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Eckes Regains Points Lead with Top-Five Finish at Darlington

Christian Eckes reclaimed the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series points lead with a steady fourth-place result at Darlington Raceway on Friday night. The driver of the No. 19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet Silverado RST captured his fourth consecutive top-five finish to lead the championship standings for the second time this season. Eckes delivered a monster points night by earning 50 markers, the most of all drivers in the field, and now holds a 14-point advantage after nine races.

Eckes’ red and yellow Brownie King throwback scheme set the fastest lap in Friday afternoon’s practice session and turned in the seventh-quickest qualifying lap. The 2023 Darlington Raceway winner immediately cracked the top five on lap two when the evening’s first caution flew. He instantly jumped into a podium position on the lap six restart and began to stalk the race lead. While the balance on his Chevrolet swung free in the first segment, Eckes managed to track down the race leader in the first 45 laps. Stage 1 came to a close on lap 45 with Eckes running second and claimed nine points.

Under the first stage caution, crew chief Charles Denike brought Eckes to pit road for four tires, fuel, and a minor adjustment to secure his free balance. Eckes restarted third and took control of the runner-up position by lap 71. While he attempted to reel in the race lead in the waning laps of Stage 2, he surrendered that position to a fellow Chevrolet competitor that had fresher tires with an alternative strategy. Nevertheless, Eckes banked another eight points at the end of Stage 2 on lap 90.

Eckes pitted again under the stage caution for more of the same service, fresh tires and a small adjustment. He restarted third on lap 98 and took the lead for the first time on lap 106. As the final segment progressed, Eckes’ loose handling condition did also. The rear of his Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet progressively lost grip and caused him to lose touch with the lead. However, a caution on lap 143 reset the field for an overtime finish. With fresh tires, Eckes lined up sixth on the final restart and navigated his way through a chaotic conclusion to collect a fourth-place finish.

“At times we were good, times we weren’t,” Eckes said. “Real inconsistent as far as handling, sets of tires, everything was kind of inconsistent for us. Proud of the execution. Proud of a top-five but felt like we were probably a little more capable than that. We kind of let the balance get away from us on our Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet. On to Wilkesboro.”

Start / Finish: 7 / 4
Points Standing / Total: 1st / 387 pts.

Next Race: Saturday, May 18, North Wilkesboro Speedway
How to Watch or Listen: 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN or SiriusXM

NAPA: @NAPARacing
Christian Eckes: @christianeckes
Bill McAnally Racing / McAnally-Hilgemann Racing: @BMR_NASCAR

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