- Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra, will make his first-ever NASCAR road course start Sunday as NASCAR competes on the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway Road Course for the first time in the history of the sport. Eckes’ last road-course racing experience dates back to his days driving U.S. Legends Cars at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
- The Toyota Racing Development driver has been on the cusp of his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series victory in recent weeks, having finished in the runner-up position in three of the last four events on the schedule. Last week at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Eckes took the lead on a restart in the second overtime session but surrendered the lead to Zane Smith on the final lap. The 19-year-old rookie also finished second to KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch July 18 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and second to three-time series champion Matt Crafton July 25 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
- Eckes ranks fourth in the Gander Trucks championship standings. After 11 events, he sits 49 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill. The New York native currently sits seventh on the 10-driver Gander Trucks playoff grid with Austin Hill, Smith, Grant Enfinger, Crafton and Sheldon Creed having picked up victories this season and being locked into the playoffs and Ben Rhodes sitting third in the points standings, six markers ahead of Eckes. Overall, in 11 starts this season, he has compiled four top-five and six top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 11.6. He ranks second among series regulars in driver rating (99.0) and third in laps led (124).
- On Sunday, the Triple Truck Challenge returns to the Truck Series. This year’s program will consist of the events at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Aug. 21) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Aug. 30). An extra $50,000 from Gander RV & Outdoors is on the line for each of those three events, should a driver win two of the three races he will get a $150,000 bonus and if a driver can win all three races, they will get a $500,00 bonus. Last June, Greg Biffle won the first Triple Truck Challenge for KBM at Texas Motor Speedway.
- Across 23 career Gander Trucks starts, Eckes has produced three poles, 252 laps led, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.6. Before posting three runner-up finishes across the last four races, he had finished a career-best third three times in his career.
- The talented teenager 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. 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, 75 top-five and 113 top-10 finishes across his 147 races calling the shots for the organization.
- Fugle’s drivers have one win, 54 laps led, three top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.3 across six starts on road courses in the Truck Series, all previously coming at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park(CTMP) in Bowmanville, Ont. Erik Jones was victorious in the 2015 event at CTMP with Fugle atop the pit box.
- 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. With sponsor guests not being permitted to attend races during the pandemic, Eckes has been holding virtual meet and greets on Zoom with Safelite associates in each market. He will conduct one with Safelite associates in the Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee markets Thursday, Aug. 13 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
You have not raced on a road course since your legend car days. How are you preparing for this race?
“Yeah — I definitely don’t have the most road course experience. I’m definitely doing a lot to prepare. Obviously, simulator time, a lot of film watching, and I’ll iRace some this week to try and learn a little bit. There are a lot of things I can do with all the resources I have to get us prepared as possible. I really look forward to getting into my Safelite Tundra this weekend at Daytona.”
What is your goal for your first NASCAR road course race?“The biggest thing for me is that I’m looking to have some fun. I kind of did the same thing at Eldora last year. I didn’t have much expectations and went in there looking for a good result. I feel like it is the same here at Daytona. I’m going to have some fun. Like I said, I’m not used to shifting that much in everything, but at the same aspect, I really look forward to race.”
With five drivers already locked into the 10-driver playoffs, how do you feel about where you stand in the point standings?“Yeah — I’d say I feel pretty comfortable. In the truck series, it is so hard to get into the playoffs. We are in a decent spot right now but not as good as I would like to be. We have a bunch of races left, so we have plenty of racing to do and plenty of opportunities to go and punch our ticket. We are going to do everything we can. We are getting closer. Obviously, with the three second-place finishes in the last four, we are knocking at the door but have to get that thing down. We are doing a good job. We are doing a good job of getting points. We just got to be a little bit more secure and get a win. Hopefully, we can do that this weekend in Daytona.”