Event: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 200, Race 11 of 23
100 laps – 20/20/60; 200 miles
Location: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (two-mile oval)
Date/Broadcast: Aug. 7, 2020 at 6 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
Christian Eckes and the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team enter this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn riding the momentum of a pair of runner-up finishes across the last three races. After finishing second to Kyle Busch Motorsports owner-driver Kyle Busch at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18, Eckes chased down Matt Crafton in the closing laps of the backend of the doubleheader at Kansas Speedway on July 25 but crossed the stripe .324 seconds behind the three-time NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series champion.
On the strength of the pair of runner-up finishes, the19-year-old driver moved up one position to third in the Gander Truck Series championship standings. With 10 races completed, he sits 50 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill. With three drivers behind him in the standings having won a race and locked into the playoffs, Eckes currently sits sixth on the 10-driver playoff grid. The New York native is tied with Zane Smith in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Eckes ranks second among Gander RV & Outdoors Series regulars with a 100.3 driver rating and is third with 123 laps led. He had led at least one lap in each of the last three events on the schedule seven of the 10 races overall.
Across 22 career Gander Trucks starts, Eckes has produced three poles, 251 laps led, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.0. Before posting a pair of runner-up finishes across the last three races, he had finished a career-best third three times in his career.
Eckes started from the second position and finished 15th in last year’s Truck Series race at Michigan. The Toyota Racing Development Driver also had one start in the ARCA Menards Series at Michigan, a seventh-place result last year.
The talented teenagercaptured 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, 74 top-five and 112 top-10 finishes across his 146 races calling the shots for the organization.
Fugle’s drivers have 76 laps led, five top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 5.0 across five starts at Michigan. He’s been atop the box for a pair of runner-up finishes; most recently with Bell in 2017.
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 Detroit and Grand Rapids markets Thursday, Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. ET.
Christian Eckes, Driver Q&A
Are you looking forward to the month of August where you have a race every weekend?
Yeah – for sure, having four races coming up with Michigan, Daytona Road Course, Gateway and Dover. It’s an interesting group of racetracks, but at the same time, I’m really looking forward to building on what we’ve started so far this year. Obviously, I wish we could still practice, but in the same aspect getting more seat time with more races and more experience will only get us better for the playoffs. I’m looking forward to this four-week stretch.”
Do you feel that Michigan races like a 1.5-mile track, like a superspeedway or a combination of both?
“I’d say a combination of both. The draft runs and how you can push is very similar to Talladega and Daytona, but in the same aspect, it has mile-and-a-half characteristics with how you can control air and how the truck drives and handles. I would say a mixture of both. It’s always a track that I’ve enjoyed going to. I look forward to getting there in my Safelite Tundra this weekend.”
After two runner-up finishes in the last three races do you feel like a win is just around the corner?
“Yeah – I’d say we’re close for sure. We are getting better and better every week. The last two second-place finishes have been completely different, which leaves us optimistic. At Texas, we were really fast and kind of got that position because of how fast we were. At Kansas, we did a really good job executing and got ourselves in a position to attack at the end. Overall, I’m really pleased with our progress so far. It’s down to the little things now. It’s fine-tuning those little things. I truly believe we can do that at Michigan. It’s a place that I’ve been at before and Rudy has always run really well at. I’m really looking forward to getting in my Safelite Tundra.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 22 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 251 laps led, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.0. Earned a career-best runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18, 2020 and equaled in July 25, 2020 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
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-53: The No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-53, for Friday’s race at Michigan. Eckes started fourth and finished sixth with this Tundra in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!