Events: Kansas 200, Race 9 of 23, 134 Laps – 30/30/74; 201 Miles (Friday)
Kansas Speedway 200, Race 10 of 23, – 30/30/74; 201 Miles (Saturday)
Location: Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Date/Broadcast: July 24, 2020 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
July 25, 2020 at 1:30 p.m. ETFS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
Christian Eckes and the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team head into this weekend’s unprecedented doubleheader at Kansas Speedway riding the momentum of Eckes’ career-best runner-up finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where he led 52 laps and battled for the win late in the race with KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch. Teams will be required to use the same truck that they raced on Friday night in Saturday afternoon’s event or they will have to start from the back of the field. Saturday’s starting lineup will be based off the finishing order of Friday night’s event with an inversion of the top-15 finishers. Friday night’s winner will start 15th on Saturday and the 15th-place finisher will start on the pole Saturday.
With Eckes’ second-place result at Texas, he has produced an average finish of 4.75 across his last four starts on mile-and-a-half tracks this season. Additionally, he has led double-digit laps in three of those events.
Eckes will tackle Kansas Speedway for the first time in the Gander Trucks, but clinched his ARCA Menards Series championship at the 1.5-mile venue by winning the series finale in the Sunflower State last season. Eckes’ race at Kansas was reminiscent of his season as he had to start from the back of the field due to mechanical problems during qualifying that led to his team having to change engines before the race. He grabbed the lead from his Venturini Motorsports teammate and championship rival, Michael Self, and remained out front for the remainder of the race to overcome a points deficit partly incurred due to missing the third race of the season due to illness.
With his second-place finish at Texas, the19-year-old driver maintained the fourth position in the Gander Truck Series championship standings. With eight races completed, he sits 33 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill. The New York native has a 13-point lead over Zane Smith in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Eckes leads all Gander RV & Outdoors Series regulars in laps led (107) and fastest laps run (40) this year and ranks second to Hill (105.8) with a 99.1 driver rating.
Across 20 career Gander Trucks starts, the Toyota Racing Development driver has produced three poles, 235 laps led, five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.4. Before posting his career-best runner-up finish last week at Texas, Eckes had finished a career-best third three times in his career.
Eckes 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, 73 top-five and 111 top-10 finishes across his 144 races calling the shots for the organization.
Fugle’s drivers have two wins, three poles, 368 laps led, four top-five and four top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 9.7 across seven starts at Kansas. He called the shots for William Byron’s first-ever Gander Trucks win in 2016 and was also victorious in 2018 when Noah Gragson started from the pole, led a race-high 128 laps and swept all three stages.
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 Kansas City markets Thursday, July 23 at 7 p.m. ET
After battling Kyle for the win last week do you enter this week’s races at Kansas with more confidence?
“Yeah — I definitely say that it gave me a bode of confidence. To battle with the best like that and probably the best in NASCAR is the best confidence booster. As a whole for our team, it proves that we can compete and compete to win races. I’m definitely looking forward to getting to Kansas. It is a place I’ve won at before and a place Rudy has to. I am looking forward to getting to the racetrack this weekend.”
Will you approach Kyle and ask for his advice on things you could’ve done better near the end of last week’s race at Texas?
“Yeah — I definitely will. There are certain things he did at the end of the race that blocked my air that I’ve never done before. I’d like to ask him about that, as well as, the pit road stuff. I’m trying to get a little bit better. I feel that we were OK compared to the truck guys, but at the same time, Kyle blew our doors off. I need to be a little better at that, and I’ll be sure to ask him about that to get better.”
Will your mindset in Friday’s race be any different knowing that you have to run the same truck Saturday or start at the rear?
“Yeah definitely. I have confidence in our No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass group that no matter what happens, we will have a good truck for both days. I will definitely be a little bit cautious. Obviously, I want to run the same truck on both nights and not have to start at the rear. At the same time, we will definitely be going for it. This team can contend for wins and that’s what we’re trying to go do. I wouldn’t say that we are going to change our mindset too much, but it will definitely be in the back of my head.
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 20 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 235 laps led, five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.4. Earned a career-best runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18, 2020.
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-38: The Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-38 for this weekend’s races at Kansas Speedway. The Tundra has visited victory lane six times across 17 starts, most recently by owner-driver Kyle Busch at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March of 2019. Noah Gragson was victorious at Kansas with “38 Special” in 2018, 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.
KBM Notes of Interest:
- KBM drivers have collected four wins, four poles, 597 laps led, 11 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 9.2 across 25 starts at Kansas.
- KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (79) 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!