By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
The last time Christian Eckes made a start in the ARCA Racing Series, it was one to remember for the teenage driver as he got the infamous kiss from Big Bill Venturini in victory lane. Eckes put on a dominating performance at Salem Speedway four weeks ago, battling teammate Chandler Smith down to the last lap to earn the first checkered flag of his ARCA career in his 16th start.
The 17-year-old driver is running 13 of the 20 races this season, so he wasn’t in the seat for Talladega, but returned to the No. 15 Toyota this weekend at Toldeo Speedway. With rain cancelling Saturday’s qualifying session, Eckes started Sunday’s 200-lap event from the third position as the field was set according to practice speeds.
Eckes, making his second start at the Ohio half-mile, finished eighth after starting on the outside front row and leading 15 laps in 2017.
The early laps looked like a repeat of Salem, as Eckes and teammate Chandler Smith were strong. That all changed prior to the halfway point as Eckes cut a right front tire and made heavy contact with the Turn 2 wall.
Done for the day as a result of the heavy damage, Eckes would finish 21st in the 23-car field.
“Had a good car but just wasn’t our day,” Eckes tweeted after the race. “Ready for Pocono.”
While Eckes isn’t competing for the overall championship, the day was a hit in the owner point standings as well as the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge.
Teammate Michael Self won the season-opener at Daytona and the No. 15 car owned by Bill Venturini and led by crew chief Kevin Reed lost their lead position in the owner standings to MDM Motorsports.
Eckes is battling with the MDM Motorsports trio of Zane Smith, Sheldon Creed and Chase Purdy along with fellow Venturini Motorsports driver Chandler Smith for the short track title.
The month of June will be big for Eckes as he will make his next ARCA start on June 1 at Pocono as well as make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut on June 16th at Iowa Speedway as part of a four-race deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports.