Christian Eckes and the No. 18 Safelite Tundra team had a solid outing, earning points in both stages and ending the night with an eighth-place finish in Friday night's World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The effort allowed Eckes to move up to the eighth position on the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoff grid. The 19-year-old rookie currently sits six points ahead of Ben Rhodes in the battle for the final spot in the Round of 8 with one race remaining in the Round of 10.
Stage One Recap:
- Eckes started from theninth position after a performance matrix based off his finishing position from the previous race, ranking in owner points standings and the ranking of the fastest lap he turned from the previous race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
- He had fallen one position to 10th when the competition caution flew on Lap 10. Eckes reported that the Safelite Tundra was a little too free. Veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle elected to keep his driver on track and Eckes chose the outside of the fifth row when the field went back green on Lap 14.
- Eckes was able to advance up to the sixth position, but on the final lap surrendered a spot to a truck who pitted during the competition caution and had fresher tires.
- With the seventh-place stage result, Eckes was awarded three stage points.
Stage Two Recap:
- Eckes communicated to Fugle that his Toyota was "too free and can't commit to the throttle on exit," before hitting pit road for four fresh tires, a chassis adjustment and full load of fuel.
- A speedy stop by the over-the-wall crew allowed Eckes to exit pit road third. For the ensuing restart on Lap 38, he chose to line up on the inside of row one.
- The Safelite Tundra settle in line in the fifth position on Lap 40, but over the final 20 laps of Stage Two fell back two positions to seventh as he communicated to Fugle that his Toyota was "free center and exit."
- Another seventh-place stage result earned Eckes three more stage points.
Final Stage Recap:
- After hitting pit road between stages for a four-tire and fuel stop, Eckes exited pit road fifth and chose to restart from the inside of the second row for the start of the Final Stage on Lap 67.
- With a strong restart, the talented teenager was able to make his way to the lead before the field crossed the stripe. He maintained the lead until Lap 72 before he began to fall backwards in the top five.
- Eckes lost his spot in the top five on Lap 81 and was scored in the sixth position when the fourth caution of the event occurred on Lap 86.
- He communicated to Fugle that the bumps in Turn 1 upset his Toyota and that the right-rear tire was sliding on the exit of both corners. Fugle summoned his young driver down pit road for four tires, fuel, and a major chassis adjustment.
- The Safelite Tundra would line up on the inside of the third row for the ensuing restart on Lap 89 and one lap later was scored in the third position when the fifth and final caution of the night slowed the field.
- When the field reached the choose-lane arrow, the 19-year-old driver lined up on the top of row two. Eckes took the momentum he got on the restart to the high line and found himself four-wide with the top-three trucks. The inside lanes would prevail, and he settled into line in the fifth position on Lap 96.
- As the race proceeded caution free to the finish, Eckes fell back two positions over the final 40 laps and ended the 134-lap event with an eighth-place finish. It was the eighth top-10 finish this season for the No. 18 team.