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Christian Eckes bounces back at Kansas for runner-up finish

Christian Eckes turned his 13th-place performance at Kansas Speedway into a runner-up finish within 24 hours.

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series had its first 2020 doubleheader this weekend at the 1.5-mile track. There was the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 on Friday and the e.p.t. 200 on Saturday. Eckes was one of four top-10 finishers in the second event who were outside the top 10 in the first race come checkered flag.

“I won’t sugarcoat it. We were absolutely terrible yesterday,” Eckes said after Saturday’s e.p.t. 200. “Thirteenth is not representative how good this team is or how good I am. So we talked about it a lot last night, and Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) made some really good changes.

“We started OK today. We weren’t perfect yet, and that last run, well actually after that pit stop, we got pretty good.”

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Saturday’s winner, Matt Crafton, crossed the finish line just .324 seconds ahead of Eckes. To put that in perspective, the margin of victory Friday was 2.928 seconds.

Eckes remained within the top 10 throughout Saturday’s race, too. The No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, which fired off in the third starting position, placed fourth in Stage 1 and ninth in Stage 2.

“We changed just about everything on that truck,” Eckes said. “We got a significantly better and had a lot more grip today, and I feel a lot more confident we’re coming back here later in the year. But in the same aspect, obviously wish we could have won, but second is still OK with what we fought with this weekend and honestly fought at the end of the race still.”

Through 10 races, Eckes has yet to win but owns three top-five and five top-10 showings. He’s averaging a 12.6 finish. He has also led laps in all but three events this season — including 10 Friday and six Saturday.

The rookie has scored at least 40 points in half the 2020 races. He has only posted less than 23 points once. Because of that, Eckes currently ranks third in the standings — 50 points before the leader.

“I feel like we’ve had the speed and the promise to show results,” Eckes said. “We just haven’t been following through on it. The last seven races, we’ve minimized our mistakes and have done a really good job of trying to get really good position and points.”

Eckes’ next shot at his first career win will have to wait just a bit. The series is off this next week and will return to action Aug. 7 at Michigan International Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He’s OK with the time off, though. It gives him more time to learn and prepare.

The improvement from Friday to Saturday gives him hope for even better improvements in the future. There was only one driver in front of him at the finish anyway.

“We got close a few times, even had a shot there coming to the checkered,” Eckes said. “But I just needed a couple more feet.”