After nearly a two month break, Venturini Motorsports (VMS) and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards was back in action visiting the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville for the second event on the series schedule.
VMS, with a three team effort, was led by ARCA rookie Christian Eckes who turned in a stellar performance in his first series event of his young career – earning a top-10 finish.
Christian Eckes Scores 8th Place Finish in ARCA Debut
Fifteen year-old Christian Eckes, driver of the No.66 New York Bus Sales Toyota, turned in a solid performance in his ARCA debut. Despite his age and lack of series experience, Eckes managed to secure a top-10 finish and provide a glimpse of his much documented driving talent during the 200-lap Music City 200.
“It adds some pressure knowing that I was the youngest driver in tonight’s field. It's one of those deals where you want to impress and make a name for yourself," said Eckes.
Eckes, who qualified 8th, spent most of his night battling veteran drivers and tire wear. He raced inside the top-20 positions before making a late race charge finishing 8th.
"It was my goal coming in to get a top-10 finish. It really does feel good, seeing how it was my first ARCA race," said Eckes.
The Nashville Fairgrounds short track is infamous for being abrasive with cars and tires. While Eckes’ Toyota did hold up till the end, both the driver and the crew were hoping for a late race pit stop to challenge the leaders.
Eckes stopped for his first and only pit stop of the race on lap 82 to replace the two right-side tires.
"I really do believe that if the pit stops fell in our favor we could have easily been a top-5 car," said Eckes.
"The car was very good at the end, even with the old tires. We were down on power just a little for about the 60 laps at the end, but other than that it was a great car. “The first one is finally out of the way and now we can go to Madison in confidence."
With his first ARCA race in the rear view mirror, Eckes is confidently looking ahead to his next race at Madison International Speedway on June 19.
Tom Hessert Finishes 12th after Up and Down Night at Nashville
Making his 160th career ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards start, veteran driver Tom Hessert finished 12th in Saturday night’s Music City 200 at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
Qualifying 18th, the driver of the No.25 Slinger Apparel-MEGA Truck Series Toyota, experienced the best and worst of Nashville’s historic half mile track and its abrasive racing surface.
“Our Toyota was dialed in early - the car was really responsive and we were really running strong up until that first pit stop,” said Hessert.
After racing his way inside the top-10 and pitting during a caution on lap-82, Hessert left pit road in the third position. After taking two tires and making a small adjustment on the pit stop, Hessert’s car struggled with handling and fell back quickly.
Conserving his car, Hessert and crew patiently waited for the next pit stop to put on four fresh tires – unfortunately the next caution never came – and the remaining 118-laps ran under green conditions.
“The car seemed to turn-off like a light switch after we pitted. The drive just wasn’t there and we struggled to keep the car from falling too far behind. We waited it out but never got the late race caution we needed to get back into contention,” added Hessert.
Heartbreaker for Fan Favorite Cole Williams
Cole Williams, driving the No.55 Cardinal Services Toyota, suffered a devastating blow seconds into his highly anticipated ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards debut.
Williams, the 2014 Nashville Track Champion and clear cut fan favorite, broke a transmission coming to the green flag, wiping away any chance for a hometown win in his first series start.
After taking the car behind the wall, the 55 crew worked hard to replace the transmission, getting Williams back on track at the midway point of the race. Never giving up, Williams showed his character making the best of the cards dealt, salvaging a 25th place finish.
“What an emotional roller coaster tonight,” said Williams. “Breaking the transmission on lap-1 was nothing short of heartbreaking, but there are still so many positives that happened after that point and I’m proud of this team for coming back to finish the race and gain the experience I did. Overcoming adversity is part of the game. I’m thankful for the opportunity and blessed to have the support of my friends and family. I’ll be ready for my next start!” Williams will have another chance next month when the series returns to ARCA’s hometrack of Toledo Speedway for the running of the Menards 200.
Venturini Motorsports’ Weekend Rewind: ARCA Nashville Music City 200
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