CHRISTIAN ECKES: DRIVER, NO. 18 SAFELITE AUTOGLASS® TOYOTA | LAS VEGAS PREVIEW
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Overview:
Event: Strat 200, Race 2 of 23, 134 Laps – 30/30/74; 201 Miles
Location: Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Date/Broadcast: Feb. 21, 2020 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
- 19-year-old Christian Eckes is in his first full-time season driving the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. 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 (Fla.) International Speedway last week, 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. Despite finishing 22nd, he scored enough stage points to place him 16th in the driver point standings after one event.
- Eckes was impressive in his first-ever Gander Trucks start on a mile-and-a-half track last September at Las Vegas. He captured the pole, led four laps and earned a career-best third-place finish. He equaled that finish in last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, another 1.5-mile track. Across eight Gander Trucks starts for KBM’s No. 51 team in 2019, Eckes recorded three top-five and four top-10 finishes while recording an average starting position of 4.8 and average finish of 10.5.
- The talented teenager captured the 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship after recording four wins, two poles, 400 laps led, 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 4.8 across 19 starts. Overall across 46 career ARCA Menards Series starts Eckes has collected seven wins, four poles, 1094 laps led, 23 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 6.9.
- Eckes will be paired with champion crew chief Ryan “Rudy” Fugle. Fugle has guided his team to five owner’s championships (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019) as a crew chief at KBM, including combined owner’s/driver’s championships with Erik Jones in 2015 and Christopher Bell in 2017. The New York native’s drivers have combined for 28 wins, 24 poles, 71 top-five and 107 top-10 finishes across his 137 races calling the shots for the organization. Fugle’s drivers have won the pole for the last three Gander Trucks events at Las Vegas, including last September with Eckes, and he visited victory lane with Kyle Busch in last year’s March event. Overall, across eight starts his drivers have one win, three poles, four top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.4 at the Nevada track.
- Safelite AutoGlass, the nation’s largest provider of vehicle glass repair and replacement services, will adorn the hood of Eckes’ No. 18 Tundra for all 23 events on NASCAR Gander RV& Outdoors schedule in 2020.
Christian Eckes, Driver Q&A
After finishing third in both of your starts at mile-and-a-half tracks last season, what is your comfort level at those tracks?
“It makes you super comfortable. Ending the year with a bunch of good runs on the mile-and-a-halves and getting a lot of experience really helps for this year. I can go into Vegas, know the lines, know how it races and I feel like that is super important. Really looking forward to getting there in my Safelite Tundra.”
What did you think about how well Safelite supports their racing program?
“It was super cool to be a part of. To meet all of their associates and customers – it meant a lot to me. I think we had between 40 and 50 people out last week and they were all my biggest fans. That was cool to see and I’m really thankful for their support.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
- Across 13 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.3. Earned a career-best third-place finish twice last season, at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in Sept. and again at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway in Nov., where he clinched KBM’s record-extending seventh owner’s championship.
- Captured the 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship after recording four wins, two poles, 400 laps led, 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 4.8 across 19 starts. Has seven career ARCA Racing Series victories across 46 starts to go along with four poles, 1094 laps led, 23 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes.
- Put his name on the motorsports map when he won the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race in 2016 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. The then 15-year-old battled side-by-side with John Hunter Nemechek for the final two laps before narrowly edging him to the finish line.
Christian Eckes’ No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra:
KBM-58: The Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-58 for Friday night’s Strat 200 at Las Vegas. The Tundra has four previous starts, including a win with owner-driver Kyle Busch last May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Eckes recorded top-five finishes in both of his starts with this chassis last season, including a third-place finish in September at Las Vegas.
KBM Notes of Interest:
- KBM drivers have collected three wins (Erik Jones 2014, Kyle Busch 2018 and 2019), four poles (Kyle Busch 2018, Noah Gragson 2018 and Christian Eckes 2019), 10 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They have earned a collective average starting position of 8.1 and average finish of 11.7 and have led 422 laps.
- KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (75) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). In addition to collecting a series-record seven Owner’s Championships, the organization has produced two championship-winning drivers; Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).
- The No. 18, the number which was on the first Tundra that went to victory lane for KBM in 2010, has 21 career victories.