Christian Eckes chimes in for dominant Truck victory at Martinsville

Christian Eckes capped off a wild night that commenced by dominating the first half of the Craftsman Truck Series race, then dropping to the mid-pack region before the second half. But he methodically carved his way back to the front while dodging a series of late caution periods to win the Long John Silver’s 200 at Martinsville Speedway on Friday, April 5. 

The 23-year-old Eckes from Greenville, New York, led twice for a race-high 133 of 200-scheduled laps in an event where he snatched the lead from pole-sitter Ty Majeski from the first lap and stretched his fuel tank to the distance of the event’s first two stage periods, He won and led throughout before he relinquished the lead to pit for fresh tires and fuel before the start of the second stage period.

Despite restarting in the top 20 at the start of the final stage period, Eckes wove his way back to the front amid multiple on-track chaos, repetitive cautions and restart periods before outlasting a late battle with Majeski during a restart period with 28 laps remaining to return to the lead. Amid two late-race restarts, Eckes then muscled away from Majeski and Nick Sanchez during a three-lap shootout to clinch his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory of the 2024 season.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, Ty Majeski notched his second Truck pole position of the 2024 season and the seventh of his career after posting a new track record lap at 97.523 mph in 19.417 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Christian Eckes, who clocked in the second-fastest qualifying lap at 97.422 mph in 19.437 seconds. 

When the green flag waved and the race started following an extensive pace lap session due to Blake Lothian leaking fluid on the circuit, Christian Eckes gained a strong launch from the outside lane to muscle ahead of Ty Majeski and assume the race lead entering the first turn. Eckes would then fend off Majeski for a full lap in his No. 19 Adaptive One Calipers Chevrolet Silverado RST to lead the first lap. 

Through the second to fifth lap marks, Eckes stretched his advantage to three-tenths of a second over Majeski while rookie Layne Riggs moved his Front Row Motorsports entry into third place. As a result, Corey Heim dropped to fourth ahead of Ben Rhodes. Behind, Nick Sanchez and Jake Garcia trailed in sixth and seventh while Dean Thompson and Tyler Ankrum battled for eighth place in front of Chase Purdy and Sammy Smith. 

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Eckes was leading by three-tenths of a second over Majeski followed by Riggs, Heim and Sanchez while Rhodes, Garcia, Thompson, Ankrum and Purdy were running in the top 10. Behind, Sammy Smith trailed in 11th ahead of Stewart Friesen, Taylor Gray, Rajah Caruth and Jack Wood while Kaden Honeycutt, Ty Dillon, Bayley Currey, Grant Enfinger and Tanner Gray occupied the top 20 ahead of Matt Crafton, Daniel Dye, William Sawalich, Matt Mills and newcomer Cam Waters. 

Ten laps later and with the leaders starting to lap the rear of the field, Eckes continued to lead by three-tenths of a second over Majeski while third-place Riggs trailed by a second. Behind, Heim and Sanchez retained fourth and fifth, respectively, while Rhodes, Garcia, Thompson, Ankrum and Purdy also remained in the top 10. 

Another nine laps later, the event’s first caution period flew after rookie Thad Moffitt went for a spin in Turn 3. During the event’s first caution period, some including Thompson, Currey, Sawalich and Cam Waters pitted while the rest led by Eckes remained on the track. 

When the event restarted under green on Lap 36, Eckes muscled ahead of Majeski, who struggled to start on the outside lane, and Riggs to retain the lead through the first two turns. With the event remaining under green flag conditions as Jack Wood spun in Turn 2, Eckes retained the lead ahead of Majeski and the field. Eckes would continue to lead through the Lap 40 mark. 

By Lap 45, Eckes stretched his advantage to more than a second over Majeski followed by Riggs, Heim and Sanchez while Rhodes, Ankrum, Sammy Smith, Garcia and Honeycutt trailed in the top 10, with 29 of 34 starters scored on the lead lap. 

When the first stage period concluded on Lap 50, Eckes captured his second Truck stage victory of the 2024 season as he continued to lead by more than a second. Majeski trailed in second while Riggs, Heim, Sanchez, Rhodes, Ankrum, Garcia, Honeycutt and Purdy were scored in the top 10. 

Under the stage break, nearly the entire lead lap field led by Majeski pitted while the rest led by Eckes and including Sanchez, Ankrum, Garicia, Honeycutt, Purdy, Caruth and Matt Mills remained on the track. Amid the pit stops, Ty Dillon was penalized for speeding on pit road. Stephen Mallozzi was also penalized due to his pit crew jumping over the pit wall too soon. 

The second stage period started on Lap 60 as Eckes and Sanchez occupied the front row. At the start, Eckes rocketed away from the field to retain the lead through the first turn as Sanchez and Ankrum battled for the runner-up spot. With Eckes leading the race, teammate Ankrum would overtake Sanchez for the runner-up spot followed by Purdy, Honeycutt, Garcia, Currey and Caruth while Mills and Sawalich were racing in the top 10 ahead of Thompson, Timmy Hill, Majeski, Waters and Wood. 

