Venue: Kansas Speedway
Laps Led: 2
NCTS Point Standings Position: 2nd
Christian Eckes had perfect night vision on Friday night at Kansas Speedway as he continued to peak at the right time with his third victory of the season. The driver of the No. 19 PEAK / NAPA NIGHTVISION Chevrolet Silverado RST closed out the first round of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) playoffs with a thrilling last-lap pass to claim his fourth career victory and the third-straight podium finish. Eckes enters the Round of 8 at Bristol Motor Speedway next week second in the championship standings, six points out of the lead and two markers above the cutline.
Eckes began the journey to his third victory from eighth position. While he and crew chief Charles Denike searched for additional outright speed throughout practice, Eckes immediately vaulted into the top five at the green flag. He ran as high as third at the race’s first caution on lap 15 but was hampered by a tight condition after the restart. He managed to maintain fifth position at the end of Stage 1 on lap 30 to earn six points.
Denike and the No. 19 squad gave Eckes four fresh tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment during the pit stop under the stage break and allowed him to restart sixth on lap 36. The balance shift allowed Eckes to claim third on lap 38, but swung too loose as the second stage progressed. Eckes managed the handling condition to its limit and ran sixth at the end of Stage 2 on lap 60 to collect five points. Another four-tire pit stop was on the docket during the stage caution where he received fresh tires, fuel, and a reversed track bar adjustment.
He restarted fifth on lap 69 and briefly rocketed to second on the restart. Eckes settled into fourth until a round of green flag stops. The New Yorker pitted for the final time under green on lap 98 and cycled out to fourth position by lap 107. The race changed course with a caution on lap 119, 15 laps shy of the finish. Eckes took full advantage of his short run speed by climbing to fourth before another yellow flew on lap 127, which set up a two-lap sprint.
Eckes chose the top lane of row two to restart fourth and ripped the top of the speedway in Turns 1 and 2 to get a run on the leaders. He took the momentum to the outside wall in Turn 3 and briefly took the lead with a three-wide move at the white flag. On the final lap, Eckes momentarily surrendered the two spots back to third, but regained momentum to make another three-wide move to the bottom down the backstretch. He completed the winning move with a perfectly-executed slide job in Turn 4 to earn his first NCTS victory at Kansas Speedway.
Christian Eckes Quote:
“What a wild ending. We had like a sixth-place truck all day, but things just kind of went the right way for us at the end. I got a good run on the No. 38, he peeled middle to block the No. 11, and I saw a move from Kyle Busch from 2021, that’s how he won the race. I was like, ‘okay if I just rip top, I’ll be okay.’ I got to his quarter panel and just held on. We had another battle there going three wide bottom. So it was kind of all over the place. Just a super good race truck on the short term. It just struggled past three or four laps for whatever reason. But when it counted, we were good. Huge thanks to PEAK, NAPA NIGHTVISION, NAPA Auto Care, NAPA Auto Parts, just everybody involved, Gates Hydraulics. It’s great to be in victory lane, obviously, but we have a lot of unfinished business.”