Date: Oct. 3, 2020
Event: Talladega 250 (Race 19 of 23, Race 3 of 3 in the Round of 10)
Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile tri-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 20 laps/20 laps/54 laps
Start/Finish: 6th/18th (Running, completed 93 of 94 laps)
Winner: Raphael Lessard of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)
Christian Eckes got caught up in a final-lap accident and ended Saturday’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors series race at Talladega Superspeedway with a disappointing 18th-place finish. Eckes finished the Round of 10 in the ninth position on the Playoff Grid, eight points behind the cutoff line for advancing to the Round of 8.
Stage One Recap:
- Eckes started from the sixth 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 Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.
- The Safelite Tundra was running fourth when the top three trucks made contact and scattered in front of him. Eckes went to the outside lane and took the lead just as the accordion effect took its toll on the drivers running mid-pack and caused an 11-truck accident.
- After a red flag for the caution, Eckes chose to restart on the outside of row one with his teammate Chandler Smith on the inside with two laps remaining in the stage. The duo executed a teammate restart, where Eckes pulled down in front of Smith once they passed the start-finish line.
- Eckes was unable to maintain the lead and would finish the stage in the third position, collecting eight stage points.
Stage Two Recap:
- Veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle elected for a fuel-only stop between stages. Eckes was issued a penalty for speeding exiting pit road, so Fugle brought him back down pit road for four fresh tires and to top off with fuel.
- The Safelite Tundra lined up at the tail end of the field in the 26th position when Stage Two went green on Lap 25.
- On Lap 37 two trucks got together just in front of Eckes, but he was able to make his way around them before the caution flew. Stage Two would end under caution with the New York native in the 13th position.
Final Stage Recap:
- Making sure that they didn’t get caught in any issues on pit road, Fugle elected bring Eckes down pit road on the second lap after pit road opened with the rest of his KBM teammates. They also came back down pit road to top off with fuel one lap before the field went green.
- The No. 18 Toyota lined up 24th when the Final Stage went green on Lap 44. He was running in the 19th position when a caution occurred on Lap 47.
- All three KBM Tundras came down pit road for a fuel-only stop with one lap to go before the ensuing restart on Lap 53. After the field went back green, the organization continued to employ the strategy of riding at the back of the field in an effort to miss the chaos.
- With 30 laps remaining, teams began making their final scheduled pit stops under green flag conditions. On Lap 66, Fugle summoned his young driver down pit road for six seconds of fuel.
- The Safelite Tundra returned to the track scored in the seventh position, with the top four trucks having yet to pit. As the field approached traffic on Lap 82, trucks began scattering and one truck came down into Eckes. The rear end of his Toyota kicked out from underneath him and went nose first into the apron. He was able to make a miraculous save and got back in line in the 15th position.
- With just under 10 laps to go, Eckes was in the 13th position and felt he needed to make moves to make his way forward in if he was going to advance in the playoffs. He switched from running the inside lane to the outside lane. He was running in the 10th spot when a caution slowed the field for the fifth time with four laps remaining.
- The Toyota Racing Development product lined up 10th when the field went back green with two laps remaining. The field was running three-wide on the final lap when two trucks made contact just in front of him and one was sent caroming into the left side of the Safelite Tundra, which was running in the top of three lanes. Eckes would be sent spinning and came to rest in the infield grass when the yellow flag came out ending the race.
- The Safelite Tundra would be scored one lap down in the 18th position and missed advancing to the Round of 8 by eight points.
Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Tough finish with the last lap contact. What happened from your perspective?
“I just came up short. Sucks that we are not going to be able to move on to round two, but in the same aspect my Safelite Toyota team tried hard. We did all we could. We made some mistakes on the day like the pit road penalty and some other things, but we will move on to the last four races and give the Playoff guys all we have.”
What are your goals for the last four races?
“Just to win. We don’t have any championship hopes on the line, unfortunately, anymore, but in the same aspect, there is still plenty of team goals to achieve. We will do the best we can. I wish we did a little bit better in the first two races of this round to separate us, but that’s 2020 and we will move on to the next four.”
Talladega 250 Recap:
- Eckes’ KBM teammate Raphael Lessard picked up his first career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series victory after the race was decided by caution on the final lap. Trevor Bayne finished second while Chandler Smith, Ben Rhodes and Codie Rohrbaugh rounded out the top-five finishers.
How Eckes’ KBM Teammates Fared:
- Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished first
- Chandler Smith, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished third
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
Eckes finishes the Round of 10 in the ninth position and will not advance to the Round of 8. He finished the round eight points behind the cutoff line for advancing.
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. 17 at Kansas Speedway. Live coverage of the Clean Harbors 200 will be on FOX Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM at 4 p.m. ET.