Christian Eckes takes ‘sweet’ truck win over Kyle Busch in Bristol

By | March 17, 2024

Eckes scores ‘sweet’ truck win over Kyle BuschMeg Oliphant – Getty Images

Sometimes victory tastes sweetest when it comes to chasing bitter defeat.

That was certainly the case for pole winner Christian Eckes, who held off Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win the Weather Guard Truck Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday evening.

During last year’s NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff race in Bristol, Eckes relinquished the lead to Corey Heim with six laps to go and finished second by 0.218 seconds.

The loss cost Eckes, who led 150 laps in that event, a place in Championship 4 in Phoenix, where his victory in the season finale earned him a consolation prize but no title.

Saturday night, Eckes passed Busch for the lead on lap 159 and held it for the final 92 circuits when Busch made a frantic charge that fell just short. In traffic, Eckes crossed the finish line 0.141 seconds ahead of the Truck Series career victory leader.

“Oh man, it’s so sweet,” said Eckes, who won for the first time this season, the first time in Bristol and the sixth time of his career. “There is so much behind this win last year, missing Championship 4 and losing the race with (six) to go.

“To come back and redeem ourselves was our main goal, and not only that, but the first three races (of this season), how terribly they went. We had a lot of problems, and to come back and perform really well shows the resilience of the team.”

NASCAR craftsman truck series weather watch truck raceNASCAR craftsman truck series weather watch truck race

Christian Eckes, driver of the #19 NAPA Auto Care Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Weather Guard Truck Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 16, 2024 in Bristol, Tennessee.Jonathan Bachman – Getty Images

Due to his No. 19 McAnally Hilgemann Racing Silverado in Victory Lane, Eckes extended Chevrolet’s 2024 Truck Series winning streak to four races.

Under the sixth and final caution, which slowed Busch’s pursuit for eight laps, Busch radioed to his team, “We’re a truck in second, maybe third.”

But that didn’t stop Busch from chasing Eckes after a restart on lap 227 of 250. As the run continued, Busch cut into Eckes’ lead, which had grown to more than a second, closing his gap by then rear bumper. Eckes crossed the finish line.

“The crazy thing about it is that we spent the entire practice, the entire qualifying and the entire beginning of the race running on older date codes,” Busch said. “Then we put the newer date codes on the tires and we were immediately tight. So the fact that we can’t prepare and practice for what you expect to race on hurts us.

“We were tighter all day, and obviously I don’t think we were as tight as the 19 (Eckes) at the end, but, you know, just on the track. I let him go early in that run to just burn his stuff off and get track position at the end, just aero effects…I didn’t have enough rubber on the road to beat him.”

Zane Smith finished third in the first race of a double-duty weekend. Three-time series champion Matt Crafton finished fourth after joining Eckes and Busch in a three-way battle for the lead before drawing the final caution for a shunt involving Stewart Friesen and Nick Sanchez on lap 219.

Series leader Tyler Ankrum finished fifth, expanding his margin over second-place Corey Heim to 17 points. Heim finished sixth, followed by Taylor Gray, Rajah Caruth, Grant Enfinger and Sunoco rookie Layne Riggs.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Race Results

Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol, Tenn

Saturday March 16, 2024

1. (1) Christian Eckes, Chevrolet, 250.

2. (4) Kyle Busch(i), Chevrolet, 250.

3. (7) Zane Smith(i), Chevrolet, 250.

4. (20) Matt Crafton, Ford, 250.

5. (9) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 250.

6. (15) Corey Heim, Toyota, 250.

7. (3) Taylor Gray, Toyota, 250.

8. (6) Rajah Caruth, Chevrolet, 250.

9. (13) Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, 250.

10. (28) Layne Riggs#, Ford, 250.

11. (12) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 250.

12. (8) Kaden Honeycutt, Chevrolet, 250.

13. (10) Daniel Dye, Chevrolet, 250.

14. (17) Jake Garcia, Ford, 250.

15. (21) Tanner gray, Toyota, 250.

16. (16) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 250.

17. (2) Nick Sanchez, Chevrolet, 250.

18. (25) Stefan Parsons, Chevrolet, 249.

19. (14) Conner Jones #, Ford, 249.

20. (26) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 249.

21. (19) William Sawalich, Toyota, 248.

22. (23) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 248.

23. (22) Dean Thompson, Toyota, 247.

24. (27) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 247.

25. (18) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 247.

26. (33) Thad Moffitt #, Chevrolet, 246.

27. (29) Lawless Alan, Ford, 246.

28. (31) Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 245.

29. (36) Mason Maggio, Ford, 244.

30. (30) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 242.

31. (24) Bret Holmes, Chevrolet, 242.

32. (34) Keith McGee, Ford, 238.

33. (11) Chase Purdy, Chevrolet, 228.

34. (5) Ty Majeski, Ford, engine, 170.

35. (35) Trey Hutchens, Chevrolet, Suspension, 113.

36. (32) Justin Carroll, Toyota, brakes, 57.

Average speed of race winner: 130.017 mph.

Race time: 1 hour, 39 minutes, 55 seconds. Winning margin: 0.141 seconds.

Warning flags: 6 for 50 laps.

Lead changes: 4 of the 3 driving forces.

Tour leaders: C. Eckes 1-52;K. Busch(i) 53-135;Z. Smith(i) 136;K. Busch(i) 137-158;C. Eckes 159-250.

Leader overview (driver, lead times, laps led): Christian Eckes 2 times for 144 laps; Kyle Busch(i) 2 times for 105 laps; Zane Smith(i) 1 time for 1 round.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 7,19,2,98,91,17,18,99,45,9

Stage #2 Top Ten: 7,2,19,98,91,18,52,88,99,38

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