Event: N.C. Education Lottery 200
Race 3 of 23, 134 Laps – 30/30/74; 201 Miles
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad-oval)
Date/Broadcast: May 26, 2020 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
Nineteen-year-old Christian Eckes will make his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start at Charlotte Motor Speedway driving the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in Tuesday night’s N.C. Education Lottery 200. While he has no prior Gander Trucks experience at Charlotte, Eckes started fifth and finished seventh in last year’s ARCA Menards Series event at the 1.5-mile quad-oval.
Eckes has proven to be fast in the first two events of the 2020 season, but accidents in the final stage at both Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway have relegated him to an average finish of 22.5. While the first two events haven’t ended the way Eckes would like, the talented teenager has posted an average finish of 5.0 across the opening two stages of the first two events, including runner-up finishes to KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch in the first two stages at Las Vegas.
As part of being able to collect stage points in three of the six stages of the opening two events, Eckes currently sits eighth in the Gander Trucks driver point standings despite not having strong finishes. He currently sits second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, two points behind Zane Smith.
Across 14 career Gander Trucks starts, the New York native has produced three poles, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.1. Eckes 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.
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, 71 top-five and 107 top-10 finishes across his 138 races calling the shots for the organization.
Fugle’s drivers have two wins, one pole, four top-five and six top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 5.4 at Charlotte. Owner-driver Kyle Busch led a race-high 102 laps en route to victory in last year’s event and was also victorious with Fugle calling the shots in 2013. The 2013 victory was Fugle’s first of 28 career victories as a Gander Trucks crew chief.
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
Are you preparing Charlotte any differently knowing that there will be no practice and no qualifying?
“Honestly not too much. Most of these races that we go to in the Truck Series I haven’t been to in a truck, so I’m always preparing to be better and get ready for that race track. We’ve done a lot of time in the simulator now that it’s opened back up. I think we’ve done a good job with that and that we should be prepared when we unload at Charlotte.”
What have you done to stay busy since the last NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race?
“It’s definitely been different, but luckily we’ve had a lot of race preparation. Me and Rudy (Fugle, crew chief), have been on zoom conference calls pretty much every week. We’ve done a great job of getting ahead and kind of preparing for whatever comes next. I’d definitely say we are prepared. That’s what I’ve done over this little break.”
Will it be different racing without fans? Once you get in your truck, do you notice the fans?
“It will definitely be different without fans. Our Safelite supporters that come out mean a lot to me and in the meantime not having them there it’s definitely going to be different. The great fans throughout auto racing that come to the race track – it’s going to be different. I’ve kind of grown up racing and always having fans in the stands. It’s definitely different for sure, but hopefully we put on a good show for the fans watching on the couch instead of at the race track.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 14 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.1. 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
Eckes 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 Tuesday’s N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte. The Tundra has five previous starts, including a win with owner-driver Kyle Busch last May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Eckes led 10 laps and finished second in both stages of this year’s Las Vegas event before being forced into the wall early in the third stage and limping home to a 23rd-place finish.
KBM Notes of Interest:
Across 27 starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, KBM drivers have earned six wins, three poles, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 8.6 and an average finish of 8.8. Owner-driver Kyle Busch has collected all six of his organization’s wins (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018).
KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (76) 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.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!