ECKES DRIVES ILL-HANDLING TUNDRA TO 14TH-PLACE FINISH
Date: May 26, 2020
Event: N.C. Education Lottery 200 (Race 3 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 30 laps/30 laps/74 laps
Start/Finish: 6th/14th (Running, completed 134 of 134 laps)
Winner: Chase Elliott of GMS Racing (Chevrolet)
The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series returned to action Tuesday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The field was set by a random draw in tiers based on 2019 Gander Trucks owner’s points, with Christian Eckes starting sixth. Eckes battled handling issues throughout the 134-lap event and would bring the Safelite Tundra home in the 14th position.
Stage One Recap:
- Eckes rolled off sixth, but early on got shuffled three-wide in the middle and by lap two was in the 10th position. By the time the competition caution flew on lap 15, the Safelite Tundra had subsided to the 14th position.
- Eckes communicated to veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle that he thought his Tundra was on the splitter and it wasn’t allowing him to drive the truck hard.
- After multiple trips down pit lane, for major adjustments and four fresh tires, Eckes returned to the track scored in the 30thposition for the lap-20 restart.
- He communicated that the handling was “a lot better,” as he maneuvered his way up to the 18th spot when Stage One ended on lap 30.
Stage Two Recap:
- Fugle elected to keep his young driver out, leaving the No. 18 scored in the third position when Stage Two went green on lap 38.
- Eckes pushed his KBM teammate Raphael Lessard to the lead, but shortly after drifted up the track and ended up three-wide in the middle again. He would settle into the ninth position momentarily but fell back to the 16th position by the completion of Stage Two.
Final Stage Recap:
- Before hitting pit road, Eckes communicated to Fugle that his Safelite Tundra was “still on the splitter.”
- Once on pit road, the over-the-wall crew once again administered a four-tire and fuel stop with more adjustments and returned their young driver to the track scored in the 22nd position for the lap-69 restart.
- Eckes was scored in the 20th position when the field was slowed for the fourth time on lap 81. Still not happy with the handling of his Tundra, Fugle used multiple visits to pit road to take a major swing at fixing the No. 18 Toyota.
- When the field went back green on lap 87, the New York native was scored in the 30th position. By the time the next caution occurred on lap 88, he had advanced to the 21st position.
- After a debris caution occurred on lap 97, he restarted 14th, and would end the 134-lap event in the same position.
Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
How did your race go tonight?
“Rough race for sure. P14 in the Safelite Tundra. Could never really get a handle on our truck for whatever reason. I wasn’t great either – I had some moments here and there. Overall, our performance was down, and we weren’t at our best tonight. There’s a lot to be learned and a lot of things we can do and lots of things to improve on. Looking forward to Atlanta and so is the team to turn the season around.”
N.C. Education Lottery 200 Recap:
- NASCAR Cup Series regular Chase Elliott picked up his third career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series victory. KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch crossed thee stripe 0.627 seconds behind Elliott in the runner-up position. Zane Smith came home third, Brett Moffitt was fourth and Sheldon Creed rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured seven cautions for a total of 37 laps. There were 19 lead changes among 10 drivers.
How Eckes’ KBM Teammates Fared:
- Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished second
- Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 15th
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
After three events, Eckes ranks eighth in the Gander Trucks championship standings. The rookie of the year candidate sits 42 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill.
Eckes will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series resumes action June 6 at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage of the Vet Tix/Camping World 200 begins Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on FS1.