We were a little bit off of him, but I felt like we were one adjustment away from being able to keep up with him.”
Strat 200 Recap:
- KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch picked up the 57th Gander Trucks victory of his career and his seventh consecutive win spanning back to July of 2018. Johnny Sauter crossed the stripe 5.958 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up position. Austin Hill came home third, Matt Crafton was fourth and Ben Rhodes rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured five cautions for a total of 25 laps. There were 15 lead changes among five drivers. Eckes led twice for a total of 10 laps.
How Eckes’ KBM Teammates Fared:
- Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished first
- Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 30th
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
After two events, Eckes ranks eighth in the Gander Trucks championship standings. The rookie of the year candidate sits 27 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill.
Eckes will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series resumes action March 14 at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage of the Georgia 200 begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1.