Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Christian Eckes Survives Darlington Double Overtime for Second Victory of 2023

Christian Eckes is the winner of Friday’s Buckle Up South Carolina 200 at Darlington Raceway, his third victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and his second for McAnally Hilgemann Racing. PC: Christopher Fisher | TobyChristie.com

For Christian Eckes, the move to McAnally-Hilgemann Racing for the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season was viewed as questionable. But, just nine races into the season, all questions have been answered.

The 22-year-old driver, who took over the organization’s flagship No. 19 Chevrolet Silverado, scored his second victory of the season in Friday’s Buckle Up South Carolina 200 at Darlington Raceway, after holding off Stewart Friesen in NASCAR Overtime.

Starting fourth, Eckes was able to stay within range of then-leader and polesitter Corey Heim, before the McAnally Hilgemann Racing driver ultimately prevailed as the run continued.

For much of the evening, it appeared to be a back-and-forth battle between Heim and Eckes, who easily had the two best trucks in the field, combining to lead 148 of 159 laps.

However, as the race further progressed, NASCAR Cup Series superstar William Byron slowly lurked into the picture and even stole the lead away from the two dominant trucks for seven laps – which also netted him his first Truck Series stage win.

In the race’s final stage, an alternate strategy by Corey Heim and Scott Zipadelli, seemingly eliminated the TRICON Garage entry from contention for the victory, after free-falling through the pack on old tires.

That pivot, away from the norm, left Eckes in control of the event, although not necessarily in the commanding fashion preferable, but still leaving the No. 19 as the truck to beat during the race’s remaining laps.

Coming to the end of the race’s scheduled distance, Eckes looked to have a small but manageable lead over William Byron, and a hard-charging Rajah Caruth, when a caution was displayed for a spin by Timmy Hill, sending the field into NASCAR Overtime.

That caution, the third-to-last of the race, allowed Corey Heim to pit from 17th to put fresh tires on his No. 11 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, giving him a two-lap run to the finish to try and gain as much track position as possible.

The two-lap dash, though, quickly turned into more, after an accident involving Jake Garcia on the backstretch, which tossed the race into double overtime, much to the dismay of the No. 19 crew.

Through it all, Eckes maintained his composure, having excellent restarts every single time, allowing him to get away from the pack. However, on the race’s final restart, Stewart Friesen was able to blast off the second corner and stay within striking distance.

It wouldn’t be enough, though, as the caution would be displayed seconds after the leader crossed the start-finish line to take the white, ending the race under caution and awarding the victory to Christian Eckes.

Stewart Friesen finished in the runner-up position, continuing a string of strong runs in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since the departure of Blake Bainbridge. Tanner Gray rebounded from early-race struggles to finish in third.

Fourth place belonged to William Byron at the end of the 158-lap contest, after the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver got shuffled around in NASCAR Overtime. Carson Hocevar rounded out the top five for Niece Motorsports.

Rajah Caruth scored a career-best sixth-place finish for GMS Racing in Friday’s event, just ahead of mentor Bubba Wallace, making his first of two starts for TRICON Garage. Corey Heim and Dean Thompson finished right behind their Cup Series teammate in eighth and ninth.

Finishing inside the top-10, for the third time in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career, was Kaden Honeycutt, driving the No. 20 for Young’s Motorsports in a one-off event for the three-truck team.

Leaving Darlington, Zane Smith retains the lead in the point standings despite a terrible evening in South Carolina. Ty Majeski sits nine points behind, while Corey Heim, Ben Rhodes, and Christian Eckes complete the top five.


Race Results: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Buckle Up South Carolina 200 at Darlington

Joseph Srigley
Joseph Srigleyhttp://tobychristie.com
University of Windsor | Business Administration - Supply Chain & Data Analytics Editor at TobyChristie.com

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