Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) rebounded from two disastrous weeks to win Sunday’s rain-delayed ARCA Menards Series General Tire Music City 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Eckes took the lead on a restart at lap 81 and led the final 120 laps to earn his first series victory of the season and the fourth of his career.
Eckes led the ARCA Menards Series standings entering the third event of the season at Salem Speedway but was forced to the sidelines with food poisoning on race day. After missing that race, Eckes returned to action at Talladega Superspeedway but was swept into a crash at the race’s midway point and he finished last in the 26-car field.
Eckes was visibly relieved in victory lane.
“It’s been a really rough couple of weeks,” Eckes said. “That was about the longest 80 laps of my life. We pitted early and I figured there would be a caution and there would be one guy with four tires in the pits. But that never happened. We still need to be a little better but we took some strides in the right direction for when we go to Toledo for our next short track race.
“I had a feeling in my stomach that we had a car that could win. I knew it was going to be a good day. We weren’t really happy with it yesterday. We were okay with it. We got it closer but it wasn’t where we wanted it completely. We got it close enough but we have room to get better.”
Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) finished second for the second time in his career. He also finished in the runner-up position in his debut at Five Flags Speedway in March. Gibbs had a close call at lap 73 when he and Tommy Vigh, Jr. (No. 10 Extreme Kleaner Ford) came together on the frontstretch. Vigh eventually lost control going into turn one and collected series championship leader Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota).
“My car was pretty good, we just a little drive off,” Gibbs said. “We just needed a little drive off. We had good pit stops and good execution. The lapped cars are supposed to stay on the bottom and he just pulled up in front of me. I tried to get away from him but he was just a slower than I was so it just sucks for him and it sucks for the 25.”
Self finished 15th, and dropped to second in the series standings behind eighth-place finisher Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford).
Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) was third after starting from the General Tire Pole. Smith was fastest in practice and started from the pole when qualifying was washed out by rain.
“He just had better turnability than I did,” Smith said. “We overloaded the right front tire today. They rolled the center better than we did and that’s where they got us. We learned some things today that should help us at Toledo.”
Carson Hocevar (No. 28 KBR Development/Scott’s/GM Parts Now Chevrolet) finished fourth and Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation/Southern States Bank Chevrolet) rounded out the top five.
Smith led the first 47 laps before he lost the top spot on an exchange of pit stops. Corey Heim stayed out and led four laps, the first time he has led an ARCA Menards Series race in his career. Smith retook the lead for the next 29 circuits before Eckes took over at lap 81 to lead the rest of the way.
The race was slowed three times by caution, first at lap 45 for possible fluid on the track, the second at lap 73 for the Vigh/Self incident, and the final time for debris at lap 122. The average speed was 95.893 miles per hour.
The ARCA Menards Series returns to action Sunday, May 19 in the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Toledo Speedway. The race will be televised live on MAVTV starting at 2 pm ET and ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat at ARCARacing.com. New users may register for free with a valid email address at ARCAracing.com/login.