Date: July 24, 2020
Event: Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 (Race 9 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Location: Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 30 laps/30 laps/74 laps
Start/Finish: 1st/13th (Running, completed 134 of 134 laps)
Winner: Austin Hill of Hattori Racing Enterprises (Toyota)
Christian Eckes battled a loose-handling Safelite Tundra to a 13th-place finish in the first race of a doubleheader weekend at Kansas Speedway. Eckes started from the pole, and led three times for 10 laps. With a 15-truck invert based on tonight’s results for tomorrow’s event, the No. 18 team will line up third for tomorrow’s 134-lap event at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Stage One Recap:
- Eckes started from the pole based on a random draw in tiers based on the 2020 Gander Trucks owner’s points, but by Lap 15 had fallen back to the sixth spot. He reported the Safelite Tundra was too loose, and it didn’t allow him to put steering wheel input into it.
- After the first caution of the race occurred on Lap 20, crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned his driver to pit road for a four-tire and fuel stop with a chassis adjustment.
- The No. 18 Toyota lined up 16th for the Lap 23 restart but over the final seven laps was able to maneuver his way up to the seventh spot.
Stage Two Recap:
- Having already pitted late in Stage One, Fugle kept his driver on track between stages. Eckes lined up first when Stage Two went green on Lap 36. He was able to maintain the top spot for seven of the next eight laps, before reporting that he had “no rear grip” and began falling backwards.
- The Safelite Tundra would be scored in the sixth position when Stage Two ended on lap 60.
Final Stage Recap:
- When pit road opened, Eckes brought the No. 18 Toyota to the attention of his over-the-wall crew who administered a four-tire and stop with several adjustments to try and improve the handling for their driver.
- The New York native lined up second and was gain would put his Tundra out front, this time for three laps, before falling backwards a few spots.
- Eckes was scored in the fourth position when the fourth and final caution of the night occurred on Lap 83. Fugle summoned him to pit road for what would be the final time of the night, putting on four fresh tires, making more adjustments and filling the No. 18 Toyota with fuel.
- The Safelite Tundra lined up fifth for the Lap-87 restart and eight laps later had subsided to the ninth spot. With 20 laps remaining, he was in the 13th position and would remain there when the race came to completion at Lap 160.
Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
“Yeah – that was a rough race. Our Safelite Tundra never got along with us all night. I struggled with the handling. We tried. We did a good job with strategy trying to get track position. We could not hold on to it. It was way too loose to really do anything. A lot of people fought that. I feel like all of our trucks really didn’t do well tonight. Rudy and the guys are trying to get it tuned up for tomorrow. I am going to go back to the lab and try to figure out what we can do better. Overall, just not a good race and looking for a turn-around tomorrow.”
Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 Recap:
- Austin Hill picked up his first Gander Trucks win of 2020 and the fifth of his career. Brett Moffitt crossed the stripe 2.928 seconds behind Hill in the runner-up position. Grant Enfinger came home third, Matt Crafton was fourth and Derek Kraus rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured four cautions for a total of 19 laps. There were 16 lead changes among eight drivers, including Eckes who led three times for 10 laps. He has led double-digit laps six times across eight races this season.
How Eckes’ KBM Teammates Fared:
- Brandon Jones, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished 14th
- Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 16th
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
Eckes, the rookie of the year candidate, remained fourth in the championship standings and after nine events sits 59 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill. Eckes currently sits fifth on the 10-driver Gander Trucks playoff grid with regulars Grant Enfinger and Sheldon Creed having picked up victories this season and being locked into the playoffs.
Eckes will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series resumes action tomorrow, July 25, at Kansas Speedway for the second race of an unprecedented doubleheader event. Live coverage of tomorrow’s race begins at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM. Based on a 15-truck inversion from tonight’s results, Eckes will start third in tomorrow’s event.