Event: CarShield 200 presented by CK Power, Race 14 of 23, 200 Laps – 55/55/50; 200 Miles
Location: World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Ill.(1.25-mile oval)
Date/Broadcast: Aug. 30, 2020 at noon ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is a race that Christian Eckes has been looking forward to all season. In 2018, making just his second career start in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series, Eckes led 34 laps and captured the second stage at the 1.25-mile oval track. Unfortunately for the then 17-year-old driver, he got wrecked early in the Final Stage and was relegated to a disappointing 28th-place finish. Once again last year, the New York native had a fast Tundra, leading twice for 27 laps, but while battling for the win got turned and ended the night with a 14th-place result. He also has and average finish of 3.0 two ARCA Menards Series starts at the Illinois track, including a second-place finish in last year’s event.
Sunday’s race will mark the final race of the Triple Truck Challenge in the Gander Truck Series. This year’s program consisted of the events at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Aug. 21) and this week at Gateway. Gander RV & Outdoors put an extra $50,000 on the line for the winner of each of those three events and bonuses should a driver win two of the three, or all three races. Sheldon Creed won the first event and Zane Smith won the second event; each can claim a $150,000 bonus if they win on Sunday at Gateway. Gateway is the only truck race this season that will use these procedures.
Eckes ranks fourth in the Gander Trucks championship standings. After 13 events, he sits 65 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill. He currently sits seventh on the 10-driver Gander Trucks playoff grid with Austin Hill, Smith, Grant Enfinger, Crafton and Sheldon Creed having picked up victories this season and being locked into the playoffs, while Brett Moffitt (second) is ahead of him in the points standings. Overall, in 13 starts this season, he has compiled four top-five and six top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 11.6. He ranks second among series regulars in average running position (9.0) and third in laps led (158) and driver rating (98.6). He had led at least one lap in each of the last six races and nine of the last 10.
The Toyota Racing Development driver has been on the cusp of his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series victory over the last couple of months, having finished in the runner-up position in three of the last six events on the schedule.
Eckes took the lead on a restart in the second overtime session at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on Aug. 7 but surrendered the lead to Zane Smith on the final lap. The 19-year-old rookie also finished second to KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch July 18 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and second to three-time series champion Matt Crafton July 25 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Over the last six races, the talented teenager has posted an average finish of 6.9 across his last seven starts, compared to an average finish of 17.1 across his first six starts this year.
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, 75 top-five and 113 top-10 finishes across his 149 races calling the shots for the organization. Fugle’s drivers have 258 laps led and two top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 14.0 across seven five starts at Gateway in the Truck Series. Despite having his drivers lead in all six events, all leading the most laps in five of the six trips to the Illinois track, Fugle’s beset result was sixth with Christopher 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 in the garage area at 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 St. Louis markets Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. ET.
Christian Eckes | World Wide Technology Raceway Q&A
You’ve had fast Tundras and led laps at World Wide Technology Raceway the last few years. Is this a race you’ve had circled on your calendar?
“Gateway is always a place I’ve enjoyed going to. For whatever reason, it has suited my driving style. I always have fast cars and trucks when I go. The last few years have gone really well. We’ve led a lot of laps. The first year I think I won a stage, and last year, we led the most laps. It’s definitely one I’ve had circled since the beginning of the year. Hopefully, we won’t get wrecked this year in the same exact spot we did the last two years and bring home a good finish for our Safelite team.”
What does it take to have a fast Tundra at World Wide Technology Raceway?
“I feel like Gateway is a pretty technical racetrack in the aspect of where you need a lot of turn and a lot of grip as well. We’ve done a really good job trying to manage that the last two years in the truck series itself. That is why we’ve had pretty fast trucks. I’m looking forward to having another fast Safelite Tundra this weekend. It’s really flat. For whatever reason, I’ve always really enjoyed going to those. I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
With where you are at in the point standings, how will you approach the final three races of the regular season?
“I feel pretty comfortable as a whole. I think we are seventh in the playoffs and fourth in drivers and owners points as far as regular points. We’re not extremely comfortable, but in the same aspect, we’re comfortable enough to take some chances. Obviously, there are three races left so a lot can happen. We need to be careful and know that, but at the same time, we need to go get some playoff points and do whatever we can to get ourselves set up for the playoffs. We feel pretty good about our position but not perfect. I wish we had a win and locked in, but in the same aspect, we’re pretty comfortable with it.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 25 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 289 laps led, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.6. Earned a career-best runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18, 2020 and then equaled it July 25, 2020 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Aug. 7 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
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-68: The No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-68, a brand-new Tundra, for Sunday’s race at Gateway.
KBM Notes of Interest:
KBM drivers have collected two wins, 363 laps led, six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.6 across 20 starts at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Christopher Bell was victorious at the 1.25-mile track in 2016 and Darrell Wallace Jr., won the 2014 event.
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!