Eckes Finishes 15th in Topsy-Turvy Martinsville Battle

McAnally Hilgemann Racing Photo

Christian Eckes came away with a 15th-place finish at Martinsville Speedway on Friday night after one of the most unpredictable NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) races in recent memory. The driver of the No. 19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet Silverado RST earned 35 points, tied for sixth-most in the race, after running inside the top five for most of the evening and collecting 13 stage points. Eckes remains fifth in the NCTS standings after seven events. 

Eckes displayed strong long run speed in practice and delivered the sixth-fastest lap in pole qualifying under sunny skies on Friday afternoon. Just after the command to start the engines, a lightning strike halted the night’s events, which was followed by brief-heavy rainfall that doused the half mile. As the skies cleared, teams bolted on rain tires and began the race on damp track conditions. The green flag on Friday night marked the first time in NASCAR history that an oval race was contested with wet-weather tires on a damp racing surface.

Eckes’ versatility was evident using the wet-weather tires in the opening laps as he swiftly advanced to fourth position by lap 10. As track conditions began to dry, a competition caution was thrown on lap 27 which allowed teams to change to slick tires with non-competitive pit stops. Eckes restarted fifth on lap 44 and collected six points at the end of Stage 1 on lap 50 in fifth position. 

Crew chief Charles Denike elected to keep Eckes on track during the stage caution as only seven laps were run on that set of tires. A brief shower and red flag immediately occurred during the stage caution, but Eckes restarted fifth on lap 72, still on slick tires. He took advantage of another restart on lap 87 to claim the fourth position and ran there until the end of Stage 2 on lap 100 to earn seven points. The Gates Hydraulics team elected to pit under the stage caution to ensure Eckes’ No. 19 had enough fuel to make the scheduled 200-lap distance. Unfortunately, another rain shower appeared shortly after Eckes had advanced from 20th position to prematurely end the race after 124 laps, resulting in a 15th-place finish.

Christian Eckes Quote:

“Just an odd night tonight with starting on a wet racetrack and dodging weather all race long. We had another really fast Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet. We had a good truck on rain tires and slicks, but the weather and cautions just didn’t fall our way tonight. We’ll take the next two off weeks to shake this off and get back to work at Kansas.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing PR

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