Date: Sept. 25, 2020
Event: World of Westgate 200 (Race 18 of 23, Race 2 of 3 in the Round of 10)
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: 9th/8th (Running, completed 134 of 134 laps)
Winner: Austin Hill of Hattori Racing Enterprises (Toyota)
Christian Eckes and the No. 18 Safelite Tundra team had a solid outing, earning points in both stages and ending the night with an eighth-place finish in Friday night’s World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The effort allowed Eckes to move up to the eighth position on the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoff grid. The 19-year-old rookie currently sits six points ahead of Ben Rhodes in the battle for the final spot in the Round of 8 with one race remaining in the Round of 10.
Stage One Recap:
- Eckes started from the ninth position after a performance matrix based off his finishing position from the previous race, ranking in owner points standings and the ranking of the fastest lap he turned from the previous race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
- He had fallen one position to 10th when the competition caution flew on Lap 10. Eckes reported that the Safelite Tundra was a little too free. Veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle elected to keep his driver on track and Eckes chose the outside of the fifth row when the field went back green on Lap 14.
- Eckes was able to advance up to the sixth position, but on the final lap surrendered a spot to a truck who pitted during the competition caution and had fresher tires.
- With the seventh-place stage result, Eckes was awarded three stage points.
Stage Two Recap:
- Eckes communicated to Fugle that his Toyota was “too free and can’t commit to the throttle on exit,” before hitting pit road for four fresh tires, a chassis adjustment and full load of fuel.
- A speedy stop by the over-the-wall crew allowed Eckes to exit pit road third. For the ensuing restart on Lap 38, he chose to line up on the inside of row one.
- The Safelite Tundra settle in line in the fifth position on Lap 40, but over the final 20 laps of Stage Two fell back two positions to seventh as he communicated to Fugle that his Toyota was “free center and exit.”
- Another seventh-place stage result earned Eckes three more stage points.
Final Stage Recap:
- After hitting pit road between stages for a four-tire and fuel stop, Eckes exited pit road fifth and chose to restart from the inside of the second row for the start of the Final Stage on Lap 67.
- With a strong restart, the talented teenager was able to make his way to the lead before the field crossed the stripe. He maintained the lead until Lap 72 before he began to fall backwards in the top five.
- Eckes lost his spot in the top five on Lap 81 and was scored in the sixth position when the fourth caution of the event occurred on Lap 86.
- He communicated to Fugle that the bumps in Turn 1 upset his Toyota and that the right-rear tire was sliding on the exit of both corners. Fugle summoned his young driver down pit road for four tires, fuel, and a major chassis adjustment.
- The Safelite Tundra would line up on the inside of the third row for the ensuing restart on Lap 89 and one lap later was scored in the third position when the fifth and final caution of the night slowed the field.
- When the field reached the choose-lane arrow, the 19-year-old driver lined up on the top of row two. Eckes took the momentum he got on the restart to the high line and found himself four-wide with the top-three trucks. The inside lanes would prevail, and he settled into line in the fifth position on Lap 96.
- As the race proceeded caution free to the finish, Eckes fell back two positions over the final 40 laps and ended the 134-lap event with an eighth-place finish. It was the eighth top-10 finish this season for the No. 18 team.
Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
You scored stage points in both stages and had a solid top-10 run. How was your truck tonight at Las Vegas?
“We did a good job getting stage points and putting together a decent finish compared to the last few races. We still struggled overall. We weren’t where we needed to be to really get up there and contend. We just lacked grip overall. I could run up there and contend for the lead for a couple laps and then the grip loss would just take over. Overall, it was a decent day for this Safelite Toyota team. I kind of screwed myself when I sucked the 2 (Sheldon Creed) back on that last restart, but overall, we moved forward on restarts and had a decent day.”
Six points above the Playoff cutline heading into Talladega. What is your focus there?
“It’s just going to be going for maximum points. You really can’t go for the win when you are in the Playoffs, so a lot of the guys below the cut line are going to go straight for it, so we need to get as many points as we can and see how the situation goes. In the same aspect, we need to be cautious and like I said, just see what happens. There are a lot of unknowns with Talladega, and we just have to do our best job to get some points and move on to the next round.”
World of Westgate 200 Recap:
- Austin Hill picked up his sixth career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series victory finishing 0.546 seconds ahead of runner-up finisher Shelden Creed. Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen, and Chandler Smith rounded out the top-five finishers.
How Eckes’ KBM Teammates Fared:
- Chandler Smith, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished fifth
- Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 20th
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
Eckes moved up one position on the Gander Trucks Playoff grid after the second race of the Round of 10. He sits six points ahead of the cutoff line for advancing to the Round of 8. The bottom two drivers will be eliminated after the third and final event of the Round of 10 next week at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Oct. 3.
Eckes will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series resumes action on Saturday Oct. 3 at Talladega. Live coverage of the Talladega 250 will be on FS1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM at 1 p.m. ET.