Christian Eckes at Kansas
Barry Cantrell Photo

Christian Eckes wins ARCA Menards Series finale, championship

A missed race and a blown engine weren’t enough to deny Christian Eckes.

The 18-year-old from Middletown, New York, drove from the back of the field in Friday night’s finale to win the Kansas 150 at Kansas Speedway and claim the 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship in the process.

Eckes was forced to drop to the rear of the field after mechanical problems during qualifying left the team scrambling to change the engine before the green flag. Eckes grabbed the lead on a restart with 43 laps to go from his Venturini Motorsports teammate and main championship rival, Michael Self, and sailed to the win.

“It’s so special,” Eckes said. “I wasn’t really nervous after qualifying. I was just going to do my deal because I knew we had a fast race car. And man, we got the lead there and we drove away.”

Eckes overcame a points deficit incurred in part from missing the third race of the season, in April, due to illness. He took the points lead with a runner-up finish at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis two weeks ago.

Self, who entered the finale trailing Eckes by 15 points and did what he could by leading the most laps, settled for second in the race and the final championship points standings.

“I thought we’d have a really good shot at it,” Self said. “We did have a really good shot at it. He just got a better restart than we did. And that’s what sums up the championship.”

Eckes finished with four wins, 13 top fives and 17 top 10s in 19 starts. Eckes also had two poles and two top fives in six NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts this season. He became the first driver to win the ARCA Menards Series championship after missing a race since Tim Steele in 1997.

“This is really, really special,” Eckes said. “This year has kind of been a roller coaster. But we ended on a high and that’s all that matters. Man, I’m just really to celebrate with my guys.”

Ty Majeski finished third, followed by Bret Holmes and Travis Braden. Tanner Gray, who won the General Tire Pole Award earlier in the day, finished sixth, followed by Drew Dollar, Hailie Deegan, Joe Graf Jr. and Gus Dean.

The 2020 ARCA Menards Series will officially begin Saturday, Feb. 8, at Daytona International Speedway with the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire. It will mark the 57th annual ARCA visit to Daytona. It will also mark a new era, as the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West combine under the ARCA Menards Series banner.

For now, though, the moment belongs to the kid from New York.