Coming off an impressive weekend of double duty racing at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Christian Eckes will quickly shift his focus to making his first start at Chicagoland Speedway when the ARCA Menards Series kicks off a jammed packed NASCAR schedule starting with Thursday’s Bounty 150.
“It was a fun long weekend in St. Louis but I’m really excited to get to Chicago this week,” said Eckes. “This is a big race for the ARCA series and especially my team – there’s a lot of rich history with the Venturini family coming from this area. The team has had a lot of success at this track. It’s gonna be a cool experience – we made some big gains last weekend - I’m ready to carry that over into the windy city and make some history of my own.”
Eckes, 18, is coming off two solid performances over this past weekend competing in both the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Driving his familiar Venturini Motorsports No.15 JBL Audio Toyota in the first of two races on Saturday night, Eckes challenged Ty Gibbs for the ARCA win on the last lap but ran out of time settling for a second place finish.
“I’ve got mixed feelings after Gateway,” added Eckes. “Felt like we got the finished we deserved in the ARCA race but definitely feel like we had one taken away in the truck race. I’m really proud of both my team’s efforts. It was a long weekend with short practices and not a lot of track time because of all the rain. Finishing second we really had a good points day in the ARCA car. My biggest takeaway is I feel we got back on track with everything and pointed in the right direction for the second half push with the ARCA schedule – looking forward to more as we go on.”
Eckes, who started on the outside front row next to pole sitter Michael Self would maintain his position before taking over the lead from his teammate on lap 42 of 120 in Saturday night’s precursor.
No sooner did Eckes take the lead he relinquished his top spot after a caution flag slowed the field. Pitting under yellow he would restart fifth on lap 50 as some cars opted for fuel only. Laps later he would once again regain the lead but like the first time it was only temporary.
Eckes, who led 23-laps on the night would stay within striking distance and have one last shot during a six lap shootout at the end. Pitting once again under the final caution he would restart seventh. With fresh tires he would make up five spots during the dash but came up one spot short of race winner Ty Gibbs.
VMS’s top team finisher at Gateway, Eckes earned his sixth top-five finish of the season and pulled within 65-points of Michael Self for the ARCA Menards Series championship driver point lead.
During the nightcap of the double header Eckes made his second NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start of the season and sixth career series' start behind the wheel of his No.51 SiriusXM Tundra driving for Kyle Bush Motorsports.
Just moments after finishing second in the ARCA Racing Series race, Eckes started from the front row and led the field to the green flag. Eckes dropped back to the third position, but he took the lead in the final stage and led twice for a total of 57 laps. KBM opting for a two-tire strategy throughout the night kept the young driver near the front of the field on the final lap. In a fierce battle for the win, the No. 52 machine made contact with Eckes’ SiriusXM Tundra, sending his truck spinning and relegating him to a 14th-place finish.
The ARCA Menards Series returns to action on Thursday, June 28 in the Bounty 150 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. Practice is scheduled to start at 1 pm ET/12 noon CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 5:35 pm ET/4:35 pm CT, and the 100-lap/150-mile feature event is set for 8 pm ET/7 pm CT. The race will be televised live on FS1.