On Lap 64, the caution returned after Matt Crafton, who was running in the middle of the pack, bumped and sent Tanner Gray for a spin through the first two turns, with Crafton, Justin Carroll and Mason Massey slamming on the brake to avoid Gray’s TRICON Garage entry. During the caution period, Sanchez and Caruth pitted while the rest led by Eckes remained on the track.  

During the following restart period on Lap 73, Eckes fended off Chase Purdy and teammate Tyler Ankrum to retain the lead through the first two turns. Shortly after, however, the caution returned on Lap 75 after Riggs, who was mired in 16th, spun his No. 38 Infinity Communications Group Ford F-150 through the first two turns after getting hit by Jack Wood. 

The following restart period on Lap 83 featured Eckes fending off Purdy for nearly a lap to maintain the lead as the field behind jostled for positions. As Ankrum and Purdy battled for second place in front of Kaden Honeycutt and Jake Garcia, Eckes was leading by two-tenths of a second just past the Lap 85 mark. 

Then with two laps remaining in the second stage period, the caution flew after Daniel Dye, who was running in 24th place, bumped and sent Spencer Boyd for a spin along with Riggs, who was sent for a second spin of the night, in Turn 1. The incident was enough for the second stage period scheduled to conclude on Lap 100 to conclude under caution as Eckes captured his second consecutive Truck stage victory of the night and the third of the 2024 season. Teammate Ankrum settled in second followed by Purdy, Majeski and Honeycutt while Garcia, Thompson, Currey, Taylor Gray and Sawalich were scored in the top 10. 

During the stage break, some of the drivers, led by Eckes, pitted while the rest, led by Majeski, remained on the track. Amid the pit stops, Ty Dillon was penalized and sent to the rear of the field for a safety violation. 

With 91 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Majeski and Sawalich occupied the front row. At the start, Majeski muscled his No. 98 Soda Sense Ford F-150 away from Taylor Gray and Sawalich to retain the lead through the first two turns. As Majeski started to motor away from the field, Gray occupied second followed by Sanchez while Sawalich was trying to fend off Stewart Friesen amid on-track contact and in front of the field. 

With 80 laps remaining, Majeski stretched his advantage to more than a second over Taylor Gray followed by Sanchez, Friesen and Sawalich while Ben Rhodes, Tanner Gray, Heim, Caruth and Grant Enfinger trailed in the top 10 as Eckes, who restarted 18th, was up to 11th. 

Ten laps later, Majeski stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Taylor Gray while Sanchez, Friesen and Sawalich trailed in the top five. Meanwhile, Eckes carved his way to sixth place after making contact with Heim to assume the spot while Rhodes, Tanner Gray and Caruth followed suit in the top 10. Behind, Enfinger trailed in 11th ahead of Ankrum, Crafton, Matt Mills and Cam Waters while Dye, Honeycutt, Wood, Sammy Smith and Purdy were scored in the top 20. 

Another three laps later, the caution flew when Honeycutt, who was battling Daniel Dye for 16th place, made contact with Dye and then got sideways and sent Honeycutt’s No. 45 Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet Silverado RST spinning toward the bottom of the backstretch’s inside wall. During the caution period, some including Rhodes, Garcia, Waters, Sammy Smith and Crafton pitted while the rest led by Majeski remained on the track. 

During the ensuing restart with 60 laps remaining, Majeski and Sanchez battled dead even for the lead until Majeski muscled ahead through the first two turn as Taylor Gray assumed the runner-up spot from Sanchez. Behind, Eckes battled Friesen for fourth place while Majeski was trying to drive away from the field.     

A few laps later, Enfinger, who was running in the top 15, hit the outside wall exiting Turn 4, but the event remained under green flag conditions. The caution, however, returned with 55 laps remaining after Enfinger, who lost a few spots in the process, was hit by Rhodes entering the first turn, which resulted with Enfinger bumping into Dean Thompson and sending Thompson’s No. 5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota Tundra TRD Pro straight into the outside wall hard in Turn 1 as Thompson’s strong run came to a late end. 

With the event restarting with 46 laps remaining, Sanchez tried to use the outside lane to muscle ahead of Majeski, but Majeski managed to fight back and reassume the top spot during the following lap while the field behind bumped and jostled for late positions. Shortly after, however, the caution returned with 43 laps remaining after Bret Holmes was hit by Honeycutt entering Turn 1. Holmes then collected Justin Carroll as they both spun and made contact with the outside wall in Turn 1. 

The start of the following restart period with 36 laps remaining did not last long after the caution returned a lap later when Jack Wood, who was caught up in a chain reaction incident and got Caruth sideways in Turn 3, was bumped and sent for a spin by Dye as Waters, Garcia, Lawless Alan and Bret Holmes all wrecked behind Wood. By then, Majeski was leading while Eckes drew himself back into race-winning contention after he had just overtaken Sanchez’s No. 2 Gainbridge Chevrolet Silverado RST for the runner-up spot.

