After more than an hour delay and threatening skies around Pocono Raceway, the ARCA Menards Series drivers were able to get back on track for the FORTS USA 150 with nearby Middletown, New York native Christian Eckes grabbing the checkered flag.
It was Eckes second career ARCA Menards Series win of the season, his first since Nashville in May and the fourth career victory of his young racing career.
After starting on the outside pole and with a little bit of luck, Venturini Motorsports driver Christian Eckes took the win at Pocono by 13 seconds over Todd Gilliland.
“Once they told me what happened to the 18 (Gilliland) it was all about keeping our heads down and not making any mistakes,” Eckes said. “We knew there was a long way to go and we needed to be perfect to close it out.”
Gilliland qualified on the pole earlier in the afternoon before the weather started to threaten Pocono Raceway as the race start time got closer. Lightning was detected within the eight-mile radius when the race was supposed to start, adding another 30 minutes to the delay.
Finally, after a little over an hour, the ARCA Menards Series drivers were able to take the green flag after 5 p.m. ET and it was all Todd Gilliland, well, almost all Todd Gilliland.
It was an eventful start as Michael Self and Chandler Smith made slight contact with each other. Gilliland put on a dominating performance leading the first 30 laps before making his scheduled pit stop.
Unfortunately, the No. 18 driver got caught with a penalty for going above the blend line before coming back on track safely. Smith was also penalized for speeding on pit road. While that happened, Christian Eckes, who pitted before Gilliland, was able to take the lead on Lap 34 as pit stops cycled out. Willie Mullins, driving his family-owned No. 3 machine, received a penalty as well for the same issue Gilliland faced, and he had to make a drive-through.
Gilliland got set back to the second position, but was well over 15 seconds behind Eckes. The Sherrils Ford, North Carolina native would need a lot of help from the leader, Eckes, or a lucky caution to give him one more shot at the win.
However, Gilliland was unlucky to catch the break he needed and Eckes went on to score the hometown win for the second time this season.
“We need to be perfect from here on out,” Eckes said. “Without missing the race at Salem, we’d be 150 points ahead. Without the last lap at Elko, we’d be within 50 points or so. We were perfect here today and we need to be perfect every week from here on out. I’ve won at three of the five tracks and my crew chief Kevin Reed has won at all five of them so I am confident we can make a run at it.”
Gilliland was able to rebound for a second-place finish after the blend line violation during his round of pit stops.
“The blend line rule is different in Trucks and ARCA,” he said. “In the truck, we can go above the line with the right side tires as long as we keep the left side tires below it. In ARCA they want you to keep all four tires below it until you’re between Turns 1 and 2. It wouldn’t have been a problem for me at all to keep them below the line. I should have known it but I didn’t.”
Championship points leader Michael Self came home in the third spot after giving up a top-five position earlier in the race for a right rear tire that was going down.
“We had a right rear tire go down and we had to pit early,” Self said. “Once the field cycled through and we didn’t get a caution it evened out for us. We weren’t close to second place and we were way ahead of fourth so we were just trying to make sure we didn’t do anything to give it away at the end.”
There were no cautions during the FORTS USA 150 at Pocono, which saw four lead changes among five drivers. Just four cars finished on the lead lap.
- Christian Eckes
- Todd Gilliland
- Michael Self
- Corey Heim
- Raphael Lessard, One Lap Down
- Austin Wayne Self, One Lap Down
- Bret Holmes, One Lap Down
- Chandler Smith, One Lap Down
- Travis Braden, One Lap Down
- Joe Graf Jr, Two Laps Down
- Thad Moffitt, Three Laps Down
- Bobby Gerhart, Four Laps Down
- Ed Pompa, Five Laps Down
- Willie Mullins, Seven Laps Down
- Tim Richmond, 10 laps Down
- Brad Smith, Did Not Finish, Handling
- Tommy Vigh Jr., Did Not Finish, Electrical
- Dick Doheny, Did Not Finish, Vibration
- Mike Basham, Did Not Finish, Brakes
- Don Thompson, Did Not Start