Venue: The Milwaukee Mile
Laps Led: 5
NCTS Point Standings Position: 2nd (Advanced to the Round of 8)
Christian Eckes finished third at The Milwaukee Mile on Sunday afternoon for his seventh podium result of the season and took another step in his pursuit of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) championship. The driver of the No. 19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet Silverado RST locked himself into the Round of 8 by scoring 48 points. He is one of four drivers to reserve their spot in the second round with one race remaining in the Round of 10 at Kansas Speedway.
Eckes started the NCTS’ return to The Milwaukee Mile after a 14-year absence from the sixth position. The two-time winner this season was a formidable threat throughout the afternoon, and he showed his consistency from the outset. He took fourth position on the first lap and briefly ran sixth after a restart on lap 18. As his loose condition naturally built more neutral, Eckes regained a top five position on the final lap of Stage 1 on lap 55 to earn six points.
Crew chief Charles Denike and the Gates Hydraulics team armed Eckes with four tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustments during the first pit stop under caution. Fast work by the No. 19 crew netted Eckes two positions and he restarted third on lap 61. He held the third position for the entirety of Stage 2 which featured a 40-lap green flag run. Eckes banked eight additional points in his championship quest at lap 110.
The second pit stop of the day saw Eckes take the lead in the pits with another quick four-tire stop by the MHR team. After a restart on lap 130, Eckes settled into third position until a caution at lap 135 flew and brought most of the lead lap trucks to pit road. Eckes took four tires and restarted seventh on lap 141 as six trucks stayed out old tires. Eckes rocketed to third within 10 laps and was within sight of the race lead. He held the podium position for the final 20 circuits to notch his second straight top-three finish of the NCTS playoffs.
Christian Eckes Quote:
“I figured we had a shot at (locking into Round 2) today. I thought our No. 19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet was really fast. The balance was a little bit off, which we made it somewhat better. But, just really proud of Charles (Denike) and all these guys. Wish we could have won that one. The pit crew was better than the truck today. We just have some more work to do.”