HAMPTON, Ga. – Christian Eckes finished where he started Saturday’s Fr8 208 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway – with a lot of turmoil in between.
Eckes claimed his second victory in the series in overtime, choosing the bottom lane and front-row position for a restart on lap 136 of 137.
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, but 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 4 involving Tyler Ankrum, Stewart Friesen and defending series champion Zane Smith.
“It’s been a tough offseason,” said Eckes, in his first year with owner Bill McAnally after driving for ThorSport Racing in 2022. “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.”
John Hunter Nemechek ran third after leading a race-high 53 laps to Eckes’ 35. Nemechek had the lead for a restart on Lap 121, but was shuffled back in traffic.
Bayley Currey finished fourth, earning his first NASCAR national series top five, and Ben Rhodes came home fifth after giving Eckes a much-needed push to the lead.
Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Purdy, Timmy Hill, Matt Crafton and Jack Wood completed the top 10.
Corey Heim’s defense of his Truck Series victory here last March ended early. He recovered from a mid-race pit-road collision, but his Tricon Garage No. 11 Toyota sustained significant front-end damage when he jammed up behind the No. 2 Chevrolet of Sanchez on a restart. He retired after completing just 83 laps and finished 34th in the 36-truck field.
The Craftsman Truck Series’ next race is scheduled next Saturday, March 25 (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Circuit of The Americas.
Note: Inspection in the Craftsman Truck Series garage was completed without major issue, confirming Eckes as the race winner.
Contributing: Staff reports