By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — After taking the checkered flag in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway, Christian Eckes climbed from his No. 46 Toyota and immediately sat down beside the truck. Saying it was hot on Friday in Iowa would be an understatement and temperatures inside the truck were well into the triple digits. Eckes was provided water and Gatorade by his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates as well as NASCAR officials. After several minutes, Eckes rose and headed back to the hauler to cool down and continue to rehydrate.
Friday night was the Truck Series debut for the 17-year-old driver who has seen his stock rise mightily over the past two years. Eckes won the Snowball Derby in 2016 and picked up his first career ARCA Racing Series win back in April at Salem Speedway.
Eckes qualified in the ninth spot for the M&M’s 200 and fell back a couple of positions in the early laps before racing four-wide for the 10th position. Contact in Turn 3 resulted in a spin and cut the left front tire of the No. 46 Toyota. Under the ensuing caution, Eckes made two trips down pit road ,once for left side tires and once for fresh right sides.
Restarting back in the 21st position, Eckes would pick off several positions and was running 10th when crew chief Cody Glick made the call to stay out under the caution at the end of Stage One. This allowed the Eckes to lead his first laps in NASCAR national series competition, albeit that lead was short-lived. With the majority of the field hitting pit road for fresh Goodyear rubber, he would plummet outside the top-10 on the ensuing restart.
Eckes would crack the top-five at Lap 133 and eventually fall back to eighht, which is where he crossed the stripe after 200 laps.
“It was definitely hot in there today,” Eckes told Motorsports Tribune in the garage after changing out of his uniform and downing water and Gatorade. “Definitely one of the hottest races I’ve run. I started losing focus there and kind of messed us up as far as our finish. Overall, a solid day for us in my debut to come home with a top-10. I had hoped for a little bit more and thought we had a truck for a little more but just got a little bit too hot there and unfortunately really couldn’t hang on as well as I wanted to.
“I learned a lot and I’m going to be able to use a lot going into Gateway next week and it should be a lot of fun.”
The biggest thing that the New York native learned at the track dubbed “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet?”
“The racing here is for real. You have to drive these things so hard and give it everything you got. I’m not really used to that too much from being on short tracks. I learned a lot as far as that and it will definitely pay big dividends next week at Gateway.”
Eckes will pull double duty at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park located in Madison, Illinois next weekend between the ARCA Racing Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Eckes watched the ARCA Racing Series event on Friday night as the No. 15 Venturini Motorsports Toyota put on a dominant performance, going to victory lane at Madison International Speedway with Chandler Smith behind the wheel. Eckes returns to the No. 15 ARCA car at Gateway for his fifth start of 2018.
“It was cool to finally see the 15 team finally have some good luck. We’ve been the fastest car at so many race tracks this year and we only have three wins. It was good to finally see the 15 car back in victory lane and it’s definitely a huge confidence boost going into next weekend. “