Event: Talladega 250, Race 19 of 23 (Race 3 in the Round of 10)
94 Laps – 20/20/54; 250.04 Miles
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway(2.66-mile tri-oval)
Date/Broadcast: Oct. 3, 2020 at 1 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 Talladega Superspeedway Saturday for the third and final race of the Round of 10 in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoffs. Eckes finds himself in the eighth position on the playoff grid, six points ahead of the cutoff line for advancing to the Round of 8.
Saturday will mark the Toyota Racing Development driver’s first Gander Trucks start in the Yellowhammer State. Eckes’ lone ARCA Menards Series start at Talladega was a 26th-place finish in last year’s event. He has two starts in superspeedway races in the Truck Series, a pair of 22nd-place finishes at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
The New York native earned his spot in this year’s playoffs after finishing sixth in the regular season point standings. Six series regulars were able to earn a win this year, and of the drivers that did not capture a victory, Brett Moffitt finished ahead of Eckes in the point standings, leaving him as the eighth seed. The 19-year-old driver is one of just two rookies to make this year’s postseason, joining fellow rookie contender Zane Smith. Smith currently sits 33 points ahead of Eckes for the Rookie of the Year award. Eckes has earned the rookie of the race award five times, the most of all rookies. With a birthdate of 11/10/2000, Eckes is the youngest driver in the playoff field by just over six months (Todd Gilliland, 5/15/2000).
Across the first 18 events of the 2020 season, Eckes has posted five top-five and eight top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.6. He ranks third among series regulars in percentage of laps run on lead lap (94.67%), fourth in average running position (9.154), and fifth in driver rating (96.2) and laps led (163).
While this will be Eckes’ first foray into the driver playoffs in the Truck Series, the Toyota Racing Development driver was a key catalyst in the No. 51 team’s owner championship in 2019. The talented teenager made three of his eight starts last season in the playoffs, including his third-place finish in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway that secured KBM’s record-extending seventh owner’s championship.The talented teenager also can draw on his ARCA Menards Series experience, where he captured the 2019 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, 76 top-five and 115 top-10 finishes across his 154 races calling the shots for the organization.
Across six Truck Series starts at Talladega, Fugle’s drivers have one pole, 23 laps led, three top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 7.0.
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.
Talladega will be the 400th race for the Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. The manufacturer has recorded 197 wins in the series, including 79 from KBM, and eight driver championships, including KBM drivers Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).
Christian Eckes Talladega Q&A
Do you enjoy superspeedway racing?
“I’ve always had a lot of fun speedway racing. It is probably one of the most fun things we do all year up until the point of impact for me. We’re going to do a little something different, so that doesn’t happen. I always enjoy speedway racing.”
How do you feel about having Talladega as an elimination race for the Round of 10?
“It’s definitely interesting. It kind of throws everybody a curveball with a lot of unknowns. Talladega has really no definitive answer on what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen. You know it is going to happen. The biggest thing is staying out of ‘The Big One,’ and having something to race with at the end. As well as getting stage points. We are only six ahead. We are going to do our best to get some points this weekend.”
You’re six points above the cutoff line for advancing to the next round. How will you approach Saturday’s race?
“We are going to do as much as we can to get as many points as we can. There are two stages and the race finish to get points. We are going to try and maximize points our efforts for all of them. I’m looking forward to it. Talladega last year for me in the ARCA series didn’t go so well, so I’m looking for a little bit of turnaround.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 30 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 294 laps led, eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.6. 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.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!