NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Overview:
Event: Vet Tix Camping World 200, Race 3 of 23, 130 Laps – 30/30/70; 200.2 Miles
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. (1.54-mile quad-oval)
Date/Broadcast: March 14, 2020 at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
- Nineteen-year-old Christian Eckes will make his first career start in any series at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., driving the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in Saturday’s Vet Tix Camping World 200. Eckes has proven to be fast in the first two NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors events of the season, but accidents in the final stage at both Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway have relegated him to an average finish of 22.5. While the first two events haven’t ended the way Eckes would like, the talented teenager has posted an average finish of 5.0 across the opening two stages of the first two events, including runner-up finishes to KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch in the first two stages at Las Vegas.
- As part of being able to collect stage points in three of the six stages of the opening two events, Eckes currently sits eighth in the Gander Trucks driver point standings despite not having strong finishes. He currently sits second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, two points behind Zane Smith.
- Across 14 career Gander Trucks starts, the New York native has produced three poles, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.1. Eckes earned a career-best third-place finish twice last season, at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in Sept. and again at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway in Nov., where he clinched KBM’s record-extending seventh owner’s championship.
- The talented teenager captured the 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship after recording four wins, two poles, 400 laps led, 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 4.8 across 19 starts. Across 46 career ARCA Menards Series starts overall, Eckes has collected seven wins, four poles, 1094 laps led, 23 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 6.9.
- Eckes is paired with champion crew chief Ryan “Rudy” Fugle. Fugle has guided his team to five owner’s championships (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019) as a crew chief at KBM, including combined owner’s/driver’s championships with Erik Jones in 2015 and Christopher Bell in 2017. The New York native’s drivers have combined for 28 wins, 24 poles, 71 top-five and 107 top-10 finishes across his 138 races calling the shots for the organization.
- Fugle’s drivers have two wins, one pole, three top-five and four top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.6 at Atlanta. Owner-driver Kyle Busch led a race-high 92 laps en route to victory in last year’s event, while Christopher Bell became to the first driver under NASCAR’s new format to sweep all three stages of a race after leading 99 of 130 laps en route to victory from the pole in 2017. Busch was piloting KBM-55 in last year’s event, the same Tundra that Eckes will drive on Saturday.
- Safelite AutoGlass, the nation’s largest provider of vehicle glass repair and replacement services, will adorn the hood of Eckes’ No. 18 Tundra for all 23 events on NASCAR Gander RV& Outdoors schedule in 2020.
Christian Eckes, Driver Q&A
How do you prepare for going to a track that you’ve never raced on before?
“There’s a lot of stuff that we can do to prepare and Toyota helps us out with all of that. Obviously, there is stuff like film and working out, but we also get to go and use the simulator once or twice a week and kind of get a little bit better. It’s kind of amazing how close it really is. Hopefully, we can unload strong in our No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota Tundra.”
How do you feel about racing against Cup Series drivers in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series?
“A couple weeks ago at Las Vegas racing with Kyle was my first time racing against a Cup driver and it was a lot of fun and now adding in Chase (Elliott) should be even more fun. I’m pretty sure Kyle is going to still be the one to beat and the one I have my eyes set on.”
Despite not having the results to show for it, are you happy with how fast your Tundras have been in the first two races?
“That’s for sure — we’ve definitely have showed a lot of speed. I felt like we were really good at Vegas — we weren’t as good as we needed to be to run with Kyle, but in the same aspect I felt like we had everybody else covered by a decent amount. What we need to do now is minimize the mistakes and hopefully get a good finish.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
- Across 14 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.1. Earned a career-best third-place finish twice last season, at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in Sept. and again at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway in Nov., where he clinched KBM’s record-extending seventh owner’s championship.
- Captured the 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship after recording four wins, two poles, 400 laps led, 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 4.8 across 19 starts. Has seven career ARCA Racing Series victories across 46 starts to go along with four poles, 1094 laps led, 23 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes.
- Put his name on the motorsports map when he won the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race in 2016 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. The then 15-year-old battled side-by-side with John Hunter Nemechek for the final two laps before narrowly edging him to the finish line.
Christian Eckes’ No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra:
KBM-55: The Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-55 for Saturday’s Vet Tix Camping World 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Tundra went to victory lane with owner-driver Kyle Busch behind the wheel in last year’s race at Atlanta and also was victorious with Busch at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last March and Greg Biffle at Texas in June. Across five starts overall, the chassis has an average finish of 2.2.
KBM Notes of Interest:
- KBM drivers have collected two wins, two poles, 511 laps led, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.6 across 20 starts at Atlanta. Owner-driver Kyle Busch led a race-high 92 laps en route to victory in last year’s event, while Christopher Bell became to the first driver under NASCAR’s new format to sweep all three stages of a race after leading 99 of 130 laps en route to victory from the pole in 2017.
- KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (76) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). In addition to collecting a series-record seven Owner’s Championships, the organization has produced two championship-winning drivers; Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).
- The No. 18, the number which was on the first Tundra that went to victory lane for KBM in 2010, has 21 career victories.