Christian Eckes delivered a dominant effort at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) Thursday night which resulted in a runner-up finish. The driver of the No. 19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet took a step towards the ultimate goal by capturing both stage wins and earned the most points of all drivers with 55. The second-place result is Eckes’ fourth podium finish in as many playoff races and earned him a 29-point buffer on the cut line with two races remaining in the Round of 8.
Eckes showed his determination from the first lap on track as he paced the field with the fastest lap in practice and followed it with his third pole award of the season. The three-time winner jumped out to a quick lead and set the pace for the entire first segment. Eckes was untouched and unchallenged for the first 55 laps and picked up 10 points with his fifth stage win of the season.
Through the first 55 laps, it was clear that track position was crucial on BMS’ sticky and tight surface. With that reality in mind, crew chief Charles Denike set up a one-stop strategy and brought Eckes to pit road for the team’s only pit stop of the night. A quick four-tire pit stop by the Gates Hydraulics team got Eckes off pit road first of the trucks that pitted and allowed him to restart sixth on lap 67. Eckes instantly jumped to third on the restart and used another restart on lap 81 to take the second position. He reassumed the lead on lap 105 and claimed another 10 markers for his sixth stage win at lap 110.
The race’s final segment went green on lap 121 with more of the same, as Eckes jumped out to an uncontested lead. The final 80 laps were run under green flag conditions, which required Eckes to navigate his way through lapped traffic. After avoiding a few close calls in lapped traffic, a tight handling condition began to set in and hampered his speed through the center of BMS’ corners. Eckes would lead until lap 195 and took the checkered flag in second. Through four playoff races, Eckes has an incredible average finish of 2.0 and has tallied five top-three finishes in the last seven races.
Christian Eckes Quote:
“I just got tight there at the end. I’m not sure if I could have done much differently. It is what it is. It stings, but we have to move on. I know we’ll have a fast truck at Talladega, and we’ll try to rebound there. Huge thanks to Gates Hydraulics, NAPA Auto Care, Instacoat and everybody involved.”