Christian Eckes – No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra Gander Trucks Martinsville Preview

Christian Eckes: Driver, No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass® Toyota

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Overview:

Event: NASCAR Hall of Fame 200, Race 22 of 23, 200 Laps – 50/50/100; 105.2 Miles
Location: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (0.526-mile oval)
Date/Broadcast: Oct. 30, 2020 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90


American Muscle

What You Need to Know:

  • Christian Eckes and the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team head to Martinsville Speedway for Friday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200, where the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will tackle the 0.526-mile oval under the lights for the first time. Eckes has two prior starts at the Virginia track, with a best result of ninth in his track debut in October of 2018. In last year’s event, the Toyota Racing Development driver earned his third career pole and spent most of the day in the top 10 and was battling for the lead late in the race when he got caught up in a wreck and was relegated to a 17th-place finish.
  • Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) swept Martinsville last season with owner-driver Kyle Busch winning in March and Todd Gilliland winning the October event. KBM’s eight victories at the Virginia track are the most the organization has at any track on the circuit. Busch, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace each have visited victory lane twice, while Gilliland and Noah Gragson have each won once. Eckes will be piloting KBM-38 at Martinsville Friday night, the Tundra Busch led 174 of 250 laps en route to victory at “The Paperclip” last March.
  • Across the first 21 events of the 2020 Gander Trucks season, Eckes has posted five top-five and nine top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.1. He ranks second among series regulars in percentage of laps run on the lead lap (95.11%), fourth in average running position (8.986), and fifth in laps led (176) and laps in the top 15 (2,362). Last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Eckes was battling for the third position in the closing laps when contact from Ben Rhodes sent him crashing hard into the outside wall down the frontstretch. Major damage to the Safelite Tundra ended Eckes’ day and left him with a 25th-place finish. Eckes earned a career-best runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18, 2020 and then equaled it July 25, 2020 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Aug. 7 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
  • The 19-year-old driver earned a spot in this year’s playoffs after finishing sixth in the regular season point standings but was eliminated after the Round of 10 when he finished seven points behind the cutoff line after getting caught up in a last-lap accident at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Eckes sits second to Zane Smith in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
  • 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, 76 top-five and 116 top-10 finishes across his 157 races calling the shots for the organization. His 28 wins as a crew chief rank second all-time in the Truck Series to former KBM signal caller Eric Phillips (37).
  • Across 13 Truck Series starts at Martinsville, Fugle’s drivers have one win, two poles, 355 laps led, five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.6. KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch led 174 of 150 laps en route to victory in March of 2019 with Fugle calling the shots.
  • 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.

Christian Eckes Martinsville Q&A

Does it help going into Martinsville that you’ve made two starts there already?
“Having the two previous starts at Martinsville is definitely going to help going into this weekend at Martinsville. With not having practice and qualifying this year, it is pretty crucial to have been to places. I haven’t really had that fortune that much this year, but thankfully, I’ve been to Martinsville twice. I ran pretty well at both. I had a lot of speed in 2018 and finished ninth. Last year, we had a truck to win the race but got wrecked with just a couple of laps to go. Overall, I am looking forward to getting in my Safelite Tundra.”

Do you think the Truck Series needs more short tracks on the schedule?
“Yes and no. With a short track background, I really like going to them. In the same aspect, I feel like the Truck series is a good mix of 1.5-mile tracks, road courses, short tracks, and stuff in that nature. I wouldn’t mind a few added to the schedule. We will have to see what the 2021 schedule looks like.”

Is it important to finish these next two races strong?
“It’s super important. With not knowing what my future looks like, I definitely want to go run the best I can in the next few races to try to solidify that. I’m really looking forward to getting to Martinsville this weekend. We have not won yet this year, so that is at the top of the list as far as our team goals are. We definitely want to give Rudy a last win before he goes and moves on to the Cup Series.”

Christian Eckes Career Highlights:

  • Across 33 career Truck Series starts has produced three poles, 307 laps led, eight top-five and 16 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.5. Earned a career-best runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on July 18, 2020 and then equaled it July 25, 2020 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Aug. 7 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
  • 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. Has seven career ARCA Racing Series victories across 46 starts to go along with four poles, 1094 laps led, 23 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes.
  • Put his name on the motorsports map when he won the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race in 2016 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. The then 15-year-old battled side-by-side with John Hunter Nemechek for the final two laps before narrowly edging him to the finish line.
  • Christian Eckes’ No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra:

KBM-38: The No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team will unload KBM-38 for Sunday’s race at Martinsville. The Tundra has visited victory lane six times across 19 starts, most recently by owner-driver Kyle Busch at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March of 2019. Noah Gragson was victorious at Kansas with “38 Special” in 2018, Christopher Bell raced it to three wins and William Byron won with it in it the first time it saw the track; at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November of 2016. Eckes won the pole at Martinsville last October with KBM-38 and most recently drove it to a runner-up finish in the second race of a doubleheader in July at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

KBM-38 Performance Profile:

Starts
Wins
Average Start
Average Finish
Laps Led
19
6
4.9
5.7
807

KBM Notes of Interest:
KBM drivers have collected eight wins, five poles, 962 laps led, 22 top-five and 36 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.6 across 54 starts at Martinsville
Todd Gilliland picked up the organization’s most recent victory at the 0.526-mile oval last October. Kyle Busch (2017 & 2019). Denny Hamlin (2011 & 2012) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (2013 & 2014) have also each collected two victories while Noah Gragson (2017) has one win.
KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (80) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). In addition to collecting a series-record seven Owner’s Championships, the organization has produced two championship-winning drivers: Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).
The No. 18, the number which was on the first Tundra that went to victory lane for KBM in 2010, has 21 career victories.


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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