ARCA Menards Series championship contender Christian Eckes (No.15 JBL Audio Toyota) will return to Salem Speedway for the first time since sitting out of ARCA's spring event after being hospitalized with food poisoning.
Eckes, who entered April's event as the series' points leader returns to Salem's high-banks Saturday night for the series' Fall Classic chasing teammate Michael Self who holds a 70-point advantage in the driver standings with three races remaining in the season.
Losing valuable points and falling behind in the standings early on in the season, Eckes has shown pure determination during his impressive climb back up through the standings.
"I try not to think too much about what happened at Salem early on in the season," says Eckes who takes a mature approach to the situation. "Sure, it happened and set us back in the standings, it sucks. But there's nothing I can do to change the past. It's all about now and what we do moving forward. We've had plenty of opportunities after that race that we could have closed the gap further and didn't. Those are the races that i think about the most in this championship battle, not so much that one."
Backing up his words Eckes has posted a flurry of top finishes throughout the summer and winning two of the last three series events the 18-year old driver has returned to competition as a formidable series' championship contender.
"A big part of getting back into this has to do with this team never giving up. Kevin Reed (crew chief) never let me get down. Our work ethic plays a crucial role in our success. We're both really motivated and want to be as good as we can be, and both understand it takes a lot. We've been at the top of our game lately and are doing what I knew this team could accomplish early in the year. Just need to continue our progress and continue to get better for these next 3 races."
Eckes, a six-time series winner earned his first career win at Salem in 2018. This weekend's start will mark his seventh overall appearance at the half-mile track. Competing in 16 of the 17 events on the season Eckes has posted three wins, 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes.
"I'm really looking forward to battling with Michael to end this year out, Eckes added. "Self and his entire twenty-five team have been on their game the entire year and definitely made it interesting. I'm just really looking forward to continuing the momentum we've built over the last few races."
As part of ARCA's throwback weekend celebration at Salem, Eckes will showcase Bill Venturini's 1987 Championship season paint scheme Saturday night on his No.15 Toyota Camry.
In addition to running Saturday's ARCA throwback race Eckes will have a busy weekend starting with the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race in Las Vegas on Friday night.
The races are three time zones apart, and the driver's meeting at Salem set for 12 hours after the conclusion of the Trucks race at Las Vegas, which means it will be a long night of air travel for Eckes and his entourage.
"We have to be in Las Vegas on Thursday and Friday," he said. "Our flight out of Las Vegas leaves at 11 P.M. We fly into Charlotte and we get in around 6:30 A.M. on Saturday morning. Then we fly from Charlotte up to Salem at 7 A.M. It's about an hour and a half flight, and the garage area at Salem opens at 9 A.M. It's going to be a long night and a long day on Saturday."
The final push for the series' championship starts Saturday, September 14 at Salem Speedway. The 106th running of ARCA's Fall Classic will air live on MAVTV starting at 8pm ET.