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Christian Eckes picked up his third career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win last weekend at Darlington Raceway. It marked the second triumph of the year for the 22-year-old, who has already logged 77 truck starts over the past six years.
Eckes is part of a unique club of drivers who burst on to the scene in a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck but departed KBM and found more notable success elsewhere. William Byron, Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton, and Daniel Suarez are the more recognizable names on a lengthy list of KBM alumni but there are still others.
A native of New York, Eckes began his racing journey in Legends cars before moving on to late models. At just 15, he was part of the JR Motorsports driver development program. But it was at the 2016 Snowball Derby that he caught the attention of the short track racing world, as he edged John Hunter Nemechek for the win.
Three years, seven ARCA Menards Series wins and a series title followed before Eckes ran a full Truck season for KBM in 2020. It started well, including three runner-up finishes in a span of four weeks. However, rather than the cusp of victory, Eckes was on the edge of a significant fall off. He had only one top-five finish in the next 10 races and was eliminated from the playoffs after the first round.
Replaced at season’s end by Chandler Smith, Eckes moved to the Mike Curb No. 98 part time, a pairing that would result in his first checkered flag in the 19th event of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
A full-time effort in the Curb seat for 2022 generated some promising results, such as a pair of second-place showings in early summer at Texas Motor Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway. Eckes qualified for the playoffs again but made another early exit after round one.
The No. 19 would have a different significance in 2023, when it would adorn his door and roof in the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing ride vacated by Derek Kraus. McNally had fielded Trucks off and on for several years with minimal success. Kraus had flashes of brilliance but never sustained high level results.
Nine races into 2023, it would appear Eckes has changed that shortcoming for his new team. While there is a long way to go before the final checkered flag at Phoenix Raceway, Eckes appears to be a legitimate championship threat and his team looks ready to move to the head of the class.
- The rebirth of North Wilkesboro Speedway has brought a large contingent of competitors hoping to qualify for this weekend’s race. Among them are full time Cup racers like Byron, Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, and Kyle Larson.
- Josh Williams will run in the Truck Series for just the second time if he makes the show behind the wheel of a truck owned by Kevin Cywinski. Cywinski was himself a competitor during the late ’90s, making 46 starts and notching a career-best finish of third at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1999.
About the author
Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.
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