Hometown: Greenville, NY
Current Level: ARCA / NASCAR Trucks
Last Year’s Pick: 8th
Every now and then in the NFL Draft, there are picks in the first round that may seem obvious to experts and fans alike, but a total shock to a humble player. The driver announced as the third pick in the 2019 Short Track Draft Presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com had a similar reaction.
As a driver that has been running mainly in the ARCA Menards Series, with scattered appearances on the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Christian Eckes has run a mix of both short tracks, intermediate tracks, and even full-on speedways during his racing schedule. He also has not had the opportunity to run in the Late Model ranks since the 2017 season.
With these circumstances in mind, Eckes did not put much in his own draft stock heading into the 2019 Short Track Draft. But with his success in ARCA, particularly on short tracks, plus his already impressive record in years past in Late Models, experts have placed Eckes on the podium.
While Eckes is pleased with his spot, the racer in him still showed of disappointment to have just missed the number one spot.
“It’s another day in paradise, I guess. I don’t do a lot of short tracks anymore, so I guess it’s a good thing that I’m still number three," Eckes said. "It’s pretty cool. Obviously, you always want to be first, but it’s always fun to follow around with the Short Track Draft.
“It’s a really cool thing that Speed51 puts on every year. This might be my last year of eligibility doing the seven truck races, so it’s great to be included.”
Eckes selection as the third pick ties his best draft ranking. He was also selected third in 2017, fresh off his amazing conclusion to 2016, which included his shocking Snowball Derby triumph.
The 2017 season saw Eckes find his footing in ARCA, which resulted in his stock dropping going into the 2018 Draft. But his first career win at Salem Speedway just before voting saw him stay in the top 10 at the number eight spot. Two more wins, one on the dirt at Springfield and a dominating win at Lucas Oil Raceway, along with a solid consistent start to his time in Trucks, has made for a solid last year.
“It hasn’t been bad at all. The biggest thing has been not to lose out on opportunities that we had and that was our biggest issue in 2017," Eckes stated. "We fixed it to a certain extent, but we still have some work to do as far as capitalizing on opportunities, and I feel like we’ve done a good job with that so far. We did have that hiccup at Salem where I wasn’t able to race, but everywhere else we’ve done our job, and we still have a long way to go. We’ll continue to show that we’re here and we can win more races.”
Despite Truck appearances possibly signaling an early end to draft eligibility in the eyes of some experts, Eckes’ consistent performances on the short tracks of Martinsville and Iowa, plus the intermediate tracks of Gateway and Phoenix, have helped to keep his stock up.
“I have to assume that’s part of the reason. At Gateway I felt that we probably should’ve won that race, winning stage two, then getting crashed a few laps later. But, it’s been a lot of fun. I got six more races with Kyle Busch Motorsports this year, started off well with the pole at Daytona, and we can go after that first win.”
Overall, Eckes has shown himself to be a good learner and highly adaptive on the short tracks. It is an ability he hopes will help chase wins on speedways and superspeedways, including this week at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It’s always fun at these Superspeeedways, it’s a relaxing race and I kind of need it after this last week with what I’ve gone through. As far as my body goes, it took a toll on it, so I’m looking forward to getting back in my JBL Camry and hopefully I'll have a good race.”
Through it all, Eckes has not forgotten about his time in Late Models, particularly the Super Late Models. He is more than confident that he will get back in one sometime soon, especially considering that he wants to go after a second Tom Dawson trophy.
“I wouldn’t mind getting back in a Super Late Model here and there if I could. It’s been a really long time, so I’d probably be a little washed up at first. I’ve always had a passion for Super Late Model racing, I want to make my Snowball Derby return in the next few years. We’ll just have to look around and see what happens.”
Prior to announcing the third pick in the Short Track Draft, Speed51.com revealed the first and second picks Tuesday evening.
To view the number one pick in the draft, click here.
To see the number two pick in the draft, click here.
More selections within the top 10 will be announced throughout the day Friday.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor - Twitter: @Connor51CT