Current Level: ARCA Racing Series
Hometown: Middletown, NY
Last Year’s Draft: 3rd
Highest Pick: 3rd
Anticipated 2018 Pick: 11-20
The Skinny: The 2016 Snowball Derby winner had some tough luck in 2017, failing to find victory lane throughout the year. Eckes snapped his winless streak last weekend in the ARCA Racing Series at Salem Speedway, and now hopes to build on that success to get himself back into the conversation to be the first overall pick in 2019.
Rising, Falling or Holding Steady: Falling
It’s a tough pill to swallow considering Eckes’ strength in 2017, but his ranking will likely fall in this year’s Short Track Draft. While he was competitive almost every time he strapped into a race car, whether it be a Super Late Model or in ARCA, Eckes never picked up a victory to back up his incredible finish to 2016. Eckes snapped that drought with a win last weekend at Salem Speedway, but some experts and panelists had already submitted their ballots prior to Sunday and thus would not have acknowledged that win in their voting.
On-Track Accomplishments: B+
Make no mistake despite his stock falling, Eckes had an impressive 2017. In ten ARCA Racing Series starts, Eckes finished in the top ten on nine occasions. At Elko Speedway (MN), Eckes lost out on a photo finish with fellow top-ten draft pick Austin Theriault. Eckes also tallied strong finishes in his limited appearances in Super Late Models, most notably a runner-up finish to Bubba Pollard in a race at Anderson Motor Speedway (SC) co-sanctioned by the Southern Super Series and CARS Super Late Model Tour.
If there has been one consistent criticism about Eckes throughout his career, it has been his personality. Early in his development, Eckes was quiet and soft-spoken in interviews, slow to open up with his thoughts. That has improved with time, but he is still reserved, and sometimes considered dry. In reality, he has a great personality with a good sense of humor to boot, it’s just a matter of displaying it more often.
Sponsor Appeal: A-
Sponsors love winners, and Eckes has drawn plenty of sponsorship appeal with his performances throughout his career. That should only continue to improve as he moves up the ladder, especially since he is also a well-spoken driver to boot.
Social Media: B+
Eckes has a strong following on social media, thanks in part to his performances. He posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, often reflecting his thoughts on the previous race. Again, it would be nice to see Eckes open up some more, but he is making strides in that department
With an ARCA win in the books for 2018, Eckes has taken the first step towards climbing back into the top three of the Short Track Draft next season. While he isn’t running the full ARCA schedule in 2018, he is stepping up his participation in the series from 10 starts in 2017 to 15 this year, giving him more opportunities to win races at the next level.
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com