Dominant Truck Lets Eckes Sweep Through Martinsville


Christian Eckes in victory lane Friday night at Martinsville Speedway. (HHP/Andrew Coppley photo)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Christian Eckes was just as committed to winning Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway as he was to earning stage points early on.

After sweeping the first two stages of the Long John Silver’s 200 and then pitting for tires and fuel with 96 laps to go, Eckes drove back through the field from 18th before ultimately laying claim to the famed grandfather clock trophy.

With the aid of several timely cautions inside the final 60 laps, Eckes passed Ty Majeski for good on a lap-173 restart and pulled away over the final 28 circuits en route to his seventh career Truck Series win and second in the last three races.

It marked the second time this season that Eckes, who led a race-high 133 laps Friday night, converted a front-row starting spot into a win for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing. He’s the first repeat winner this year.

“We’re putting together something really special right now,” said Eckes after his second consecutive short track victory in the Truck Series. “It hasn’t been an easy regular season so far, to say the least, but this team has just kept digging deep. We came here last year and weren’t great, but we worked really hard on things, and here we are in victory lane.

“Super proud of this team. It’s a good night.”

Eckes tipped that the plan “was always to pit after stage two,” with the hope that his No. 19 NAPA AutoCare Chevrolet Silverado RST would be fast enough to get back to the front by the finish.

That hope ultimately came true, with the added benefit of three caution flags after lap 140 – when Eckes had risen from 18th to sixth – that helped him continue to close the gap to the leaders each time.

“We made that plan hoping that stage two would run green and we could drag some more people down [pit road] with us there at halfway,” Eckes explained. “Unfortunately, the cautions just kept coming and made our strategy worse and worse, but what a dominant truck to be able to come all the way back through from 18th like we did out there.

“I’m glad it worked out in the end, but we had some stressful moments there late, for sure.”

That anxiety came in the form of two more restarts – including a three-lap sprint to the checkered flag – before Eckes could finally celebrate with a burnout on the frontstretch.

However, both times, Eckes was the class of the field and easily pulled away off the inside lane.

Majeski, who took the lead on lap 105 when Eckes came down pit road, was the eventual winner’s stiffest competition down the stretch. The ThorSport Racing driver led three times for 66 laps in the second half but tipped that a lack of fire-off speed on the late-race restarts hampered his efforts.

Eckes Majeski

Christian Eckes (19) leads Ty Majeski Friday night at Martinsville Speedway. (Jacob Seelman/RFD photo)

“We came here with a little bit of a different setup,” said Majeski of his No. 98 Soda Sense Ford F-150. “It was a step outside of our comfort zone, but we wanted to try something before we come back here for the playoffs. I think we’ve gotten better here, but the (No.) 19 was stout tonight. He was just a bit better than we were.

“He had better tires, and I just could not launch on restarts. You always want to win; we were just a little short tonight.”

Chase Purdy earned a season-high third place finish in the Spire Motorsports No. 77, with Nick Sanchez crossing fourth and Eckes’ teammate Tyler Ankrum completing the top five.

Sixth through 10th were Taylor Gray, Rajah Caruth, Sammy Smith, Kaden Honeycutt, and Corey Heim.

The night’s biggest crash came in turn four on a lap-165 restart, when a six-truck melee in turn four collected the likes of Australian Supercars ace Cam Waters, Jack Wood, Daniel Dye, and Jake Garcia.

Meanwhile, an incident involving Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, and Matt Mills sparked the final caution with 10 laps left and generated the race-deciding restart on lap 198.

By virtue of his runner-up finish, Majeski took the point lead by seven over Heim and Ankrum, who leave Martinsville tied for second in the standings.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season continues Friday night, April 12 at Texas Motor Speedway with the running of the 250.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.