Event: SpeedyCash.com 400, Race 21 of 23, 147 Laps – 35/35/77; 220.5 Miles
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile quad-oval)
Date/Broadcast: Oct. 25, 2020 at noon ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
Christian Eckes and the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team head to Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s SpeedyCash.com 400. The Texas race is one that Eckes has had circled since his runner-up finish at the 1.5-mile quad oval in July. The rookie driver was 0.7 seconds ahead of KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch that day when the final round of scheduled pit stops began under green-flag conditions. When pit stops had cycled through, the mentor had used his exceptional skills getting on and off pit road and distanced himself from his pupil by nearly three seconds. A late-race accident gave Eckes another shot at that win, and although he was able to race side-by-side with his boss for three laps and momentarily take the lead, Busch would make his way back around his young driver and cross the stripe 0.77 seconds ahead of Eckes.
The No. 18 team will be bringing the same Tundra, KBM-55, it raced in July on Sunday. In addition to Eckes’ runner-up finish, the truck swept the season at Texas in 2019 with Busch winning in March and Greg Biffle winning in June giving it an average finish of 1.3 across the last three Gander Trucks races in The Lone Star State.
Eckes’ runner-up finish at Texas in July was one of three this season for the rookie driver. The 19-year-old driver finished second to three-time series champion Matt Crafton at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City on July 25 and second to Zane Smith at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on Aug. 7. Across the first 20 events of the 2020 Gander Trucks season, Eckes has posted five top-five and nine top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.5. He ranks first among series regulars in percentage of laps run on lead lap (95.10%), fourth in average running position (9.086), and fifth in driver rating (95.9), laps led (176) and laps in the top 15 (2,217).
The 19-year-old driver earned a spot in this year’s playoffs after finishing sixth in the regular season point standings but was eliminated after the Round of 10 when he finished seven points behind the cutoff line after getting caught up in a last-lap accident at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Eckes sits second to Zane Smith in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
The Toyota Racing Development product secured the ARCA Menards Series title last year producing four wins, two poles, 400 laps led, 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes and average finish of 4.8 across 19 starts en route to the championship. Across 46 career ARCA Menards Series starts overall, the New York native 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 116 top-10 finishes across his 156 races calling the shots for the organization.
Across 14 Truck Series starts at Texas, Fugle’s drivers have five wins, one pole, 493 laps led, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.2. The veteran signal has won with five different drivers at the 1.5-mile quad-oval: Erik Jones (2015), William Byron (2016), Christopher Bell (2017), Kyle Busch (2019) and Greg Biffle (2019). His five wins at Texas are three more than he has collected at any track; he has won twice at eight different tracks.
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.
Christian Eckes Texas Q&A
After finishing second to Kyle at Texas in July have you had this race circled on your calendar?
“I always look forward to going to Texas. It is a really fun racetrack and one I’ve had some speed at in testing and the race. I finished second there to Kyle in the last race there. It’s a place I really enjoy going to. I’m really confident in our Safelite team, and hopefully, we can go get our first win of the year.”
Do you feel like the track conditions will be the same at they were in July or will they be different?
“The characteristics will change a little bit. It will be a little bit colder than July. It should have a lot more grip and possibly have a little bit more air to be like a superspeedway race in a way. It should be a lot of fun. There should be a lot of passing. Be sure to tune in on FS1.”
How crazy are late-race restarts in the Truck Series?
“They are pretty crazy. Last weekend they were insane. Unfortunately, I was sleeping a little bit. You have to be on your game when it comes to restarts. In the same aspects, I learned a lot from last week and can put that into use and not screw up as bad.”
Christian Eckes Career Highlights:
Across 32 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 307 laps led, eight top-five and 16 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.1. 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-55: The No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-55 for Sunday’s race at Texas. KBM-55 is the same truck that Eckes finished second with in the July race at Texas this year and finished third with it at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. in June. The Tundra has visited victory lane at Texas twice; with owner-driver Kyle Busch behind the wheel last March and with Greg Biffle last June. Busch also was victorious with KBM-55 at Atlanta in 2019. Overall, across eight-career starts, the Tundra has an average finish of 2.25.
KBM Notes of Interest:
KBM drivers have collected eight wins, three poles, 862 laps led, 17 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 10.6 across 50 starts in the Lone Star State.
Owner-driver Kyle Busch’s victory in July was his fourth for his organization (2010, 2014, 2019 & 2020). Greg Biffle completed the 51 team’s season sweep of Texas last year with a win in June. Erik Jones earned a win in November 2015; William Byron took the checkered flag in June of 2016 and Christopher Bell went to Victory Lane in June of 2017.
KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (80) 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!