There aren’t many situations more gut-wrenching than what Christian Eckes experienced in the closing laps of Thursday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway.
After scoring the pole position, Eckes maintained a firm grasp on the field in the UNOH 200, leading a race-high 150 laps. However, difficulties navigating lapped traffic would allow Corey Heim to sneak by, making the pass for the victory with five laps remaining.
Adding insult to injury, would Eckes had scored the victory in Thursday’s 200-lap contest at the infamous short track, he would have moved onto the next round of the NASCAR Truck Series Playoffs, ensuring he’d go to Phoenix in November with a shot at the title.
With that frustration already hanging in the balance, you can imagine how smoke may be angrily billowing from his ears upon realizing that it was Tanner Gray, a teammate to eventual winner Corey Heim, who disturbed the rhythm of the No. 19 Chevrolet.
Gray, who finished two laps off the pace in 29th, was being lapped for a second time, when the No. 15 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro elected to take the high lane, coming off the wall at the exit of the second corner.
Was this team orders, rather than Gray just trying to get his ShopTRICON.com Toyota Tundra home to the conclusion of the race? Probably not. But, that didn’t stop the runner-up from finding the irony in the situation.
Speaking with FOX Sports after climbing from his Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet, Eckes had some interesting thoughts on the situation at hand, saying: “I just think it’s a little ironic that the No. 15 is three laps down and waited, but… whatever.”
The frustration on the park of Eckes is understandable, after being seven laps short of matching his year-long laps-led total in Thursday’s event alone, which far and away smashed his single-race laps-led record.
“Good truck. I got really tight there at the end. Yeah, it is what it is. That one stinks for sure,” Eckes added.
Despite the upsetting nature of the event, Eckes still sits in an amazing spot when it comes to advancing to the final round of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series post-season, as he sits 29 points above the cutline.
If that isn’t enough for Eckes to hold his head high, the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing driver has been on an unreal streak of finishes, scoring four consecutive top-three results, dating back to the playoff-opener at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
But, with Talladega Superspeedway hanging in the balance, that 29-point buffer may be completely needed as the round concludes over the next two events at Talladega and Homestead-Miami Speedway.