A Fresh Start … Christian Eckes joined forces with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing (MHR) in December, signifying a fresh start for the organization and the 22-year-old driver from Middletown, N.Y. Friday night’s season opener at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) with Eckes piloting the No. 19 NAPA Auto Care Chevrolet Silverado RST kicks off the 33rd season in team owner Bill McAnally’s partnership with NAPA and NAPA Auto Care. Eckes is fresh off his second career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series playoff appearance in 2022 and is focused on capturing the first victory for MHR to earn his third playoff berth in as many full-time seasons.
Superspeedway Sleeper … While he’s searching for his first superspeedway triumph, Eckes has been a sneaky-good performer at the two largest venues on the NCTS circuit, DIS and Talladega Superspeedway. Last October, Eckes led the most laps (25) at Talladega en route to a fifth-place finish, and was one of only two drivers to collect top-five finishes in both superspeedway races in 2022. He finished third at the “World Center of Racing” last February after leading nine laps and looks to parlay those recent results into a return to victory lane on Friday night.
New Teammate … Eckes will have a new teammate on Friday night, none other than the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion and five-time Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott. Elliott will pilot the No. 35 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet Silverado RST for his first NCTS appearance since last April at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Dawsonville, Ga. native is piloting MHR’s No. 35 entry to fill in for fellow-George driver Jake Garcia, who will compete full-time starting on March 3rd at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he turns 18.
Career Stats Book … The 2023 season will mark Eckes’ third full-time NCTS campaign, and his first behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Silverado RST. He is two-for-two with playoff berths in both of his full-time seasons and captured his first career NCTS win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2021. Eckes has been a model of consistency in his 68-race NCTS career with 20 top-five finishes, 38 top-10’s (.558 percentage), and a strong career average finish of 11.8. He’s poised to continue his upward trajectory in 2023 after posting a career high eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 2022.
Crew Chief / Chassis Selection … Crew chief Charles Denike enters his first full-time season with MHR to lead Eckes and the No. 19 NAPA Auto Care team. Denike earned his first NCTS win as a crew chief with Elliott at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2020 and joined MHR for the final nine races of 2022. Denike and the No. 19 squad have prepared a brand new Silverado RST, purpose-built for superspeedway racing, chassis No. 147.
Tune In … FOX Sports 1 has all the on-track action covered at DIS, beginning with practice at 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday evening. Raceday coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Friday with pole qualifying followed by NASCAR Raceday at 6:30 p.m. ET. The first green flag of 2023 is set to follow at 7:30 p.m. ET. Stay connected with the No. 19 NAPA Auto Care team by following @BMR_NASCAR on Twitter, @bmrnascar on Instagram, and Bill McAnally Racing on Facebook.
Christian Eckes Quote:
On starting a new year with MHR and the No. 19 NAPA Auto Care team:
“I’m absolutely ready to go. I’m thankful to be in this position with Bill (McAnally), everyone at MHR and NAPA Auto Care. It’s really special to be part of this relationship and all of us on this race team are motivated to compete for wins this year and make the playoffs. The road to accomplishing those goals starts on Friday and I’m looking forward to it after the superspeedway races last season. I had a couple top-five’s and the MHR trucks were strong last year at Daytona too. Everyone has worked incredibly hard on this new Chevrolet Silverado RST over the winter, so I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of speed we have in it. Staying clear of all the chaos and trouble is going to be the biggest key so we can put ourselves in position to have a shot to win at the end of the night.”
McAnally Hilgemann Racing PR