Christian Eckes fought through a rough and tumble Saturday afternoon at the revived North Wilkesboro Speedway (NWS) and finished in 25th position. The driver of the No. 19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet Silverado RST was running inside the top 10 with less than 10 laps remaining when he was spun and relegated to the rear of the field. Eckes remains fifth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings after 10 races with two wins and 14 playoff points.
Eckes qualified 13th on Saturday morning and started from the inside of row six on NWS’ exorbitantly abrasive pavement. Eckes instantly used the inside lane to advance into the top 10, but a lack of rotation in the center of the corners, and a deficiency of forward bite limited his progress. Crew chief Charles Denike called Eckes to pit road under a lap-24 caution for their first pit stop of the afternoon for fresh tires, fuel, and adjustments. He restarted outside the top 25 and rocketed his way up to seventh by lap 50. While pitting under the lap 64 caution before the end of Stage 1, Eckes sped on pit road and had to go to the tail of the field and was scored 26th at the end of the first segment.
Eckes’ road of progress in the second stage with littered with traffic and a lack of all-around grip. The two-time winner on the season dealt with a significant lack of forward drive off NWS’ slick corners and lost a lap to the leaders on lap 117. A caution shortly thereafter on lap 133, just seven laps shy of the Stage 2 finish, allowed Eckes to take the wave around and rejoin the lead lap. He was scored 25th at the end of Stage 2 and stayed on the lead lap.
After pitting for fresh tires, Eckes lined up 21st on lap 152 and methodically worked his way forward over the final 90 circuits. He made the most ground on the lap-216 restart when he climbed to 12th and rejoined the top 10 on lap 230. However, while racing to maintain the top-10 position, Eckes spun after contact from the No. 4 truck with six laps remaining. He was forced to pit for repairs and took the checkered flag in 25th position after an overtime restart.
“Just a tough day for our Gates Hydraulics team,” Eckes said. “We fought forward bite all day and just couldn’t find the rear grip we needed all day. This is a really abrasive, old surface and it’s really difficult to get ahold of. We’re not going to let this get us down. We have a great race team, have had strong Chevrolets all year, and we’ll go to Charlotte next weekend and get back on track.”
Start / Finish: 13 / 25
Points Standing / Total: 5th / 311 pts. (-50)
Next Race: Friday, May 26, Charlotte Motor Speedway
How to Watch or Listen: 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM