Venturini Motorsports’ (VMS) teammates Christian Eckes, 18, and Chandler Smith, 16, both members of Toyota Racing Development’s (TRD) highly acclaimed TD2 development driver program, will work double duty this weekend when NASCAR racing returns to the St. Louis area.
Continuing to live out their childhood dreams, albeit as teenagers, both Eckes and Smith, racing with VMS and Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), will be in the spotlight this weekend as they’ll compete in the ARCA Menards Series (ARCA) Day to Day Coffee 150 and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (NGOTS) CarShield 200 double header on Saturday, June 22 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
With aspirations of reaching the highest levels of professional stock car racing both teenage drivers have already begun to make their presence known on the national stage. Combined the talented duo owns eight of VMS’s 15 team ARCA victories since the beginning of 2018.
ARCA Menards Series’ championship contender, Christian Eckes (No.15 JBL Audio Toyota), a four-time ARCA series winner is in the midst of racing in his first full season with VMS. Since making his series debut in 2016, Eckes has made 36 series starts – earning four short track wins, three General Tire Pole awards, 15 top-five and 26 top-10 series finishes.
The Middletown, NY native made headlines earlier this year when he swept ARCA and NGOTS pole award honors at Daytona International Speedway during both series’ opening season events.
This weekend’s NGOTS start will mark the sixth of Eckes’ career. Driving for two powerhouse TRD race teams, Eckes is optimistic heading into Gateway.
“I’m pretty excited about running the double this weekend at Gateway,” said Eckes. “I couldn’t pick two better team in Venturini Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports to go do it with. Gateway is one of my favorite race tracks and a place where I feel we should have won at last year for sure. I’m ready to go give it my all and hopefully end up in victory lane twice by the end of the night.”
Chandler Smith (No.20 Craftsman Toyota), winner of back-to-back ARCA short track events will go for his third in a row Saturday night in his first ever appearance at WWT Gateway’s 1.25-mile track.
Dominating series competition since making his debut last season, Smith has driven to victory lane four time in just 14 ARCA starts. Yet to finish outside the top-10, Smith has led 45% of all laps completed (1,186 of 2,657) in limited ARCA competition and has won an impressive seven General Tire Pole Awards since his first series start at Nashville in 2018.
Smith, a native of Talking Rock, GA, impressed last week in his NGOTS debut as he started from the pole and led 55-laps before finishing eighth after radio communication issues and a pit road penalty set him back.
“I think really exciting to have this opportunity this weekend,” said Smith. “I got a taste of running back-to-back races last weekend with my ARCA race in Madison and the truck in Iowa. This weekend will be a bit more difficult with both races on the same day but I’m up for the challenge. It’s gonna be a good experience overall with a full blown day of learning. Hopefully we can pull off three for three with ARCA and a clean sweep in St. Louis.”
Practice for the ARCA Menards Series Day to Day Coffee 150 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is scheduled from 12:35 pm ET/11:35 pm CT and 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT; General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 5:30 pm ET/4:30 pm CT, and the green flag will fall on the 120 lap/150-mile race at 7:30 pm ET/6:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series CarShield 200 will be televised at 10:00 pm ET/9:00 pm CT on FOX SPORTS 1.