NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Overview:
Event: South Carolina Education Lottery 200, Race 15 of 23, 147 Laps – 45/45/57; 200.1 Miles
Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1.336-mile egg-shaped oval)
Date/Broadcast: Sept. 6, 2020 at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
- For the first time since 2011, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will head to Darlington Raceway to compete in Sunday’s South Carolina Education Lottery 200. As part of Darlington’s throwback weekend, Christian Eckes will have fresh colors on his Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for this weekend’s event. Eckes normal paint scheme on his Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM)’ entry is based off Safelite’s MobileGlassShop vehicles that have been predominately black with silver and red stripes since 2013. This week the No. 18 will throw it back to before 1983 when Safelite’s MobileGlassShop vehicles were predominately white with red and black stripes on the side. Safelite, the nation’s largest provider of vehicle glass repair and replacement services, has been a partner of KBM since the 2017 season and is the primary sponsor on Eckes’ Toyota for all 23 races this season.
- On March 12, 2011, Kasey Kahne was victorious for KBM the last time the Gander Trucks took on the “Lady in Black”. Kahne, driving the No. 18 Toyota Tundra, started from the second position and led a race-high 95 laps en route to his third career victory in NASCAR’s third division.
- With two races remaining in the Gander Trucks regular season, Eckes ranks sixth in the Gander Trucks championship standings, 78 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill. He currently sits eighth on the 10-driver Gander Trucks playoff grid with Hill, Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger, Crafton and Sheldon Creed having picked up victories this season and being locked into the playoffs, while Brett Moffitt (second) and Ben Rhodes (fourth) are ahead of him in the points standings. The 19-year-old driver currently has a 73-point cushion over the cutoff line for making the playoffs.
- Overall, in 14 starts this season, the New York native has compiled four top-five and six top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 13.1. He ranks third among series regulars in average running position (9.1), fastest laps run (81) and laps led (158) and fourth in driver rating (98.0). He had led at least one lap in nine of the last 11 races and 10 of 14 total on the season. Eckes’ five Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards are more than any other rookie contender this season, but he sits 50 points behind Zane Smith in the Rookie of the Year standings.
- The Toyota Racing Development driver has been on the cusp of his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series victory in recent months, having finished in the runner-up position in three of the last seven events on the schedule. Eckes took the lead on a restart in the second overtime session at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on Aug. 7 but surrendered the lead to Zane Smith on the final lap. The 19-year-old rookie also finished second to KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch July 18 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and second to three-time series champion Matt Crafton July 25 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
- 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, 75 top-five and 113 top-10 finishes across his 150 races calling the shots for the organization. Fugle’s lone race calling the shots in the Truck Series at Darlington resulted in a 13th-place finish with Justin Lofton in 2011.
Christian Eckes, Driver Q&A
Often at Darlington, crew chiefs tell a driver to race the track and not the other trucks. How hard is that to do as a driver?
“Darlington is a very interesting place. I’ve never raced there, but you definitely have to race the racetrack a little bit more than the other competitors. As race car drivers, that is a little bit different for us not going full bore and trying to pass everybody we can. It’s going to be a fun race. I feel good about our Safelite Tundra team’s chances this weekend. It’s a little bit of a dark horse for everyone n ot really racing there for nine or ten years. I’m looking forward to it. It will be a lot of fun.”
Being a tough surface known to wear out tires, do you think having experience in tire conservation from your Super Late model days will help you on Sunday?
“Maybe. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a super late model, but the days of tire conservation the entire race has been behind me. Hopefully, I can learn that again this weekend. Tire falloff is really big here. It is probably the worse we will have as far as a feel wise for the year. I will kind of have to learn that all over again, but in the same aspect, I’m really looking forward to getting in my Safelite Tundra.”
With it being throwback weekend, what’s your favorite NASCAR paint scheme of all time?
“My favorite NASCAR paint scheme is probably Jimmie Johnson from 2012 and 2013. I always liked the two stripes and how clean it looked. It’s not really a throwback yet, as it was only a couple of years ago, but in the same aspect I would say it is my favorite.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
- Across 26 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 289 laps led, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.3. Earned a career-best runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18, 2020 and then equaled it July 25, 2020 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Aug. 7 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
- 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 No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-55 for Sunday’s race at Darlington. Eckes has piloted this Tundra twice this year, collecting a runner-up finish to KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in July and a third-place finish at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway in June. Kyle Busch took this Toyota to victory at Atlanta and Texas last year and Greg Biffle also won with it at Texas last June. In eight career starts since November of 2017, KBM-55 has yet to finish outside the top five.
KBM Notes of Interest:
- KBM drivers have collected one win, 95 laps led, one top-five and one top-10 finish resulting in an average finish of 11.0 across two starts at Darlington. Kasey Kahne led a race-high 95 laps en route to victory in the 2011 event.
- KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (79) 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.