Christian Eckes Survives Double NASCAR Overtime To Win At Darlington Racewayby Hunter Thomas May 12, 2023 1 comment
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Christian Eckes Survived double NASCAR Overtime at Darlington Raceway on Friday night to earn his second win of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season.
Eckes started the season off strong with three consecutive top-10 finishes, including a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but over the past five races, three of his finishes resulted in the 30th position due to crashes and other issues. Needing to make a comeback, Eckes came out of the gate strong in Friday’s Buckle Up South Carolina 200. Eckes qualified fourth in the No. 19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet. He won Stage 1, finished third and Stage 2 and put on a clutch performance on the restarts in NASCAR Overtime. Eckes noted that the truck his team gave him was one of the best that he has ever driven in his career, and the confidence that he had in the equipment allowed him to stay make the right decisions in the final laps.
“Honestly, in times past, I probably would’ve been a little bit nervous, but I felt like our truck was so good that it could kind of do most of the work for me,” Eckes said. “Just overall, really proud of everybody on this McAnally Hilgemann Racing No. 19. Obviously, it has been well documented that our last five races have been probably the worst stretch of my career, and not really any of our doing. We’ve had race-winning speed every time.”
On the final restart of the night in double overtime, Eckes took off in the low lane, and Stewart Friesen didn’t take off very quickly on the high side. The stack up on the high side allowed Tanner Gray to move into the second position, with Eckes ahead of him with a commanding lead. Friesen wasn’t down for long. By the time the field exited Turn 2, Friesen had moved back into second-place and began chasing Eckes down. Eckes kept Friesen at bay and just after he crossed the start-finish line to get the white flag, the caution came out, and he was declared the winner.
“This place is really, really tough to get a good truck, and this is probably the best truck that I’ve ever driven as far as speed wise and drivability wise for the racetrack conditions,” Eckes said. “We put it to the test tonight for sure. It’s super cool to win here.”
Eckes is a driver who worked his way through the grassroots ranks, and he even won at the nearby closed Myrtle Beach Speedway in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series. Following his win at Darlington on Friday, Eckes reminisced on the journey he experience driving through the ranks.
“It has been a long journey for sure,” Eckes said. “It hasn’t exactly been the path that I was expecting it to be, but I would trade all of the experiences and things I’ve been through for the world. I feel like they’ve made me a better person, a better race car driver, and I really feel like I’m in a really good spot to go and prove a lot. It’s cool to win here for sure, and yeah, I guess Myrtle Beach is really not too far from here, so just really thrilled.”
Friesen held on to finish second, followed by Tanner Gray who earned his first-ever Darlington top-three. NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron and Carson Hocevar rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 was Rajah Caruth, NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace, Corey Heim, Dean Thompson and Kaden Honeycutt.
There were 10 lead changes among five drivers. Eckes led a race high of 82 laps.
The caution flew on eight occasions for 37 laps. A spin by Timmy Hill in Turn 4 is what sent the field into NASCAR Overtime. A crash involving Jake Garcia is what set the field up for double overtime, and the final caution of the night came out on the last lap, when Grant Enfinger had issues.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will visit North Wilkesboro Speedway on Saturday, May 20 for the Tyson 250. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on FS1 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com