CHRISTIAN ECKES: DRIVER, NO. 18 SAFELITE AUTOGLASS® TOYOTA | POCONO PREVIEW
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Overview:
Event: Pocono Organics 150 to benefit Farm Aid (Race 6 of 23), 60 Laps –15/15/30; 150 Miles
Location: Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. (2.5-mile tri-oval)
Date/Broadcast: June 27, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
Christian Eckes and the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team head to Pocono Raceway for the sixth race on the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series schedule. Although it is located in a different state, Pocono serves as a home race for Eckes, who grew up 80 miles from the track in Middletown, N.Y. The Toyota Racing Development driver had a very successful 2019 at Pocono: winning the July ARCA Menards Series race, finishing third in the June ARCA race and finishing fourth in his first Gander Trucks start at the Pennsylvania track.
With his eighth-place finish in last week’s event at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, which included finishes of seventh or better in the opening two stages of the event, Eckes propelled four positions to second in the Gander Trucks driver point standings, 44 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill. The 19-year-old leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 18 markers over Zane Smith.
Across 17 career Gander Trucks starts, the New York native has produced three poles, 173 laps led, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.5. Eckes has finished a career-best third three times in his career, most recently at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., on June 6.
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. Across 46 career ARCA Menards Series starts overall, 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 is 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, 72 top-five and 109 top-10 finishes across his 141 races calling the shots for the organization.
Fugle’s drivers have two wins, one pole, 61 laps led, four top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 5.5 across six starts at Pocono.
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
You won at Pocono last year in the ARCA Menards Series and finished fourth in the truck race. Do you feel like it’s a track that fits your driving style?
“Yeah — Pocono has always been a place that I’ve enjoyed going to over the years. I’ve raced four times in the ARCA car and once in the trucks. It’s probably one of the places I’ve been to the most in my stock car career. It’s definitely a place I enjoy. It’s real flat. For whatever reason, I really like the flat tracks and have had success on them. I feel like it will be the same way in our Safelite Tundra this weekend.”
Which turn at Pocono is the trickiest?
“It honestly depends. Like last year in the truck series, I felt like the tunnel was the hardest because you have to drive it so hard with how much downforce and stuff these trucks have. In the ARCA car, it has always been Turn 3. I feel like three is a big handling part of the track. It leads to the longest part of the straightaway. You definitely have to be good at that end, but I would say the hardest turn is probably Turn 2 to get through correctly and not lose time.”
You are currently second in points. How would you evaluate the early portion of your season?
“I feel like the first portion of the season has gone OK. It hasn’t been perfect by any means, but we have shown speed and have shown we can contend on a weekly basis. We started the season not well in 22nd and 23rd, but followed it up with a 14th at Charlotte. We were able to bounce back at Atlanta and Homestead and pick up a top-five and top-10. I feel like we are on the right track and making strides to where we need to be, but we still have a little bit to go. Hopefully we can close that gap a little bit here at Pocono.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 17 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 173 laps led, four top-five and nine top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.2. Has earned a career-best third-place finish three times, most recently at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., in June. He also finished third 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-065: The No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-65, a brand-new Tundra, for Saturday’s Pocono Organics 150 at Pocono Raceway.
KBM Notes of Interest:
Across 23 starts at Pocono Raceway, KBM drivers have earned four wins (Kyle Busch 2015 and 2018, William Byron 2016, and Christopher Bell 2017), two poles (Erik Jones 2015 and Kyle Busch 2018), 223 laps led, 11 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 7.9 and an average finish of 7.2
KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (77) 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.