With the race restarting with 28 laps remaining, Eckes and Majeski battled dead even for the lead through the first two turns amid contact. They continued to battle for the top spot for a full lap until Eckes managed to use the four fresh tires to his advantage along with more on-track contact to return to the lead over Majeski. As Eckes continued to lead by a tenth of a second over Majeski with 25 laps remaining, Sanchez followed suit in third while Taylor Gray and Ankrum were running in the top five. A lap later, however, the caution flew after Riggs, who was running 17th, got bumped and sent for a spin by Enfinger in Turn 2. With Bayley Currey sustaining cosmetic damage after making contact with Riggs’ spinning truck, Cam Waters T-boned into the rear of teammate Garcia amid a chain reaction, which ended Waters’ Truck Series debut with a crunched No. 66 TRADIE Ford F-150. 

As the event restarted with 17 laps remaining, Eckes muscled away from Majeski, who spun the tires on the launch, to retain the lead while Sanchez quickly assumed the runner-up spot. Majeski was then left to fend off Ankrum, Taylor Gray and a bevy of competitors to retain third place while Eckes retained the lead by nearly half a second with 15 laps remaining. 

Four laps later and with Eckes leading by more than a second over Sanchez, the caution flew after Friesen, who was running in the top 15, got bumped and sent for a spin by Enfinger in Turn 2 as Enfinger also spun after getting rammed by Matt Mills, whose roof flew up amid the front nose damage. 

With the event restarting with three laps remaining, Eckes retained the lead from Sanchez and Majeski while the field attempted to fan out to three lanes through the first two turns. While Majeski managed to grab second place from Sanchez through Turns 3 and 4, Eckes stretched his advantage to two-tenths of a second with two laps remaining. 

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Eckes remained as the leader by half a second over Majeski. With a flurry of battles ensuing within the field and with Majeski trying to narrow the deficit between himself and Eckes, Eckes hit his marks on all cylinders and smoothly navigated his way around the Martinsville circuit for a final time before cycling back to the frontstretch victorious with his second checkered flag of the 2024 Truck season. 

With the victory, Eckes, who won two races ago at Bristol Motor Speedway, notched his seventh career win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and his first at Martinsville as he also became the first repeat winner of the 2024 Truck season. The victory was the second of the season for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing and the fifth time in six events of the 2024 season where the Chevrolet nameplate achieved a victory.

“[My team and I are putting together] Something really special,” Eckes said on FS1. “It hasn’t been an easy regular season so far, to say the least. We came here and we weren’t that great last year. We worked really hard on it and here we are in Victory Lane. Just super proud of this team. It’s a good day to be in Victory Lane. Can’t wait for that [grandfather] clock [trophy].” 

Majeski, who led 66 laps compared to Eckes’ 133, settled in the runner-up spot for the second time of the 2024 season as he also notched his third top-three result through this season’s first six events. Amid the disappointment of settling in the runner-up spot, Majeski assumed the lead in the regular-season standings.

“We came here with a little bit of a different setup, stepped outside our comfort zone a little bit, trying to try something for the Playoffs, that’s the one that matters,” Majeski said. “I think we’ve gotten better. [Eckes] was stellar tonight. He was just a little bit better than us, and he had better tires. I just could not launch on restarts. Really solid day. Obviously, you want to win. I wanted that grandfather clock, but super proud of this No. 98 Soda Sense team. We’ve been working hard to get our trucks better. Just a little bit short tonight.” 

Chase Purdy, who finished no higher than 15th during the first five events on the schedule, posted his first top-five result of the season by finishing third while Nick Sanchez and Tyler Ankrum settled in the top five. 

Taylor Gray, Rajah Caruth, Sammy Smith, Kaden Honeycutt and Corey Heim finished in the top 10. 

There were five lead changes for three different leaders. The race featured 11 cautions for 81 laps. In addition, 27 of 34 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the sixth event of the 2024 Craftsman Truck Series season, Ty Majeski leads the regular-season standings by seven points over Corey Heim and Tyler Ankrum, with Christian Eckes trailing by 11 and Taylor Gray trailing by 36. 

Results. 

1. Christian Eckes, 133 laps led, Stages 1 & 2 winner

2. Ty Majeski, 66 laps led

3. Chase Purdy 

4. Nick Sanchez, one lap led

5. Tyler Ankrum 

6. Taylor Gray 

7. Rajah Caruth 

8. Sammy Smith 

9. Kaden Honeycutt 

10. Corey Heim 

11. Mason Massey 

12. Matt Crafton 

13. Daniel Dye 

14. Ben Rhodes 

15. Layne Riggs 

16. Tanner Gray 

17. Bayley Currey 

18. Jack Wood 

19. Stewart Friesen 

20. Timmy Hill 

21. Jake Garcia 

22. Grant Enfinger 

23. Ty Dillon 

24. Bret Holmes 

25. Spencer Boyd 

26. William Sawalich 

27. Thad Moffitt 

28. Stephen Mallozzi, two laps down 

29. Matt Mills – OUT, Accident

30. Cam Waters – OUT, Accident

31. Lawless Alan – OUT, DVP

32. Justin Carroll – OUT, Accident

33. Dean Thompson – OUT, Accident 

34. Blake Lothian – OUT, Overheating

Next on the 2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule is the SpeedyCash.com 250 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The event is scheduled to occur next Friday, April 12, at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1. 

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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