Date: July, 18, 2020
Event: Vankor 350 (Race 8 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Location: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 40 laps/40 laps/87 laps
Start/Finish: 4th/1st (Running, completed 167 of 167 laps)
Winner: Kyle Busch of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)
After being in a close battle with his Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) teammate Christian Eckes late in Saturday night’s Vankor 350 at Texas Motor Speedway, KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch showed off his veteran skills entering and exiting pit road on the final pit stop of the night under green-flag conditions to go from just behind Eckes before stops to distancing himself from the rookie by nearly four seconds when pit stops cycled through. Busch’s Cessna Tundra, which paced the field five times for a race-high 77 laps, would survive a late-race caution and subsequent restart with 10 laps remaining to cross the stripe 0.777 seconds ahead of Eckes to pick up his third NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series of 2020 and record-extending 59th of his career in his final start of the season.
Stage One Recap:
- Busch started in the fourth position based on a random draw in tiers by 2020 Gander Trucks owner’s points. He made his way to the lead for the first time from Laps 8 to 12 before falling back to the runner-up position.
- The veteran reported that he wasn’t as good as leader Zane Smith through Turns 3 and 4 and that the Cessna Tundra was on the loose side. Later in Stage One he reported that his Toyota was coming to him and began reeling Smith back in and would regain the lead on Lap 35.
- Busch would remain out front and collect his sixth Gander Trucks stage win of 2020.
Stage Two Recap:
- Before hitting pit road, Busch communicated to veteran crew chief Danny Stockman that he needed something to improve the rear security of his No. 51 Tundra but was hesitant to make too big off swing until the Truck Series rubber got laid down on top of the NASCAR Xfinity Series rubber, which was on the track from the race earlier in the day.
- After getting four fresh tires and fuel, Busch returned to the track scored in the top spot when Stage Two went green on lap 46. He would remain out front until Lap 70, when Eckes maneuvered around him.
- After an one-truck accident slowed the field for the third time with five laps remaining in Stage Two, Stockman called for another four-tire and fuel stop with a trackbar adjustment. With teams on varying strategies, Busch returned to the track scored in the 14th position and would end the stage 11th.
Final Stage Recap:
- After the other competitors that didn’t pit during the third caution pitted between stages, Busch lined up fifth when the Final Stage went green on Lap 87.
- The Las Vegas native would communicate to his crew that the bump in Turn 4 was upsetting the handling of his Cessna Tundra in the first half of the Final Stage as Eckes paced the field from Laps 88 to 132.
- Busch was 0.7 seconds behind his pupil when the entered pit road for a green-flag stop on alp 130. Smoke bellowed out from beneath the Cessna Tundra as the veteran tried to make up as much ground as possible on his young drive on the stop. Despite nearly pitting in Eckes’ pit stall, after getting four fresh tires and fuel and returning to the track, the No. 51 was nearly three seconds ahead of the No. 18 when stops had cycled through on Lap 135.
- A two-truck accident slowed the field on Lap 154 and setup a battle for the win between mentor and pupil. Eckes would hang tough, racing side-by-side with Busch for three laps and momentarily taking the lead with eight laps remaining, but Busch muscled his way back the front and would cross the stripe 0.77 seconds ahead of his young driver.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Cessna Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
How was the race tonight overall and were you concerned with the late-race caution?
“We had two late cautions today – both races, but this one was a little more for real I think. Overall, just real proud of the effort by Christian Eckes and that Safelite Autoglass Tundra that he’s driving with Rudy Fugle (Eckes crew chief) and those guys. They’re getting their chemistry better and better and they challenged for a win tonight. Real proud of them, but wanted to go out on a high here with our Cessna Beechcraft Tundra. I want to thank Toyota, TRD, Incredible Bank, Rowdy Energy and all of our partners. We lost a member of Rowdy Manufacturing this week essentially, Robert Hamke, who built super late model cars across the country, but in North Carolina for year. He just passed away this week and that’s essentially what Rowdy Manufacturing is now. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
How do you balance racing for the win with racing against a teammate?
“I try to be as respectful as I possibly can, but yet try to battle hard for the win. He (Christian Eckes) had a pretty good run on me there getting into turn three and almost cleared me. If he would have cleared me and slid me right there, it would have been over. Fortunately, I was able to just hang on his right rear. I try to hang on their right rear and just slow them down to make sure their progress doesn’t keep going and pass me. Once I feel like I’m even on momentum with them then I try to get away so I don’t suck them around. If I just stay on their door and stay too close, it’s obviously going to get him loose and either wreck him or wreck me or wreck both of us. You try to get away in those situations and not crash a guy.”
Vankor 350 Recap:
- Kyle Busch picked up his third Gander Trucks wins of 2020 and the 59th of his career. KBM driver Christian Eckes crossed the stripe 0.777 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up position. Matt Crafton came home third, Stewart Friesen was fourth and Matt Crafton rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured five cautions for a total of 26 laps. There were 15 lead changes among seven drivers, including Busch who led five times for a race-high 72 laps.
How Busch’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Toyota, finished second
- Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 12th
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
The No. 51 team moved back atop the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series standings. After eight races, including four wins, the No. 51 team leads the No. 16 team by 30 tallies.
Brandon Jones will be behind the wheel of the No. 51 Tundra for next weekend’s doubleheader at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Barracuda Pumps will be the primary sponsor of Friday night’s race, which begins at 7:00 p.m. ET and Delta Faucets will be the primary sponsor for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. ET start, with both races airing on FS1.