NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Overview:
Event: NextEra Energy 250, Race 1 of 23, 100 Laps – 20/20/60; 250 Miles
Location: Daytona International (Fla.) Speedway (2.5-mile tri-oval)
Date/Broadcast: Feb. 14, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
- 19-year-old Christian Eckes begins his first full-time season in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series driving the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra in Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway. Eckes, who will compete for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, has logged partial seasons each of the last two seasons for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).
- Across eight Gander Trucks starts for KBM’s No. 51 team in 2019, Eckes recorded three top-five and four top-10 finishes while recording an average starting position of 4.8 and average finish of 10.5. He 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 New York-native enters the 2020 season with three poles, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes across 12 total Truck Series starts.
- Eckes captured the pole for last year’s Gander Trucks season opening event at the “World Center of Racing,” but was relegated to a 22nd-place finish after getting caught up in a mid-race wreck. The Toyota Racing Development driver also captured the pole for last year’s ARCA Menards Series race at the 2.5-mile tri-oval, led nine laps and finished fourth.
- 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. Overall across 46 career ARCA Menards Series starts 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 will be 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 136 races calling the shots for the organization.
- 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 excited are you to have Rudy Fugle and the crew you worked with last year moving over to the 18 team with you?
“It’s going to be cool to be with Rudy and all my guys — I built a relationship with them and to have them on my Safelite AutoGlass team again this year means a lot. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off last year and continue our success.”
How did drafting in the Truck Series last year at Daytona compare to what you are used to in the ARCA Racing Series?
“The trucks build such a huge hole in the air and you suck up a lot quicker than we ever did in the ARCA Racing Series. Luckily, I had a race last year to get used to it and I’m looking forward to taking the experience from last year to be a little bit better this time around at Daytona”
After two seasons of part-time Truck Series schedules, what expectations do you have for your first full-time season?
“Hopefully getting to victory lane. I think my team is more than capable, it’s just about me getting comfortable with the team and the series again. Mostly the series — these trucks are so different than what I’m used to. I feel like once I get comfortable with them, I can start making the moves I want to and stuff like that. Hopefully, that starts quickly and we can get another championship at the end of the year.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
- Across 12 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.5. 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-51: The Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-51 for Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona.
This is the same Tundra that Eckes captured the pole with in last year’s season opener. The last time the chassis saw action, Riley Herbst finished third with it at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last October.
KBM Notes of Interest
- KBM drivers have collected one win, two poles, 81 laps led, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 17.0 across 25 starts at Daytona. Owner-driver Kyle Busch picked up the team’s lone victory at the 2.5-mile tri-oval in dramatic fashion in the 2014 season opener, finishing .016 seconds ahead of fellow Toyota competitor Timothy Peters.
- KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (75) 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.