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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Christian Eckes Scores Fourth Top-Five of Season at Kansas

Christian Eckes

Christian Eckes hangs out before the Heart of America 200 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With another top-five finish, Christian Eckes continues to make the case as the driver to beat for the 2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.

The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series points leader finished third in Saturday night’s Heart of America 200 at Kansas Speedway, but the road to get there wasn’t as simple as that sounds.

“We just couldn’t keep up with the racetrack,” Eckes said. “We still had, I think, a race winning capable truck if we kept up with the balance. Definitely a lot to look forward to in the future here.”

Eckes posted the fourth-best practice time before qualifying on the outside of the fifth row. In pre-qualifying inspection, the team failed twice, meaning they will lose pit stall selection next week at Darlington.

The opening lap of the race saw five-wide racing thanks to Ty Majeski losing a tire from the outside pole.

After all the chaos and a quick restart, Eckes found himself in third at stage end.

In front of him were Corey Heim and Bill McAnally Racing teammate Zane Smith, and the three proved to be the ones to beat in the Sunflower State.

On the ensuing pit stop, Heim’s pit road issues propelled the No. 19 to the lead, making it eight straight races that Eckes has led to start the 2024 season.

Christian Eckes

Christian Eckes has an 8.1 average-finish through eight races. (Photo: Patrick Vallaly | The Podium FInish)

The lead lasted for 11 total laps before Smith pulled away to win the stage, as Eckes finished third again behind Heim.

The third stage ran caution-free, but not action-free, as Eckes had some particularly aggressive battles with Smith, Nick Sanchez and Kaden Honeycutt.

“He was super loose and I don’t really think he had control over it,” Eckes said about Sanchez, who came over and had a friendly discussion after the race. “I got raced pretty hard tonight in a couple of situations, but it’s just truck racing and that’s what makes it exciting.”

This isn’t the first time Eckes and Heim have been two of the trucks to beat this season. In fact, they’re close to making it a two-horse race for the championship.

Both drivers have scored a pair of wins in the opening eight races, and if not for brake issues at Atlanta, Eckes might have an average-finish similar to Heim’s 3.5 benchmark.

Despite this, Eckes said he’d give himself a B for his performance with 1/3 of the season in the rear-view mirror.

“There’s been times I’ve made some mistakes and it cost us some results,” Eckes said. “The team is firing on all cylinders. I feel like me and [crew chief] Charles [Denike] are working really well and kind of figuring out together each week and getting better. It’s been a lot of fun racing for these guys.”

Kansas kickstarted a five-week stretch of racing for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The series heads back east next week for 200 miles at Darlington Raceway.

There’s no reason to suggest Eckes should fall off next week, as the 23-year old led 82 of 158 laps en route to a win at this race last year.

Harry Loomis is a 23-year old co-managing editor of The Podium Finish. He joined TPF in September 2023, having previously written for his own racing outlet. He graduated from Missouri Western State University in May 2023, earning his degree in Convergent Journalism. At Missouri Western, Loomis became the Sports Director of Griffon Media, becoming a trusted member of the student newspaper and weekly newscasts. A passionate race fan since age six, Loomis is originally from St. Charles, MO, and is a big NHL and MLB fan.

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