Date: Feb. 14, 2020
Event: NextEra Energy Resources 250 (Race 1 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile tri-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 20 laps/20 laps/66 laps
Start/Finish: 3rd/22nd (Running, completed 105 of 106 laps)
Winner: Grant Enfinger of ThorSport Racing (Ford)
Christian Eckes qualified third and showed that he had a fast Safelite AutoGlass Tundra in the early stages of the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, before experiencing an eventful Final Stage. After being penalized for driving through too many pit boxes on lap 42, the rookie of the year contender got caught up in two accidents that required multiple trips down pit road for repairs and forced him to limp a battered Toyota to a 22nd-place finish.
Stage One Recap:
- Eckes qualified third with a lap of 49.551 seconds at 181.631 mph in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session. After the green flag waved, the 19-year-old driver was able to tuck in behind his Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) teammate Riley Herbst in the runner-up position until a nine-truck accident on the frontstretch slowed the field for the first time.
- After the red flag was lifted, the field took the restart with one lap remaining in Stage One. The Safelite Tundra fell one position to third before the completion of the stage.
Stage Two Recap:
- Crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned his young driver to pit road for a fuel-only stop between stages. The New York native returned to the track scored in the eighth position for the lap-25 restart.
- After spending several laps outside the top 10, the young driver began to maneuver back forward in the later part of Stage 2 and made it to seventh on lap 34, but slid back again and ended the segment in the 13th position.
Final Stage Recap:
- Fugle called for a four-tire and fuel stop this time around. Shortly after leaving pit road, NASCAR ruled that Eckes had driven through more than three pit boxes and would have to start the Final Stage from the back of the field.
- The No. 18 Toyota was scored 19th on lap 45 and with drivers near the front of the field starting to get over aggressive, Eckes and spotter Tony Hirschman decided that staying near the back of the pack would be the safest option with more than half of the race remaining.
- On lap 67, the Safelite Tundra nearly escaped a 12-truck accident, but at the last moment a truck caromed off the wall into the front right side of Eckes’ matte black Toyota.
- After three trips down pit road to allow the over-the-wall crew to cut apart the fender in an effort to improve clearance room for the tire, Eckes restarted 26th on lap 75. Despite having a damaged right-front fender, the rookie of the year contender was able to push other trucks toward the front of the field. After being scored 19th with 10 laps remaining, Eckes was able to muster one late rally and with two laps remaining was scored in the seventh spot on the high lane as the lead pack raced three-wide to the finish.
- Shortly after his arrival back inside the top 10, the “big one” would breakout. As the wrecking vehicles swept up the track, Eckes was once again collected, this time causing major damage to the entire front end.
- Looking to finish the race ahead of other trucks in the most recent accident, the No. 18 team worked hard under caution to make the Safelite Tundra drivable for the ensuing green-white-checkered finish.
- The team would go one lap down while making repairs, but were able to get their young driver back on track for NASCAR overtime. When the checkered flag flew, Eckes crossed the stripe in the 22nd position.
Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Talk about your eventful race.
“The Safelite AutoGlass Tundra was really, really fast. Got in that early crash early in the Final Stage and then kind of just rode around in the back until the point where we thought we could go. Even with the damage to the truck, it was fast enough to go up and get to the lead pack — I think we made it back to the top six or seven – and then the big one happened and we limped home 22nd.”
NextEra Energy Resources 250 Recap:
- Grant Enfinger picked up his third career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors victory in a photo finish over Jordan Anderson. Enfinger edged Anderson by 0.010 seconds. Codie Rohrbaugh came home third, Derek Kraus was fourth and Natalie Decker rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured five cautions for a total of 26 laps. There were 15 lead changes among seven drivers.
How Eckes’ KBM Teammates Fared:
- Riley Herbst, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished 12th
- Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 20th
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
After one event, Eckes ranks 16th in the Gander Trucks championship standings.
Eckes will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series resumes action Feb. 21 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage of the Strat 200 begins Friday at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.