Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Christian Eckes leads through chaotic Darlington conclusion

Christian Eckes is the second driver to notch multiple NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series wins in 2023, though it took him having to sprint from the field and keep his distance multiple times as Friday’s race at Darlington Raceway was plagued by multiple wrecks in overtime.

Eckes set the tone early by winning Stage #1, and he and Corey Heim would dominate as they combined to lead all but ten laps. The former took the top spot on the ensuing restart on lap 132, from which he faced an onslaught of pressure from the likes of Stage #2 winner William Byron and Rajah Caruth.

As Byron tried to close in, Timmy Hill spun with two laps remaining to trigger overtime. Eckes’ McAnally-Hilgemann Racing team-mate Jake Garcia collided with Caruth on the first overtime attempt, setting up a second try.

Yet another accident occurred on take two when Grant Enfinger hit the wall in turn four, though the caution came out after Eckes had crossed the start/finish line to begin the final lap. As such, the race ended under yellow and Eckes secured his second win of 2023.

Interestingly, the victory also completes an unusual cycle of finishes for Eckes. In the five races between his win at Atlanta and the Darlington triumph, he alternated between crashing out and finishing thirtieth, or placing fifteenth.

“I don’t really feel that excited because the truck was so good it drove itself,” said Eckes. “It’s been a really, really rough couple of weeks.

“To come back and win shows the resilience of this team, and how we had to win it just shows the fight in this team, I was really determined. It’s really, really fun to be here, and when you have a truck like this, you’ve just got to finish it out.”

In the spirit of Throwback Weekend, Eckes raced a truck honouring 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Hershel McGriff. McGriff, who raced the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series’ Southern 500 at Darlington in 1950 and continued to compete in NASCAR well into his nineties, is a close friend of MHR co-owner Bill McAnally.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 4 19 Christian Eckes McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Chevrolet 158 Running
2 6 52 Stewart Friesen Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota 158 Running
3 11 15 Tanner Gray TRICON Garage Toyota 158 Running
4 8 51 William Byron* Kyle Busch Motorsports Chevrolet 158 Running
5 18 42 Carson Hocevar Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 158 Running
6 13 24 Rajah Caruth GMS Racing Chevrolet 158 Running
7 15 1 Bubba Wallace* TRICON Garage Toyota 158 Running
8 1 11 Corey Heim TRICON Garage Toyota 158 Running
9 25 5 Dean Thompson TRICON Garage Toyota 158 Running
10 24 20 Kaden Honeycutt Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 158 Running
11 3 2 Nick Sanchez Rev Racing Chevrolet 158 Running
12 19 88 Matt Crafton ThorSport Racing Ford 158 Running
13 16 41 Ross Chastain* Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 158 Running
14 2 23 Grant Enfinger GMS Racing Chevrolet 158 Running
15 17 16 Tyler Ankrum Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota 158 Running
16 29 7 Corey LaJoie* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 158 Running
17 36 9 Colby Howard CR7 Motorsports Chevrolet 158 Running
18 14 99 Ben Rhodes ThorSport Racing Ford 158 Running
19 20 43 Daniel Dye GMS Racing Chevrolet 158 Running
20 26 13 Hailie Deegan ThorSport Racing Ford 158 Running
21 12 17 Taylor Gray TRICON Garage Toyota 158 Running
22 22 38 Zane Smith Front Row Motorsports Ford 158 Running
23 34 32 Bret Holmes Bret Holmes Racing Chevrolet 158 Running
24 23 56 Timmy Hill Hill Motorsports Toyota 157 Running
25 7 25 Matt DiBenedetto Rackley WAR Chevrolet 157 Running
26 5 35 Jake Garcia McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Chevrolet 157 Running
27 32 30 Ryan Vargas On Point Motorsports Toyota 156 Running
28 27 04 Johnny Sauter Roper Racing Ford 156 Running
29 35 2 Kris Wright Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 155 Running
30 30 45 Lawless Alan Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 126 Accident
31 9 98 Ty Majeski ThorSport Racing Ford 123 Running
32 10 4 Chase Purdy Kyle Busch Motorsports Chevrolet 100 Accident
33 33 12 Spencer Boyd Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 78 Fuel Pump
34 21 75 Parker Kligerman* Henderson Motorsports Chevrolet 48 Oil Leak
35 31 47 Dawson Cram* G2G Racing Toyota 36 Mechanical
36 28 46 Brennan Poole* G2G Racing Toyota 20 Engine
DNQ 33 Josh Reaume Reaume Brothers Racing Ford
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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