Event: Baptist Health 200, Race 5 of 23, 134 Laps – 30/30/74; 201 Miles
Location: Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway (1.5 oval)
Date/Broadcast: June 13, 2020 at 7:30 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 Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway for the fifth race on the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors schedule. For Eckes, it will be his first repeat visit to a mile-and-a-half track in his Gander Trucks career. The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) driver equaled a career-best third-place result and clinched KBM’s record-extending seventh owner’s championship in the series finale at the Florida track last season.
With a third-place finish in last week’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., the 19-year-old driver equaled a career-best result for the third time across his 16 career starts in NASCAR’s third division. The result was a season-best finish for Eckes and propelled him up two positions to sixth in the Gander Trucks drier point standings.He currently sits second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 17 points behind Zane Smith.
Across 16 career Gander Trucks starts, the New York native has produced three poles, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.5.
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. 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 108 top-10 finishes across his 140 races calling the shots for the organization.
Fugle’s drivers have two wins, two poles, five top-five and six top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 2.7 across six starts at Homestead. Owner-driver Kyle Busch led 62 laps en route to victory in the 2013 event, while William Byron captured the pole and led 31 laps en route the victory in 2016 driving the same Tundra, KBM-38, that Eckes will pilot on Saturday night. “38 Special” has six career wins, six poles and 771 laps led in 16 career starts.
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.
With sponsor guests not being permitted to attend races during the pandemic, Eckes has been holding virtual meet and greets on Zoom with Safelite associates in each market. He will conduct one with Safelite associates in the Miami region Tuesday, June 16 at 6 p.m. ET.
Christian Eckes | Homestead Q&A
This weekend will be the first time you’ve gone to a 1.5-mile track for the second time. Will that help you be able to be better prepared?
“Going to Homestead for the second time should help and I can definitely prepare for it different than I would say for Atlanta last week. Luckily, I have some really good notes from the race in November and just know what to expect is the biggest thing. Without practice, it’s definitely hard to know what to expect, but having been there before I know exactly how much grip its going to have and stuff like that. It’s definitely going to be a little bit different, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Does your third-place finish at Homestead-Miami in November give you confidence going into this weekend?
“I definitely have a lot of confidence going into Homestead – it’s a track that I’ve raced at well before. Especially with the momentum from a strong finish last weekend at Atlanta. The combination of both of those, those run should bode well for us. Looking forward to getting in my No. 18 Safelite Tundra at a place that I feel comfortable at and hopefully we can finish two spots better than last week.”
Do you feel that the track will be similar to the conditions in November or will racing there in June change them?
“The change from November to June is definitely a little bit different – how the sun sets, what time we’ll be on the track, the temperature and stuff like that should be different. Overall, I think Homestead is kind of Homestead – you’re sliding around and you’re having fun of course. We’ll just have to see how the conditions of the track are once the race starts.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 16 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.5. 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-038: The No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team will unload chassis KBM-038 for Saturday’s event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Tundra has visited victory lane six times across 16 starts, most recently by owner-driver Kyle Busch at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March of 2019. Noah Gragson has one win at Kansas with the chassis, Christopher Bell raced it to three wins and William Byron won with it in it the first time it saw the track; at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November of 2016. Eckes piloted “38 Special” in its most recent outing, where he captured the pole, led two laps and was fighting for the lead late in the race before being relegated to a 17th-place finish after getting caught up in a late wreck.
KBM Notes of Interest:
KBM drivers have collected four wins, one pole, 317 laps led, 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 10.3 across 26 starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Owner-driver Kyle Busch has two victories at Homestead-Miami (2010 and 2013), while Darrell Wallace Jr. (2014) and William Byron (2016) each have one.
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!