Christian Eckes wins opening race in Trucks’ Round of 8

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LAS VEGAS (Sept. 24, 2021) — Christian Eckes (No. 98) crosses the start-finish line during the Victoria’s Voice 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Landen Ciardullo / TPF Media

Christian Eckes nabbed his first career win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during Friday night’s Victoria’s Voice 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Eckes, 20, entered the race out of the NASCAR playoffs, with only three Top-10s to his name in his part-time schedule for 2021.

“I worked really hard this week,” Eckes said. “We know who won last week [Chandler Smith], that’s my old truck and I wanted to go and prove to everybody that I can still do this.”

Eckes left his home at Kyle Busch Motorsports last season, and picked up a part-time deal to split the No. 98 Ford F-150 seat time with Truck Series veteran Grant Enfinger. Enfinger has 10 starts in the No. 98 this season, with his highest finish of second at Bristol last weekend.  

ThorSport Racing teammates Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter finished P2, P3 and P4 respectively to complete a Top-Four lockout of Trucks from the same race team for the first time in series history.

The first stage of the race was dominated by spring race winner John Hunter Nemechek, leading all 30 laps in the first stage. Nemechek would run into issues on Lap 54, having his No. 4 Toyota Tundra lose power and stop on the race track. Nemechek’s woes would plague him for the remainder of the race, and finishing P33.

A huge crash in the early laps of the final stage would take out two playoff drivers, reigning champion Sheldon Creed and last week’s winner Chandler Smith. Both drivers took hard hits, and were released from the Infield Care Center with their playoff efforts being the only aspect of them taking damage. 

Carson Hocevar would bring out a caution with just four laps remaining in the race, bringing in a late restart. The ThorSport trucks teamed up on the restart and blocked out Todd Gilliland in P5 in the effort to preserve their track position. 

“Super super happy for him [Eckes] and his whole team,” Rhodes said post-race. “Happy for him, happy for ThorSport, 1 through 4, and overall to turn it around from Bristol where we made it in barely, to now taking the points lead that’s the Playoff format and it’s working for me.”

Rhodes leads Nemechek in the playoff standings by six points with two more races in the Round of 8. The trucks head to Talladega next week for the Chevrolet Silverado 250, on Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. PST, the race will be broadcasted on FS1. 

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