Christian Eckes scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win with the McAnally Hilgemann Racing (MHR) team during the Fr8 208 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
After departing from ThorSport Racing and signing a deal with MHR late last year, Eckes has been on a mission to bring the team its first win. The duo celebrated in victory lane after leading 35 laps at the 1.54-mile quad oval.
After leading the first 30-lap stage of the race wire-to-wire, however, Eckes sped on pit road and lost track position. He spent the rest of the event working his way back to the front. In a race that featured a record 11 cautions for 58 laps, the driver of the No. 19 Chevrolet restarted 13th on lap 103.
Three yellow flags later, he was on the inside of the front row beside leader and ultimate runner-up finisher Nick Sanchez for the overtime restart.
Eckes surged ahead, took the white flag in the lead and was out front when NASCAR called the final caution of the race for a wreck in turn four involving Tyler Ankrum, Stewart Friesen and defending series champion Zane Smith.
“It’s been a tough offseason,” said Eckes. “I’m driving harder than I ever have — I have a lot to prove. The people know who they are. I’m really happy. Thanks to (crew chief) Charles (Denike), everybody on this team. They work so damn hard. This is what makes it all worth it. I’m pumped. It’s going to be a really good year.”
Eckes won the first stage in his No. 19 Chevrolet while ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton won the second.
Sanchez, driver for Rev Racing, came in second, finishing .078 seconds behind Eckes.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek placed third in his No. 17 Toyota. Niece Motorsports’ Bayley Currey finished fourth, while Rackley W.A.R.’s Matt DiBenedetto came in fifth.
Polesitter Smith finished 21st in his No. 38 Front Row Motorsports entry.