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Christian Eckes started Saturday (Oct. 21) nine points over the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series playoff cutline — by the end of it, he was eliminated.
Eckes finished 20th after two penalties and left Homestead-Miami Speedway just four points shy of making the Championship 4.
A qualifying run of 32.890 mph clinched Eckes a 10th-place starting position. With the drop of the green flag he quickly found himself in the top five after splitting the middle of the track as the drivers fanned out four-wide. Then No. 19 truck was very competitive as he battled with Carson Hocevar, Corey Heim and Grant Enfinger in the opening laps.
Eckes began to fall back throughout the first stage, but still managed a seventh-place finish. He rolled out from pit road in fifth and afterward it was business as usual as he ran sixth for the majority of stage 2, but his day was about to take a turn for the worst.
On lap 54, Spencer Boyd stopped on-track and brought out the yellow flag. With seven laps to go in the stage, most drivers ducked onto pit road, including Eckes. Thanks to an excellent pitstop he found himself the third car off of pit road and on the restart he was in the third row due to several cars that stayed out on old tires.
With slower cars in front of him, Eckes pulled his No. 19 Chevrolet beside Jack Wood‘s No. 51 only a few feet from the start/finish line and very quickly was handed a restart violation by NASCAR for pulling out of line. As a result, he was scored with a stage 2 finish at the back of the pack.
He held a playoff running position of sixth, out by 18 points, and missed out on five crucial stage points. However, it would all be for naught anyways as the events in the final stage unfolded.
Eckes cut his way through the field from the jump and with 56 to go he was running in 14th, only minus nine points. After the restart he fought his way back into the top 10. As the run went on he fell back but was only three points out when green flag pit stops commenced. With 36 laps to go, he hammered the final nail in his playoffs coffin: Speeding on pit road.
After serving his pass through penalty, Eckes found himself running outside of the top 20 and by the end battled up to a 21st-place finish, scored only four points out of the championship 4.
Getting out of his truck Eckes’ eyes were bloodshot red as he embraced his crew members and did not want to give anything more to us than brief comments on what happened in regards to the penalties, though he did speak further on the incidents with Bob Pockrass of FOX Sports.
“I thought it was close, I thought I turned right on the start/finish line, but either way I sped on pit road. There’s a common trend there of stupidity on my end,” said Eckes in the Pockrass interview. “I ruined the whole year for my guys and they’ve worked too hard for that.”
Eckes will be able to make another attempt at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship in 2024, returning to the McAnally-Hilgerman Racing No. 19 truck.
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